Going Aggressive When Wild Turkey Hunting
February 28, 2017
There are many ways to hunt wild turkeys, some of which are more aggressive than just sitting against a tree and calling to birds.
After parking the Defender by an old tractor shed, Mike Capps (PR rep for Cam-Am) and I eased down a field road to a series of gates at a cross fence.
It was dark, and since our efforts to roost a bird were unsuccessful, we decided to hold there to hear a gobble.
According to Jared Welch, hunt manager for Rockbridge Rainbow Trout and Game Farm, there were four or five mature gobblers in the area of pastures, split by fences with some overgrown areas, leading down into woods. The habitat was ideal for wildlife in the Show Me State.
Just as the sun was turning the sky pretty colors, we heard owls. As they got worked up, a tom gobbled down the hill to our left, followed by another straight in front. Both were in the woods on the other side of the fields. As we eased down, another pair of gobblers sounded off to the east, sounding closer to the fields. After a quick consultation, we decided to skirt the woods and team up on the second pair.
We set up just inside the fence. The birds were fairly close and still on the roost, gobbling. Once comfortable, Mike started some soft tree yelps; I concentrated on sleepy clucks. We seemed to be working well together.
The setup was pretty good, and I figured we were in a decent position to take at least one bird.
Unfortunately, both birds flew down the hill and away. We tried circling to intercept them, but quickly realized that the hill was much steeper than anticipated, and the dry woods made it impossible to get around those birds.
With a better idea of where the birds were located, we decided to get down in the woods the next morning to cut them off, but an overnight storm made us rethink our plan. The birds were sure to come out into the fields to dry off once the sun broke through. We were wrong.
While fun, the hunt didn't result in a bird and I wondered if part of the problem was unfamiliar hunting partners, leading both to tone things back a bit. For me, this meant slowing down from my run 'n' gun, hard-charging style.
POPPING THE BUBBLE
Getting within the comfort zone of a tom can be difficult depending on circumstances, such as availability of trails, amount of rainfall and openness of the canopy.
Last year, Heath Wood, pro-staffer with Hunter's Specialties, was able to sneak within 50 to 60 yards of a group of gobblers by using an underground gas line.
"Calling changes when you get within their zone, about 75 yards or so," said Wood. "They don't have as many distractions the closer they are to you. If a gobbler has a hen at 50 yards and another at 150 yards, he is going to head to the closer hen."
A recent tactic being used by some is called reaping, which consists of a hunter using a decoy or a decoy fan to sneak within range of birds.
While this tactic can work, it should only be used in very specific situations, such as against birds locked up in a field with a large field of view to ensure safety. It is also advisable to only use this tactic on land where the locations of other hunters are known. Check local regulations because stalking up on turkeys is not legal everywhere.
Mike Cockerham, a Mossy Oak pro-staffer, spends a lot of time in the woods "trolling" with a box call to find a bird. The idea of trolling, sometimes called setting a chum line, is for a hunter to ease down a trail calling every little bit to strike a bird. If no bird is found, the hunter heads back up the same trail, being careful about bumping a bird that might have traveled quietly to the trail.
There are additional aggressive turkey hunting tactics, many of which work in the right situation, but being aggressive can also result in bumping or spooking birds.
"If you spook birds one morning, try hunting other birds for a day or two," said Wood. "However, if you don't spook them, keep at them."
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