Illinois turkey talk: High ridges, oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, digital scouting, roosts; plus Stray Cast

Some suggestions come for those hunting new areas as turkey hunting seasons are about to begin in Illinois with the first youth season this weekend; plus the Stray Cast.

SHARE Illinois turkey talk: High ridges, oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, digital scouting, roosts; plus Stray Cast
File photo of turkey decoys. Credit: Dale Bowman

File photo of turkey decoys.

Dale Bowman

Ask the right lucky question and sometimes turkey talk is more than gobbledygook.

Spring turkey seasons are here again for Illinois hunters.

The first youth spring turkey season is this weekend; the second is the first weekend in April. The first of five spring turkey turkey seasons opens April 4 in the south zone, April 11 in the north zone.

File photo of a turkey beard. Credit: Dale Bowman

File photo of a turkey beard.

Dale Bowman

This spring I drew a site I never hunted or visited before, so I asked Luke Garver what he would recommend for somebody in my position. Garver is the wild turkey project leader for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources; he is an excellent hunter.

“A good place to start is with digital scouting,” he emailed. “OnX and Google Maps are great resources to familiarize yourself with a property. Obviously it’s important to be aware of site boundaries and areas within the site where hunting is prohibited.

“But I also like to try and figure out where birds might be roosting, especially if I’ve never been to the area in person. Look for high ridges with mature trees like oaks, sycamores and cottonwoods that overlook a creek. If there is an open area for strutting nearby, it’s likely a great area to concentrate on.”

That specific advice is what many of us need.

Garver added something that I will be doing in the next week or so when he messaged: “Nothing can beat `boots on the ground’ scouting, however. I like to make a point to visit a new site at least a few times to familiarize myself with the area. I’ll start by visiting the areas I’ve pegged as roosting sites well before dawn to listen for gobbles, from a safe distance of course.

“If I have time to drive around in the hours after dawn, I’ll be sure to visit any openings I can find to look for strutting gobblers and feeding hens.

Over the years, I have found IDNR staff invaluable when drawing a new site for waterfowl, turkeys or upland game.

“It’s always a good idea to visit with site staff or the local district wildlife biologist, if possible, as well,” Garver agreed. “Few people are more familiar with public land than those staff.”

And he had a reminder for off-the-field.

“This will be our second year using a new harvest reporting and license management system, so it’s a good idea for hunters to continue to familiarize themselves with the platform at:,” Garver messaged.

Some over-the-counter permits remain.

A turkey roadside in the suburbs. Credit: Dale Bowman

A turkey roadside in the suburbs.

Dale Bowman


Michigan is expanding its spearfishing, beginning April 1. New additions for underwater spearfishing include walleye, northern pike and lake trout in parts of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Get details at Regulations include getting a free underwater spearfishing license, available only at

Wild things

Many reports came the past week of various sized groups of sandhill cranes on the move. I had some skeins over me while chilling in Berrien County, Michigan, over the weekend. If your spring signs are more esoteric, take your pick of eastern bluebirds perching, red-winged blackbirds trilling (a personal favorite), woodcocks sky dancing (many events coming up), and more.

Stray Cast

Easy listening stations/channels are to music what trout farms are to fishing.

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Friday, March 25: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, South Suburban chapter fundraiser, Tuscan Gardens Pub & Banquet, Glenwood; contact Cindy Gustafson (708) 768-4315

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