Exploring the Delaware Water Gap Part II - The Hunt

The other recreational activity Zack has introduced me to is hunting.  The Water Gap has provided Zack and his family hunting adventures and wild fare for over 10 years.  It took some convincing, with promises of “free-range, steroid-free” meat and remote photo-shoot locations, but this past spring we embarked on a hunt for wild turkey. However, I quickly realized in observing the nuances of the hunt and Zack’s intimate knowledge of the area that has come from hunting the area for so long would provide plenty of unique photography opportunities.  Here is a general guideline for the process of turkey hunting and some photographs along the way.

During this trip to the Delaware Water Gap, this hunter uses Lynchs turkey box call.
Taking a relaxing break against a tree trunk in the Delaware Water Gap, New Jersey.

Locating Turkey Populations

Before the hunt can begin the turkeys’ approximate locations must be found.  We narrowed our search to old farm fields and the wooded ridges that surround them.  Some of the fields are completely over-grown now, some are mowed and others are still leased out and used for farming.  All make for great turkey habitat.  Turkeys can be located using any number of calls impersonating a turkey.  Zack uses a “box call.”  It is ideal to find their location just before dark because the turkeys roost in trees for the night, so you know they’ll still be there in the morning.

Searching around an abandoned farm field in preparation for turkey hunting in the Delaware Water Gap.
A Lynch Box call.  The underside of the lid has a thin layer of chalk and is scraped across one side of the box.

A Lynch Box call.  The underside of the lid has a thin layer of chalk and is scraped across one side of the box.

This hen (female turkey) was getting ready to roost in the area close to where we decided to hunt.

This hen (female turkey) was getting ready to roost in the area close to where we decided to hunt.

Preparing our camp for the night.  We slept in the car.

Preparing our camp for the night.  We slept in the car.

The Morning Hunt

The key is to get close enough to where you think the turkeys are roosting, but not too close as to alert them of your presence.  The turkeys must be lured to you using a call, but using a decoy turkey can also add incentive, if you can find a spot open enough for the decoy to be visible while also offering enough cover for hiding.  As the sky begins to lighten, the turkeys begin to talk to each other.  We knew their approximate location, so we tried to plant ourselves amongst them in hopes of luring one within range.  All morning we could here them calling in what seemed like every direction, but no luck.

Early morning turkey calling in the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey.
Setting up the turkey decoy hen or jenny to lure in some male turkeys or jakes. 
Hiding in brush with our camouflage to hide during turkey hunting in the Delaware Water Gap. 
Our decoy turkey hen waits for other turkeys in the Delaware Water Gap, New Jersey.
Placing the turkey decoy in an open field during an early morning hunt in the Delaware Water Gap.
Hiding in brush, waiting for toms(older turkey) and jakes(young turkey), photography by Compass & Canvas. 
In the Delaware Water Gap, turkey decoys are put out to lure in male turkeys.
A Browning semi-automatic for the hunting and a Mindshift backpack for the photographing.

A Browning semi-automatic for the hunting and a Mindshift backpack for the photographing.

A hunter walks through the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey looking for turkeys, photography by Compass & Canvas. 

The Late-Morning Hunt

In New Jersey turkey hunting is only permitted until 12pm to prevent hens from being disturbed as they hunker-down in their nesting areas for the afternoon.  In the final hours before noon Zack likes to find a sunny-open area, preferably on a ridge close to a stream and take a little nap.  After putting our decoy out about 30 yards from us, we relaxed under cover amongst dense vegetation surrounded on all sides by a mowed field.  Zack would pop his head up every 15 minutes to look around and call.  Sure enough, after about an hour two turkeys came out to investigate.  The result was turkey chili. 

Looking out from our hiding spot amongst the brush in the middle of the field.

Looking out from our hiding spot amongst the brush in the middle of the field.

Turkey down!

Turkey down!

Filling out the turkey tag.

Filling out the turkey tag.

Lynch's long beard turkey box-call is a great tool for helping hunters lure in turkeys. 
The Delaware Water Gap, New Jersey side, is a vast space for hunting turkeys and other wildlife.
Wildlife photography documenting the science and knowledge of hunting turkeys in the Delaware Water Gap, New Jersey.

Finishing the job

Shooting the turkey is not the end of the hunt.  After properly tagging and checking the turkey in at the proper location, the task becomes removing and cleaning the meat.

The turkey "beard."

The turkey "beard."

Plucking the breast meat area.

Plucking the breast meat area.

After enough of the feathers are removed cut along the sternum to remove the breast meat.

After enough of the feathers are removed cut along the sternum to remove the breast meat.

A recently shot turkey is being butchered and prepared for a tasty meal. 
A turkey foot is removed during the process of preparing turkey meat for eating. 
After the breasts are cut out, the skin can be pealed away from the drum sticks (basically turning them inside-out) and then cut them away from the body.

After the breasts are cut out, the skin can be pealed away from the drum sticks (basically turning them inside-out) and then cut them away from the body.

A look at the iridescent brown feathers of a wild turkey, photography by Compass & Canvas.  

If you missed part I of our favorite things to do at the Delaware Water Gap, click here