Skip to main content

How to Boost Your Odds for Foul-Weather Turkeys

Neither wind nor rain nor blowing snow should keep you from the gobblers this season. Tailor your approach to the conditions for success.

How to Boost Your Odds for Foul-Weather Turkeys

A little snow usually won't deter toms looking for love, though they do tend to come off the roost later in the morning. (Shutterstock image)

I stood at the top of a hill, looking down into a river bottom that regularly echoed with gobbling turkeys. However, on this day, apart from the rushing sound of water flowing in the nearby river due to a large amount of rain the day before, there was utter silence.

As I listened to this byproduct of the prior day’s big spring rain, I started to wonder if I’d made a mistake getting out of my warm, cozy bed that morning. Then I began thinking about the plate of biscuits and gravy I would’ve no doubt eaten had I stayed at home.

That was the final straw. With no turkeys gobbling, I shouldered my shotgun and headed back toward my parked truck. After walking 50 yards, a nearby tom sounded off with a thundering gobble. I hurried ahead to the first available cover, an old dozer pile from months prior.

As soon as I sat down, the tom gobbled again on the opposite side of the dozer pile. After one soft call, a 22-pound Missouri gobbler was flopping at less than 10 yards. On that day the old saying rang true: You can’t kill them if you’re not hunting.

This story also highlights another uncomfortable truth about turkey hunting. Spring weather during March, April and May is highly unpredictable. Like many of you, I’ve hunted in pouring rain, high winds, summer-like temps and even snow in my 25 years of chasing gobblers. The only thing predictable about spring weather is that the turkey season will go on regardless.

And, given the fact that most turkey seasons are short (my home state of Missouri has a three-week season), every hunting opportunity matters. This is true even when the weather is lousy and you’d rather stay in bed. Thankfully, bad weather doesn’t (usually) mean you can’t hunt. You’ll just need to adjust your tactics to meet the conditions at hand.

turkey hunter placing a hen decoy
In the rain, set up on the edge of a clearing where birds have good visibility. Set out two hen decoys and a jake to draw toms. (Photo by Heath Wood)

RAINY DAYS

Rain is quite common during the spring, and it can certainly persuade hunters to not lace up their boots in the morning. Whether it’s rain that has lasted throughout the night or an occasional pop-up storm, hunters should be ready to hunt in a light shower or seconds after the rain has stopped.

How to Hunt

When your body or clothes get wet, it’s easy to feel miserable. Turkeys are similarly affected. Yet, while you can purchase a quality set of rain gear and waterproof boots to help you remain comfortable in the field, the birds cannot. When turkeys’ feathers become soaked from a long period of rain, their bodies become heavier. Because they can’t fly or run as fast as usual with water-logged plummage, they have a harder time escaping predators.

When turkeys cannot move as fast, they head to open areas or fields to remain less vulnerable. They can see better in these places compared to wooded areas, which helps their survival. Bottom line: The hunter should grab his rain gear or a portable ground blind and head to a nearby field to wait them out.

When to Call

Turkeys generally don’t say much during a pouring rain. However, the moment the rain lightens or ends, toms will look for hens. In heavy rains, hens often head to their nests and sit on their eggs until the rain stops. During that time, a tom becomes lonely and eager to find a hen. If the hunter makes soft hen yelps when the rain ends, toms often respond quickly after spending an extended period alone.

Best Calls to Use

When wood gets wet, it becomes harder to create friction against other surfaces. Box calls and pot-style calls with wooden strikers don’t work well in such instances. Instead, stick to diaphragm calls or a pot call with waterproof strikers made of carbon or plastic.

Decoy Tactics

When turkeys are wet, they travel to fields. Have a ground blind in place, along with two to three decoys—usually two hens and a jake. This setup creates the ideal place to wait it out while staying dry. With decoys in place, nearby turkeys become curious and travel within shooting range without you having to make a call like normal.

Recommended


COLD AND SNOW

Although rare in my part of the country, the occasional unpredictable spring snow does appear. And it happens even more often in northern portions of our region where winter lingers a bit longer. When such unseasonable weather occurs, hunters often assume that gobbling activity ceases. However, in truth, snow rarely affects breeding behavior so drastically.

Early-spring temperatures—especially in the morning—can drop into the 40s or 30s. Snow can accumulate on grass and trees for a time, even if such temperatures don’t allow it to stick elsewhere. When turkeys are breeding, lovesick toms usually refuse to let a little snowfall get in their way. A large snowstorm may affect things a bit more, but a light dusting rarely throws birds off their game.

How to Hunt

A few years back, I tagged along with a good friend and his daughter during Missouri’s youth turkey hunt. On the first weekend of April, an inch of snow greeted young hunters on opening morning of the 2-day season. Despite my initial doubts, as the day began to break, so too did the gobblers. Aside from our incessant shivering, that snowy, early-April morning hunt played out just as any other beautiful spring day would have. The turkeys responded with no hesitation.

