Five Keys To More Gobblers
March 10, 2011
It's making little adjustments that distinguishes successful, veteran turkey hunters. These five pointers will help less experienced hunters bag more birds.
A turkey has numerous advantages: good eyesight, the ability to fly, familiarity with the terrain, etc. However, a prudent hunter has skills he can employ, too, like preparation, woodcraft and timing. Photo by John Higley.
Spring turkey hunting is upon us again, and with opening day comes the usual variety of situations hunters must overcome to optimize their time in the woods. Understandably, hunters with years of experience make the right moves most of the time, but newcomers are often frustrated in their efforts to call a wary wild tom turkey into take-home range. With beginners in mind, here are five common keys to more productive turkey hunting.
Stick It Out
The hunter looked at his watch. It was only 7 a.m., but the woods were already quiet. The tom turkey he heard gobbling like crazy from his ponderosa pine roost a half-hour ago was now on the ground with hens, and silent. The hunter knew the feathered Romeo would be nearly impossible to call as long as the ladies were with him, so it was time to weigh his options.
Being experienced in the ways of turkeys, the hunter knew he still had a chance. It was the middle of the season, a time when many hens jilt the toms sometime during the day to visit their nests and lay another egg. Knowing this, our hero reckoned his best bet was to hang around for awhile. Indeed, a lot of gobblers that suddenly find themselves henless are harvested during mid-day by patient hunters who don't depart from the woods too early.
Tuck Him In
Mid-day is definitely a good time to score on a gobbler but hunting at daybreak, while different, often is even better, especially if you know where to start. If you can, take the time to scout the evening before your hunt, and you may hear a gobbler sound off as he approaches his roost tree or after he flies up. Pin pointing such a bird makes it possible for you to move into realistic calling range in the dark of early morning, without advertising your presence and possibly spooking Mr. Turkey off his branch.
Sit quietly once you're in position, and see if the tom will gobble on his own. When that happens, answer him with a few soft hen yelps to let him know where you are, then wait and see what he does. Lots of toms come in as soon as their feet hit the ground, and that sometimes happens even when there are real hens in the vicinity.
One thing that many hunters don't give much thought to is how to proceed when a tom gobbles over yonder and you have to get closer to call him in.
READ: Gearing Up For Gobblers
Here's the deal: A turkey's first line of defense is its eyesight, which is incredible. So make your move with that in mind. Get behind a fold of land, circle around a knoll, drop into a wash or otherwise make sure a tom can't see you coming. You can talk some birds in from almost out of hearing, but that won't happen if a tom knows you're anywhere in the same county with him.
Be Flexible With Your Calling
No one can tell you how much to call to an individual tom turkey, either to keep him interested or bring him in. A good rule of thumb is to start by calling sparingly. If a gobbler responds strongly, keep at it. However, if the bird doesn't react favorably, try a change of tactics. Call aggressively and more often, and see what happens. Who knows, that may really fire him up.
READ: Tactics For Windy Weather Gobblers
There's really nothing to lose by tossing a change up -- and quite a bit to gain.
Analyze Each Situation
There are so many things that affect the outcome of a turkey hunt that it would be impossible to cover all of them here. Some common things that might foil your best efforts include (as always) the presence of hens, a physical barrier between you and the turkey (fence, stream, brambles and so on), or a predator that shows up unexpectedly. Of course, there are always a lot of unforeseen problems to deal with and that's part of the fun. If you analyze each situation as it occurs, and adjust to it as best you can, your odds for success will increase accordingly.
Spring turkey hunting is an addictive pastime partly because there are so many elements to deal with. The five keys listed here are basic, and one or all of them may be applied in some phase of every hunt. As such, they should be part of every turkey hunter's bag of tricks. Just don't let a tom in on what you're up to until you're ready to give him a ride home with you.