Thoughts From The Field

Blog posts by the team

Turkey Nests And Predator Control

Turkey hunters, mushroom hunters, and other outdoor enthusiasts have been spending time in the outdoors during this time of year. There are so many beautiful pieces of God’s creation showing their full color right now, and no one should be missing it! One of my favorite things to see in the spring is turkeys, and even better, turkey nests! Finding one of these can be a real treat, and for those who pride themselves as “wildlife managers” we wonder, “How can we help these eggs?”

Turkey nest with eggs

(Left) A healthy turkey nest with several eggs and no sign of predators. (Right) What happens when a nest predator finds the eggs.

As wildlife managers, it’s in our blood to try and improve the overall habitat quality and wildlife population. If you’re like me when you find something as frail as a turkey nest you want to step up your game to ensure these eggs will hatch and reach maturity. Obviously you can’t save all the turkey nests, but you can ensure that some of them will make it past birth.

First we need to understand that predators will harm the eggs, mother hen, and the newborn turkeys. Coyotes and bobcats prey on all of these, and definitely get the most attention as turkey predators, but don’t overlook the small predators like raccoons, opossums, and skunks. These small animals can definitely hurt the turkey population if their numbers are plentiful.

Lesson Learned – When trapping season is open in your area, put out your traps! Don’t stick with one set of traps and try to remove coyotes and bobcats either. Pick up some small traps to balance the predator prey relationship in your area!  We use Duke Dog Proof or Duke Cage traps because they are simple and easy to use.  Trapping turkey nest predators will save turkey lives, and who doesn’t want to enjoy a spring morning with turkeys gobbling?

Daydreaming of long beards and long spurs,


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Missouri Turkey Season: The Tools Of The Trade

Proclaiming that I love this time of year is a complete understatement. Finding the words to express my happiness with springtime is very difficult. With the temperatures warming and the outdoors coming back to life, things are beautiful here at The Proving Grounds and things got even better this week with the opening of Missouri turkey season! Throughout the spring Grant and I are often asked what calls we use to lure those wary toms into range.  Here is a list of exactly what we carry in our vest!

Adam and Grant hooting in sunrise

Adam using the Harrison Hoot’n Stick early in the morning trying to locate a gobbler.

Although we use a lot of similar calls there are a few minor differences. You can find all of these calls and more information about them at Hook’s Custom Calls.

Grant’s vest:

  • Exterminator (crystal glass) – This is Grant’s go to friction call. Teamed up with the Yellowheart gobbler stick it creates great clear to mid rasp sounds.
  • Assassin Slate – This call creates a wide range of tone but its specialty is those soft tree yelps early in the morning.
  • Diaphragm Calls – Executioner, Swindler, and the Game Changer 3

My vest:

  • Assassin Glass – This is my favorite call to try and tempt that gobbler into range. This glass call can create mid tone raspy yelps to high frequency rasps to locate those toms on the next ridge.
  • Assassin Aluminum – Aluminum has been my favorite surface on a friction call for several years. It can hit the high ball rasp that I really love or mid range yelps as the tom approaches our setup.
  • Diaphragm Calls – Enforcer, Shockwave, and the Game Changer 3

The locator calls we both use:

  • Harrison Hoot’n Stick Walnut – This is almost always the first call we make early in the morning.
  • Harrison Crow Call Walnut – As the sun comes up we’ll switch up our locator calls and use a crow call.
  • Harrison Howler – Sometimes when birds want to be tight lipped a howl on this call can create a response.

We use these calls daily this time of year and we can’t wait to get back out there again to try our hand one more time!

Daydreaming of long spurs and long beards,


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Scouting From The Skinning Shed

Several months every year hunters take to the woods to scout for their next hunt. We monitor trail cameras, observe creek crossings, and stare into soybean fields during the late summer for the chance to catch a glimpse of velvet antlers. We do a number of things, but when given the chance to obtain some of the most informative details we often let it slip through our fingers. This important information is something the Team never passes up and neither should you.

Inside the crop of a harvested turkey

This turkey’s crop was filled with wheat and acorns of every size.

Every successful hunt is a learning experience. On top of all the excitement from the hunt, we can also gain information for our next hunt. Recently, Grant’s youngest daughter, Rae, harvested a nice bird during Missouri’s youth turkey season. The following day I took my Razor Blaze knife and cut into the crop of the turkey. The crop serves as the stomach of the turkey and by inspecting the interior of the crop you can learn where that turkey spent the day feeding. The crop of this specific turkey contained acorns and wheat.  No surprise on the wheat, as this turkey was shot in an Eagle Seed Broadside plot which contains several different cool season plants. The acorns told us not to overrule hunting turkeys in the woods.

It’s mid April and a lot of hunters may believe that the acorn consumption is over and that animals will be using other food sources. After looking in the crop of this turkey, we know that’s not true. Season opens up for everyone in Missouri on Monday and you can bet at some point we’ll be chasing turkeys in the timber!

Daydreaming of long beards and long spurs,


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Shed Hunting? My Advice – Don’t Start!

If you’ve never been shed antler hunting I have some advice for you.  It’s simple – don’t go. Don’t go shed hunting. Don’t even start. Don’t even spend 15 minutes looking in a food plot for antlers. Why? Because once you do you will be addicted. I’ve seen it happen. The addiction only takes minutes to set in. I saw it happen just recently.

A matched set of shed antlers.

A matched set of shed antlers.

I had a family come join me on a recent Sunday afternoon to enjoy a couple of hours walking in the woods to hunt for shed antlers. Neither the husband nor wife had ever hunted for shed antlers. As a matter of fact, the husband prefers turkey hunting to deer hunting. However they love being outdoors, love hiking, and love letting their three boys run free in the woods where they can’t get in trouble when throwing a rock or busting up a tree stump.

Our hunt that afternoon focused on areas of high deer activity – the woods around frequently used food plots. As the hunt progressed I saw the hike turn from a casual family hike to an intense search for that elusive shed antler. I saw it on their faces – fierce concentration as they scanned the ground hoping to find one. It was like an early Easter egg hunt for adults.

They were full of questions. Where should I be looking? How do I find one? How many have you found in a day? What’s the most you’ve found in a season? Is it more of a thrill to find a big antler or a small antler?

A smaller shed antler

It’s very rewarding to find smaller shed antlers too!

As I answered each question I could see the desire to find an antler begin to burn stronger. My answers were simple: When you find deer trails, rubs, scrapes, deer beds, or deer poop slow down and check those areas out more thoroughly. I’ve found up to six antlers in one day. To me it’s more rewarding to find a small antler than a big one because you have to really be looking hard to find those! Of course, the big antlers are a bigger thrill to find and are what keeps everyone truly motivated.

The afternoon hunt ended with the boys playing in the creek, one shed antler found that was definitely shed more than a couple of years before, and at least two new addicts to hunting shed antlers.

The next time you consider taking up shed hunting – don’t do it. Don’t go. Just go for a walk in the spring woods. Take time to enjoy the warmer air, spring wildflowers, and budding trees. If you see an antler – leave it for the squirrels. You’ll be glad you did. (or not….)

Confessing my addition to shed antler hunting,

Tracy Woods

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