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Snow Turkeys

Cianciarulos scout, pattern birds from easy-to-see tracks

By: Mike Suchan,

Even in the most northern climates, the snow most likely won’t stick around for your spring turkey opener, but Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo said it offers a benefit now.

In northwest Illinois, the Archer's Choice hosts still have 6 to 8 inches of snow in timber, and they’re using it to their advantage.

“We’re seeing a ton of turkey tracks up here in the snow,” Vicki said.

“Prior to the opening, get out there in the snow and check those tracks,” Ralph advises. “You can do a lot of scouting prior to opening day and use the snow in your favor.

“It’s a real easy way to read the trails, see where they’re going, where they’re coming.”

The most important factor is determining where the turkey roost, and reading the snow tracks gives hunters great clues of where they’ll be on opening morning.

“Try to watch them on a regular basis for a few days, where they’re roosting and where they’re flying down,” Ralph said. “You’re doing all your homework to pattern them, and then set up accordingly.”

Before the Illinois season starts in mid-April, the Cianciarulos take what’s become an annual Florida trip for Osceola turkey at Hoppy Kempfer’s Osceola Outfitters near St. Cloud. They’ll warm up from the harsh winter and know the white stuff should melt by the time they get home.

“I’ll bet you that the majority of the snow is going to be gone, but right now is a great scouting time,” Ralph said.

When the Cianciarulos have one in their sights, they like taking the sure shot, and that doesn’t include the head and neck, at least with a bow.

“If you’re just going for the neck part, that’s such a minute target,” Ralph said.

“Follow the legs straight up if he’s standing broadside to you. The vitals are just up his legs,” Vicki said. “They’re not up in the breast. They sit low inside the turkey’s body, so if you want to bow hunt ‘em, you want to hit them lower.”

“If you put your pin on him, go right up the drumstick, go right where that drumstick is going into the body, right above that, you’re taking him home every day,” Ralph adds. “If you shoot low, you’re taking their legs out -- they have to run first before they can fly -- and they ain’t going nowhere.”

The Cianciarulos use their standard Spitfire broadheads along with Gobbler Getters, where the tip is more rounded off.

“With the spitfire, you can shoot whatever distance, because when you start going with those giant heads strictly designed to try to cut the head off, you have to be in real close range,” Ralph said. “Again, bow hunting is not for distance. It’s really set up to have that close encounter -- hear him strutting and drumming, and cutting and purring -- that’s what we love about them.

“Even though you can shoot further more accurately, get them close. That’s the great part of it.”

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