The turkey hunting season so far has been good, but certainly one I’d call a little offbeat. The extra warm weather we’ve had for so long seems to have turkeys “ahead of schedule” in one sense, but the recent cold snaps have seemed to confuse the situation. So, thus far, we’ve had to resort to some different tactics to be successful. Not anything real offbeat, just not the normal getting a bird to come straight to you off the roost.
We hunters often get locked into a pattern that only “traditional” turkey hunting tactics will work. Sometimes, the offbeat or unusual tactic is the only thing that will work. For me and the guys I hunt with, that has been the case this year.
There are several examples I can think of where this was exactly the case, not just this year but in recent years. It has certainly helped to keep an open mind this spring. Often it will mean the difference between getting your gobbler or going home scratching your head wondering what happened.
While walking the last leg of a wide sweep through the woods last week my partner and I were already talking about the plans for the next morning’s turkey hunt. We had not bagged a turkey this day, although we did have three jakes within shooting range at one point. At the same time, there was what we believed to be a “boss” gobbler sounding off less than 150 yards away. We had chosen to let the young birds pass in hopes the big boy would strut our way. We both should have known better. Suddenly, we stopped almost in mid-stride at the sight before us. Three huge gobblers were standing on the far side of the field we were approaching. Based on their lack of reaction to our presence, they had not seen our movement, since we were still within the cover of the woods and the birds were apparently feeding, some 300 to 400 yards away.
After my initial excitement, the realization of the difficulty of the situation brought me back to earth. The birds were in the middle of a huge field and were headed the opposite way from us. There were hens with them.
It was a tough situation that didn’t seem to fit any of the “normal” rules of the turkey hunting game.
“We’ll stalk them,” my partner said.
At first, I thought I had not heard correctly. Stalking a turkey is usually a very low percentage game, but the man who offered the suggestion was a true turkey sage whose opinion I respected greatly.
The plan was to make our way to a creek bed on the far side of the birds, crawl and wade through the noise-retarding water to a position near the birds where we would have a reasonable chance of luring them our way with subtle calls.
For 45 minutes we worked our way along the creek, occasionally poking our heads above the embankment to get an up-to-date position on the birds. Our final approach was a belly crawl to a calling position less than 100 yards from the birds. We were in ideal calling position now. When the first calls were made, the birds turned and began a quick-paced walk in our direction. It was self-defense at 25 yards.
It doesn’t work like this every time out, but the response of the turkeys was due to our proper calling position. Odds are very high the birds would have simply ignored calls from our original sighting position. By using a bit of out-of-the-ordinary logic, the odds were more than evened out.
When early morning calling to a roosted bird doesn’t produce a strutting gobbler, many hunters are out of luck and out of ideas. Gobblers can be hunted successfully after the traditional early morning efforts. To locate or call a bird within range may require a bit of this offbeat thinking at times.
In many turkey-hunting situations, the birds have a large area to range within and it’s easy for a hunter not able to hunt every day to lose contact with the bearded birds.
The traditional method of sitting and calling from one spot for a couple hours or more, then going home, simply may not produce because at times there will be no birds within hearing distance.
Another tactic that has worked this season is walking and calling to locate a gobbler. Often it’s necessary to cover a lot of ground before you can intercept a gobbler. Often, by mid-morning a lot of gobblers have been abandoned by the hens and are wandering around alone or perhaps with another bearded buddy. If you’re walking and calling puts you within range of their hearing, they may come to you literally on a dead run.
The idea behind this ploy is to get a gobbler’s attention. Thus, the soft, seductive calls are not really the best. The experts I’ve hunted with use loud, repeated calling to attract a distant gobbler’s attention.
The “lost” call of the hen, a long series of a dozen or more yelps which first rise then fall in a pleading effort to get a response from another turkey, is very effective.
When the response comes, they quickly sit down right where they are, since the bird may literally come in on a dead run. Thus, it’s imperative to select a good calling site from which to make your call. You may have to set up in a hurry.
The key this season seems to be creative. Certainly, give the early morning roosted gobbler a try, but if that doesn’t work, think a bit mere creatively. You may be rewarded with a longbearded gobbler.