Clay Tietjen, an 18-year-old college student from Penn Yan, N.Y., whacked his first gobbler over a spring winter-wheat plot his dad, Jeff, had planted a few weeks prior. Every year since, the Tietjens have gotten their birds in these simple 20 x 20-yard shooting greens. “Really what we’re doing is attracting hens,” Clay says. “We’re growing a meal for them now, and come May the gobblers will follow.”
Choose Your Spot
Wheat is hardy, but it still needs sun. The Tietjens look for clear-cuts and other openings in the woods about 200 yards from roost trees. The edges of cattle pastures or cropfields are good places to plant.
Plant the Seed
A little more than a month before the season opens, the Tietjens rake up a 20 x 20-yard square and lay down 5 pounds of wheat or buckwheat seed. “If you can get a tractor in, disking and cultipacking works best,” Clay says. “If not, a rototiller or landscaping rake can be enough.” Rake rows into the dirt 15 inches apart and 11⁄2 inches deep, lay down the seeds, and cover lightly. The Tietjens also leave a strip of broken but unplanted ground along the edges for dusting sites.
Set the Blind
While Clay is busting sod, his dad, Jeff, sets up a ground blind about 10 yards from the edge of the plot. This ensures that any tom that steps into the wheat is no more than an easy 30-yard shot away.
Wait Them Out
By opening day the crop is several inches high, providing the turkeys with new shoots and insects to eat. The Tietjens sneak in well before light and sit the whole morning. “Last year the biggest bird I killed walked by at 11:30,” Clay says.
Photo by John Hafner