March 14, 2023
Roosting a gobbler the evening before a morning hunt is extremely advantageous. It can provide a strong starting point if you're unfamiliar with a property, or it can reveal a no-brainer setup if you’ve got some history with the land. However, when you roost a bird you must ensure you don't bump him from the roost. It’s easy to do accidentally, and it can absolutely jeopardize your morning hunt. If you’re looking to roost a tom without spooking him, take the following approach.
CHOOSE SAFE LOCATING POINTS
There are two ways to roost a spring gobbler. The first is to choose a place to listen from a distance for gobbling right at dusk. Often, toms gobble on their own a few different times once roosted. However, if you think a tom is roosting within earshot, but you don’t hear any gobbling, this is when you can break out a locator call. A crow caw, owl hoot or coyote howl can often trigger a shock gobble and help reveal a gobbler’s whereabouts.
The second way to roost a gobbler is to watch him roost. The best bet is glassing from a distance. Spy a group of birds in a field and see where they go. I like being in a vehicle to watch birds work across a field toward a roosting area or hundreds of yards away overlooking a valley from a discreet but elevated vantage.
Whether I’m locating with calls or glassing a flock from afar as they head to roost, I always try to choose safe locating points. If I can do that, my presence doesn’t usually disrupt the birds’ routine, which, of course, would be highly detrimental to the following morning’s hunt.
DON'T GET TOO CURIOUS
I place a lot of emphasis on choosing a location for a hunting setup because I believe being in the right place is critical to success in most instances. So, I attempt to learn as much as possible about where a tom is roosted and what potential setups exist near his roost. However, wandering too close is risky. If you can reach a vantage point where you can spot the roosted bird with your bino without letting him hear or see you, go for it. But, if you’re in timber with limited visibility, wandering close enough to put eyes on Mr. Tom is extremely risky.
When you want to see a tom on the roost but know you can’t do it without spooking him, use your best judgement to determine where he’s roosted (see the sidebar for more info on how to do this). The gobbler’s volume should indicate roughly how far away he is, which provides a strong starting point for the following morning. If you’re not hunting with a pop-up ground blind, you should be able to get somewhat close, hear the tom gobbling just before dawn and then cut some distance, if needed, before setting up.
DON'T CALL TOO MUCH
When using locator calls to get a tom to shock gobble, don’t overdo it. Hearing him gobble once or twice should provide a good read on the bird’s location. We all love hearing toms gobble; it’s a big reason why we hunt spring birds. However, the more you mess with a tom, the more likely he’ll suspect that something is amiss. Just go with one or two gobbles and then back out.
KNOW WHEN TO GET CLOSER
Sometimes when calling with locator calls—particularly on calm evenings—you’ll trigger a distant gobbler. You know which direction the definitive gobble came from, but it was so far away, you aren’t exactly sure where he is. If you can hustle quietly without exposing yourself, use land features to cut at least a couple hundred yards and then try your locator call again to try to pinpoint where he is. Be cautious so as not to inadvertently get too close and bust the bird from his tree.
ROOSTED TO ROASTED
Roosted doesn’t always equal roasted, as turkeys don’t always read the script. However, knowing where a tom is roosting before you crawl into bed is hugely advantageous. Rather than going blindly into a property for a morning hunt hoping to find a tom, you already know right where one is. You can slip in early as close to the roost as you dare without giving away your position. Then, you’ll be on his playing field come daylight.