Winning the lottery

January 29, 2010

Faith Outdoors

Earlier this week, I was able to check on the lottery results in both Minnesota and Wisconsin for this year’s spring turkey hunt. As it turned out, I was successful in both lotteries.

This was not a surprise. In both cases, I applied for five-day seasons later in the spring. There are fewer applicants for these seasons, so the odds of getting picked are higher. In the case of the seasons I applied for, the odds were 100 percent. I know this because I checked on the internet and discovered surplus licenses for both of the seasons I applied for.

The results I achieved are part of the overall strategy involved in turkey hunting. Simply put, you can’t hunt if you don’t draw a license. That’s the problem with applying for the first few seasons — there are more applicants than available permits, so some people don’t get drawn.

I don’t like that idea, though I used to hunt early seasons and got a bird most of the time. It can be easier hunting in the earlier seasons, but I would rather hunt every year. There’s no substitute for time in the woods and, regardless of the outcome, you end up learning more about turkeys and their behavior in the spring.

As I have discovered, this is a huge advantage in the overall picture. Sure, late-season birds can be tougher to hunt — they are warier because of the hunting pressure. But, they can be had with the right techniques. I hunted late seasons in both Minnesota and Wisconsin last year (mid-May) and tagged a bird in each state. In fact, in both cases, I got birds on the second day.

Experience and skill are needed to hunt birds later in the spring and I have both as a result of chasing gobblers for more than two decades. I wouldn’t recommend late-season hunting to everyone, but it can provide great rewards for the right hunters.

Another key part of my hunt is calling landowners as soon as I find out I got picked. I called one landowner in Minnesota and two in Wisconsin, and got permission on all three properties. I have a few more calls to make, but I am off to a great start.

Good landowner relations is a very important part of hunting, but I think lots of hunters neglect this aspect. For me, it involves much more than just making one quick phone call every year, asking permission, then getting off the line. I take the time to chat with each landowner I call. Sometimes, we’ll  talk for 20 or 30 minutes before I get around to asking for permission to hunt.

There are a lot of very, very good people out there who own prime hunting land. They are well worth getting to know. I always make it a point to stop by in person and say hello — and thank you after the hunt. And, I also send gifts and even make food for them from the game I harvest on their land. In a couple of cases, I have had them over to my house for dinner.

So, I’m not just asking a favor, but building a relationship. The conversations are always enjoyable and the in-person visits always refreshing. The hunt itself is icing on the cake.

We live in a time when it’s getting harder and harder to find places to hunt, especially on private land. For various reasons, more hunters are getting turned down. I believe things like respect, courtesy, friendliness and gratefulness are helpful in being able to gain access to hunt on private land. If you give landowners a positive experience, they are far more likely to let you come back. And, in some cases, they invite you back before you even ask!

That’s about as good as it gets in terms of landowner relations. And, it can happen to those who invest the time to get to know landowners and develop relationships with them. It’s all part of the strategy for a successful hunt. Thus, my spring 2010 turkey hunt already has begun!

About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek