UPDATED ON: May 1st, 2015
Turkey season is just around the corner in most states. It has opened already in Florida. If chasing turkeys with a stick and string sounds like fun to you, read on!
There are many states that offer great early season opportunities for bowhunters who want to chase longbeards. No one knows the game of chasing longbeards with a bow better than Jeff Budz from Florida. Budz has more Grand Slams with a gun than anyone alive. He also has killed many slams with a bow. He owns Tag It WorldWide and helps hunters across America fulfill their dream of completing a Grand Slam. “Probably the best place to start is Florida in the spring,” said Budz. “I have many hunters who come down here each spring with bows and tag an Osceola. Our season opened on Saturday, March 7 in the Southern zone and the Central zone opens the third Saturday in March.”
“Florida is always a great place to start your early season bowhunts for turkey.”
According to Budz, there are some over-the-counter opportunities, but the hunts can be tough. He suggests hunters put in for special opportunity hunts before the season begins to ensure they have a quality hunt. “Hunters can put in for the special hunts as many times as they want. Each chance cost $5. The more you put in for, the better chance you have of getting a tag. It is worth spending a little extra cash to ensure you draw a tag.”
Budz says Nebraska is also a great place for early season hunters to go. The early archery hunt opens March 25 this year. “Nebraska has a lot of public land and landowners that give permission if you knock on their door. As a result, tagging an early season bird with a bow doesn’t have to cost much money,” Budz explained. The downside of hunting the early season in Nebraska is the weather can be extremely cold and the birds are often in large flocks.
“Early season turkey hunting in some parts of the country may mean hunting in the snow.”
I have hunted turkeys in Kansas several times over the years and the state is loaded with cocky toms. They have an early archery season that starts April 6. Like Nebraska, Kansas has open farm country with hardwood river bottoms that hold large flocks of birds. Getting permission from land owners is typically fairly easy and there is public land as well. The great thing about the early archery season in Nebraska and Kansas is the hunts take place before the gun season opens so the birds haven’t been messed with much.
South Dakota is another state that has an early archery season. It opens this year on April 4. Many bowhunters enjoy hunting the black hills and plains found in South Dakota. It offers a different experience than most of us are used to. “I hunt South Dakota almost every year. It is fun because there are many birds and the landscape is beautiful,” Budz said.
Texas offers great archery opportunities. In the Southern zone, hunters can start hunting turkeys March 21. Texas is covered up in turkeys and they are often extremely easy to call into bow range. The downside is finding public land in certain regions can be difficult. Texas has Rio Grande turkeys which gives you the opportunity to hunt a new species.
Hunting the Southeast is also a great option. “Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama and many states in the South offer great hunting and have warm weather and open well before the states in the Northeast or midwest. Many of the states in the South have many public land opportunities. The downside is hunting Easterns in areas you have never hunted can be difficult, so hunters should plan on plenty of time to hunt,” said Budz.
When bowhunting for longbeards, Budz typically uses a Double Bull blind and hunts all day. “Lugging around a blind all day can be difficult, but it is worth it. Getting drawn on a gobbler can be difficult. If the running and gunning method isn’t working, I scout them out and figure out their roosting locations or their feeding patterns and sit in a blind all day. Sitting all day can be difficult, but often it can be very effective.”
Budz also uses decoys. “I use Avian X decoys and the 2D Montana Decoys. I have been able to stalk right in on many gobblers with a Montana Decoy. Every hunter should try them. They work great!
“Jeff Budz with an Arizona longbeard.”
Budz is the only hunter to ever kill a longbeard in every state that has a spring season. He completed his 49-State Turkey Slam in 2014 by taking a bird in Arizona with his bow. There is no question when it comes to tagging turkeys, Budz knows how to get it done. “People think traveling and hunting for turkeys is really expensive. The truth is it doesn’t have to be. I always hunt on a budget,” Budz added.
If you are starting to get spring fever, pack your bow, a few decoys, and a blind and hit the road!