Tactics For Closing The Deal With Tricky Gobblers
May 11, 2011
Some scenarios make killing a longbeard tough, but these game plans in specific situations should help you get your bird.
Even under "normal" circumstances, taking longbearded gobblers is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, outdoor activities. However there are always some unique scenarios that require special tactics that make closing the deal an even greater challenge.
Most of the time, when hunters encounter these challenges, those who have a game plan or an idea of what can work given a certain situation are much more likely to score on a wily longbeard.
Here we present some specific situations and how a turkey hunter can make adaptations to cope with the issues. By having a game plan, a hunter can press forward and be more assertive in the hunting, instead of passive. Usually being assertive is a key to getting a gobbler and that's why they're so much fun to hunt. You generally must take the game to the gobbler to take him home.
HUNTING WINDY DAYS
Turkey hunting on a windy day is a turkey hunter's nightmare. As turkey hunters we have numerous disadvantages. We can't hear them gobble as well and we certainly have big problems with their softer calls and the calls of hens, often a key element in any hunt. The turkeys can't hear our calling nearly as well either. In general, it's a day where some hunters will opt to give up early or not go at all.
This is where having a strategy can help you get a gobbler on a windy day. I'm not discounting the effort involved: it can be challenging, perhaps one of the most challenging situations because of the hearing issues involved. Gobblers can be had on windy days, but it requires a substantial change in hunting philosophy compared to hunting on a calm morning.
Turkeys rely to a great extent on their ability to hear and the wind has a major impact on hearing of both hunter and prey. This hearing impairment dictates the hunter must take his calls to the bird, rather than waiting on the bird to come to him.
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On windy days, most expert turkey hunters stay on the move. They know from experience that the birds will still be gobbling and although the wind will make them a bit more nervous due to movement of the leaves and tree branches, the spontaneous urges of the mating season can't be denied. If you can locate a gobbler, you can call him in.
One expert described his technique very succinctly by saying the best advice he can give a hunter is to cover twice as much ground in half the time on windy days. Don't delay at any one given spot very long, even at dawn when listening for the birds on the roost. Since our range of hearing and that of the gobbler are both considerably lessened, cover as much territory as possible, using owl hoots at each spot, to locate a gobbler still on the roost. After the birds fly to the ground, it becomes even more difficult to hear a gobble.
The best tactic is to continue prospecting even after the birds have left the roost. With the birds on the ground, the hunter can abandons owl calls and begin to use a variety of hen turkey calls, especially those that are high-pitched and can cut through the wind.
Windy days require loud, aggressive calling, regardless of the specific turkey call you use. It's important to understand that being subtle or timid with the calls will likely not elicit a response from the birds, primarily because they can't hear it from any appreciable distance.
The important thing to the gobbler is that he hears what he believes is a hen. If he does, he'll usually quickly gobble a response. When a hunter hears a responding gobble to his call, it's a good bet the bird will come in rather quickly. They are social animals and if it's mating season and he hears what he believes to be a hen, on a day like this he is apt to literally throw caution to the wind.
As soon as a gobble is heard, the hunter should select a tree or blind site and set up quickly. I've watched birds come in gobbling with every breath on windy days. I believe the birds are gobbling as they normally do on the roost and even when they fly to the ground, it's just that we can't hear them nearly as well.
RAINY DAY GOBBLERS
Another way to turn a potential turkey tragedy into success is to hunt in the rain. Sometimes we wake up to a rainy day; it's a fact of springtime. Occasionally we get an unexpected mid-morning rainstorm while hunting. I certainly urge you to get out of the woods immediately if there's lightning, but if it's merely rain then continue the hunt.
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When it's raining look for the gobblers and hens to go to
open fields. I've heard a lot of reasons why turkeys will go to the fields. For example, it's possible that turkeys move to open locations because such areas provide better lines of sight for the birds, both in avoiding predators and in finding other turkeys. It's possible that they simply wish to avoid the water dripping from the leaves of the trees. But the reality is it doesn't matter why, just that they do it.
Gobblers seem to be less vocal during a rain than they are during windy days. Unless you can see a gobbler in a field, you will need to have to set up adjacent to an open field or powerline in an area where you know turkeys are located.
The rain will muffle the sounds, both of the hunter and turkey. A rainy day is a prime day for a gobbler to approach your calling position totally silent.
Best bets for calls are usually air-operated calls such as a multi-reed diaphragm call, or my favorite, a tube call. Neither of these calls is adversely affected by wet weather and a hunter can get the necessary high pitch and volume to carry the sound through the rain a long distance. There are friction calls with special strikers that will also work. But prepare in advance, have the calling tools you will need for this type of hunting in your turkey hunting vest.
If I can see a bird, I'll began calling loud enough for the bird to hear me, which can be rather loud if it's raining pretty hard and the bird is a good distance away. He sometimes may seem to ignore the calls for a while, but he'll probably cut a glance in my direction, confirming that he's heard the call. It may take him a while to approach and he may not approach in a direct manner.
Often, a gobbler will walk to the edgeline and approach along the edge of the field. The tendency of a gobbler to employ a silent approach during rain is the primary reason to select a site near a field and wait, rather than covering a lot of territory. The exception would be if you are hunting terrain where there are a lot of woodlots and open field situations. You can then slip from one to another looking for gobblers. If you see a gobbler, your odds of getting a good setup site are better.
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If I'm with a buddy, I'll typically set him up near the edge of the field and get 20 to 40 yards behind him and begin calling. On a couple of occasions, the gobbler has slipped in quietly along the edge and the first I knew the turkey has approached was when my partner shot. In most cases, these birds kind of 'saunter' in, picking at food but coming to the call. This requires patience, but it can be a deadly tactic on a day when many hunters don't even go... or high-tail it for the truck.
NUISANCE VEGETATION -- A ROADBLOCK TO SUCCESS
Another scenario we are all likely to encounter is a real demoralizing problem that often results in a lost opportunity. Have you ever had a gobbler close in and strutting, but there was a nuisance piece of vegetation that completely blocked your vision? The bird may well be within easy gun range but you can't see him and perhaps never will. He's approached to his limit and simply will not come the final few steps around the obstacle.
The first time it happened to me, I was no more than 10 yards from the gobbler, but he would not step around the thick clump of bushes that concealed him. I made out movement a couple of times through the bushes, but certainly not a target. For obvious safety reasons, and out of respect for the game, I have always hunted by the creed that I will not take any shot that's not a high percentage shot and certainly only after a 100 percent positive identification of that target.
I could hear him cluck as he walked away, and tried to lure him back with subtle, soft calls. When that didn't work, I tried loud and aggressive calls. He took up a strutting position 100 yards away and would not return. Try as I may, I could not get within range and finally the bird left the area entirely.
A top-notch turkey hunter told me to try a different tactic. It's the exact opposite of what you do in other turkey-hunting situations, and at first it sounded crazy: When the bird is hung-up, and thick cover separates you and him, simply walk slowly toward the bird, trying to imitate the sound of a hen turkey walking through the woods. A soft cluck or two thrown in for good measure doesn't hurt, either.
When the moment of truth comes and the gobbler makes you out, it's usually only after you've rounded the cover and made visual contact. The bird is caught off-guard for an instant but you (hopefully) will be ready.
It sounds crazy, but if the cover is dense and you step lightly and sound a bit turkey-like, this tactic does work. I wished I had learned it years before. While you risk spooking the gobbler, it's probably one you're not likely to get any other way, so give it a try. I got lucky and the first time I tried it, the darned thing worked. Granted, I reserve it as a last-ditch effort, but it is a card I can play that ends the game and often it's an Ace, not a Joker.