March 27, 2023
"Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun," observes a popular British ditty, but the songwriter could just as easily have added savvy turkey hunters to the mix. Though the first few hours after sunrise might be considered prime time, veteran hunters know that a high sun isn't the signal to stop for a siesta. It's just time to switch turkey hunting tactics.
BEAT THE HENS
Nothing good happening after flydown? Head for a hen feeding area before the birds get there. Midday gobblers often follow the same routes to the same CRP fields, pastures or food plots where they expect to find hens and try to breed them. For their part, hens typically lay their eggs not far from where they and their poults will feed on various wild grasses, weeds, clover buds and insects.
Focus on fields that have a mixture of the best food sources. Feathers, tracks, dust bowls, gobbler wing drag marks and other sign on the edges of openings will help tell the tale. If you don't have blinds already set up, use a pop-up or pick natural cover for concealment along the travel routes that show the most promising sign.
Trail cameras are the best scouting tools here. Position one or more to pinpoint a well-used travel route. If the results are promising, set up an ambush point. Add jake, hen or gobbler decoys within gun range and gobble, cutt or yelp occasionally. Then, it's wait-and-see.
- Quick Tip: "Use a locator call where there are several food plots, pastures or crop fields in fairly close proximity," says Harold Knight of Knight & Hale game calls. "It's better to use a crow call or box call to locate a gobbler than to walk around to check various places. If you hear one while standing in or near a field, set up a blind or find good natural cover near where the gobbler is likely to come in," Knight continues. "Then, work him with calls a little bit. Be ready because he's probably going to come in fast."
Some mornings the only birds you hear are cardinals, crows and jaybirds. When gobblers are silent and indifferent, spend midmorning walking a ridgeline and yelping with a box call or loud slate. Any bird that answers might not be the boss gobbler in that part of the woods, but nonetheless it could be sporting a nice beard.
Which way is it going? That should be the first question in your mind, and part of the answer depends on how well you scouted the property. If the gobbler is going toward a food source where hens hang out, which is likely, make a wide circle to get in front of it and set up a pop-up blind or use other concealment.
- Quick Tip: "A lot of times you can call a gobbler away from hens that aren't paying any attention to him," says Knight. "Do some excited calling when hens are ignoring a gobbler and he's liable to come on the run."
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, FAN
Though it's a controversial practice best saved for private land, "fanning" can seal the deal with gobblers that are strutting for hens or otherwise not convinced by your calling. To do so, after you see a gobbler in a field, hunker down behind a two-dimensional decoy that depicts a full turkey fan and the silhouette of a gobbler's chest and head extended. Then, with your gun at the ready and the barrel pointed forward, crawl out into the field and toward the gobbler. Along the way, mix in a few cutts or gobbles to complete the ruse.
- Quick Tip: "Fanning is a proven method but shouldn't be used on public land. On private land, make sure you know where other hunters are and that they know where you are before you start crawling around with a turkey fan—especially in a field that's grown up some," says Knight.
This article on turkey hunting is featured in the South edition of March's Game & Fish Magazine. Click here to learn how to subscribe.