To successfully hunt in the snow, hunters should only change the amount of clothing they wear and slip on some waterproof boots. Stay warm and dry for the morning’s first few hours, and you should be set. In such conditions, I particularly like the Blocker Outdoors Shield Series Drencher Insulated jacket and pants, but similarly warm, waterproof clothing is also serviceable. Appropriately outfitted, a hunter can sit comfortably warm and dry if an old tom decides to hang up for a while before committing to the calls.

When to Call

Turkeys still gobble, and breeding activity continues as normal when spring snows occur. However, the initial fly-down from the roost may be slightly delayed when the white stuff flies. Just as humans hesitate to leave home on cold mornings, turkeys often postpone leaving the roost, which offers at least some protection from the elements.

While waiting for birds to fly down from the roost, keep early calling to a minimum. Instead, listen for hens to begin their usual chatter as they prepare to fly down. Mimic their timing and sounds to avoid over-calling or giving up your location long before it is time.

Best Calls to Use

My hands are the first part of my body to become cold. So, when it’s frigid, I stick to diaphragm calls. This helps me avoid growing uncomfortable while trying to call a tom into close range. Using a box or pot-style call requires control of the hands to produce realistic sounds. When my hands get cold, or I wear thicker gloves to stay warm, it becomes difficult to hold a striker or run the paddle on a call.

Decoy Tactics

When the ground is covered in snow, a decoy is often more visible to a turkey. Hen and jake decoys mimic the realistic situation of a juvenile gobbler sneaking over to breed a hen before a mature tom arrives. This scene always creates urgency for the tom. When decoys are more visible, you have a higher chance of attracting birds from extended ranges.

WINDY CONDITIONS

The wild turkey is known for having keen eyesight and detecting the slightest movements. It also has incredible hearing. On days when the wind is blowing more than usual, these two natural defenses are weakened. In constant gusting winds, turkeys cannot hear predators that may be pursuing them, and they have a harder time communicating with each other. With every piece of grass, leaves and limbs constantly moving, their ability to pick up movement is also hampered. When everything moves, turkeys can no longer detect predators or suspicious movements that they normally would in seconds.

turkey hunter in blind on field edge
In high wind, securely stake a blind on a field edge. It will keep some of the wind off you while you’re waiting for birds to approach your decoys. (Photo by Heath Wood)

How to Hunt

As with rainy days, turkeys remain in open areas such as fields during high winds. There is less to obscure their vision and fewer moving objects. So, when you see high wind in the forecast, find a ground blind, stake it down well on the edge of a field and plan on waiting patiently for birds to arrive. In breezy conditions, turkeys have been known to linger in one field for hours. During extended stays, hens and gobblers will feed on grasshoppers and bugs while remaining in open areas free of predators. Get in a ground blind well before daylight and pack your vest full of snacks and drinks so you can wait comfortably for birds to come naturally.

When to Call

Patiently sitting in one location waiting for birds to travel close differs from the method many prefer, wherein a hunter hears a gobble in the distance and moves in closer. Here, there’s no need for over-calling; in the wind, birds probably won’t hear the call until they are close anyway. Instead, use basic hen yelps periodically to let nearby turkeys know you’re around. When birds get closer, increase calling intensity until they enter shooting range.

Best Calls to Use

Windy days make communication as difficult for turkey hunters as it is for the birds themselves. For turkeys to have any chance at all of hearing a call, hunters need to use high-pitched options that will cut through the wind. A glass pot-style call or a box call are two options that project sound farther. When turkeys get close, you can then switch to a diaphragm call to help bring them in the rest of the way.

Decoy Tactics

A ground blind and decoys can be the perfect pairing when hunting open areas during windy conditions. The presence of other turkeys in a field conveys a sense of safety to fellow birds, which makes them more likely to enter the field without hesitation. The hunter should use two or three decoys in a calm posture when making a decoy setup. I prefer using a hen decoy in a feeding stance when using more than two decoys. To a distant tom, the feeding hen suggests birds are calm and relaxed. The remaining two decoys should be a second hen and a jake positioned near one another to stoke jealousy and a sense of urgency in a gobbler.

This article on turkey hunting is featured in the Midwest edition of March's Game & Fish Magazine. Click here to learn how to subscribe.




GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Fishing

Advantage: Catamaran

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Fishing

Fly a Kite

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Fishing

Bumping Along

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Offshore Cranking

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Gear

Trika Rods

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Gear

New Shimano Baitcasters

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Hunting

Incredible Turkey Audio: Tommy Allen Punches his Minnesota Tag IN THE SNOW

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Destinations

First Turkey Ever: Perfect Conditions Make for a Short Hunt

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Bass Froggin' Game Plan

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Videos

What to Know Before Going Off-Road

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Learn

Off-Road Safety Tips and Techniques

Making sure you select the correct set of tires for off-roading is extremely important. There are three types suited for...
Gear

The Right Tires for Off-Roading

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now

Never Miss a Thing.

Get the Newsletter

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

By signing up, I acknowledge that my email address is valid, and have read and accept the Terms of Use