If you are a turkey
hunter that chases that tricky elusive bird, we want to share a nice article
with tips and tricks that will help you get one for yourself when you go out
4 Turkey Hunting
Tactics That Work When Nothing Else Will
Sometimes turkey hunting is like magic, and responsive gobblers
come in on a string. These tactics are for all the other times.
From Outdoor Life, By Tom Carpenter, Ron Spomer, Jeff
The classic spring-morning turkey setup is classic
for a reason: It works, at least some of the time. The birds are gathered in
one spot—their roost tree—and they are usually vocal and callable. But every
veteran turkey hunter knows that even a sure-thing fly down strut-buster can
sputter and fail. Here are four ways to salvage what remains of your day.
toughest toms to tag can be those that hang out in vertical landscapes—the
steep slopes of Western canyons or the corduroy country of Appalachia and the
Northeast. Sometimes the terrain is so vertical, you can call a gobbler to 15
yards and still not see it. When you finally do, just his red head pops up, and
the rest of the bird remains hidden by the hill. Canyon crossers are another
challenge. A tom might roost on one side, fly down to the other, and climb the
opposite rim to strut. In those cases, you may need to ford a creek and climb
500 feet to reach him.
The best way to circumvent turkey troubles
in vertical country is to look for terrain features that can help you get the
drop on incoming gobblers.
will strut and preen in the woods and glades of canyon slopes, but often they
hike up to the canyon rim and strut there, especially if it borders a pasture
or crop field. You can watch for this from an elevated lookout. Use a good
binocular and back it up with a spotting scope. In the West, we sometimes glass
rim-edge turkeys from 2 or 3 miles away, usually from the opposite side of the
canyon. Move in when you’ve identified a popular edge, either using the steep
ridge to hide your approach from below or finding little creases and rivulets
that can hide you if you need to drop in from above.
2. Locate Roosts
turkeys everywhere, canyon toms have preferred roost sites—for a few nights in
a row at least. Listen for gobbles in the evening or before dawn to pinpoint
these places, then set up on the rim nearest the bird, uphill of the roost, and
try calling him to you.
will walk and strut on steep ground, but they're easier to see and shoot when
they're on flat ground. Most canyon walls will have a few meadows on benches or
gentler south-facing slopes. Some are cut with old logging roads, which offer
flat but narrow strutting zones. Set up a decoy on a sunny bench and call to
the gobblers. —R.S.
happens sooner or later everywhere, every spring: Gobblers go haywire,
altogether ignoring or even outright running from your calls—even if you’re a
maestro. Hunting pressure, stage of breeding season, and an abundance of hens can
all contribute to the problem.
quit calling. Cold turkey. Period. Then stand strong. That’s the first part of
your solution. Raiding your whitetail-hunting playbook is the rest of it.
wouldn’t hunt deer without trying to figure out their movement patterns. Use
the same scouting skills and tools to unlock turkey habits in the area you
hunt. Google Maps, on-the-ground reconnaissance, and discreet glasswork from a
good vantage point will all help tell you what the birds are doing.
2. Hunt Travel Routes
out a random spot doesn’t work in deer hunting. Success comes from watching
trails, travel corridors, funnels, and pinch points. Same with turkey hunting.
Now that you know where the birds are going, be there yourself. A killer spot:
the route birds follow between their roost and morning food.
Hit the Feed
Does feed hard, and bucks follow. Hens feed hard, and gobblers follow. Just as
you would hunt fields and food plots for whitetails, hunt where the turkeys are
4. Bust a Strut Zone
hunt bucks around scrapes and zones where they like to rut. Silent toms still
breed. Wait for gobblers where they like to hang out and show off for
hens—their strut zone. Look for wing drag marks through leaves, in trails, and
on field or meadow edges to reveal these hotspots.
bad weather to your advantage. Wind? Head to lee hillsides, calm coulees, quiet
valleys, and secluded draws where wind-hating turkeys congregate. Rain? Get
out of the woods and watch a field or meadow where birds will be preening in
the hours following a shower. Cold? Hit a sunny field edge where hens—with toms
following—come to absorb rays and warm up. —T.C.
spring, 36 of the 49 states that have spring turkey seasons will allow hunters
to shoot until sunset. A decade ago, that count was 21. Clearly, we’re getting
over old-fashioned hang-ups about evening hunting harming turkey populations.
morning gobblers and evening gobblers require two very different approaches.
And the wrong kind of evening hunting pressure can push turkeys away from
preferred roost sites and out of your hunting territory. Put the following
considerations to work and shoot a gobbler as the sun heads toward the horizon.
wouldn’t get to your morning spot late. Give your afternoon hunt a similar
effort and be sure you are in place well before the birds show up. A spring day
is long. Hungry birds come out to feed early. Spring gobblers get hungry, and
they feed hard in the afternoon and evening. Set up three to four hours before
2. Give them Room
hunt directly under roost trees. Instead, hang back along travel routes or at
feeding areas, where birds are going to be while shooting light remains. Turkeys
returning to the roost will often just reverse the same route they took out in
the morning. Set up in a spot slightly above travel routes, where you have good
visibility and a wide shooting lane.
set for a long wait. Build a blind from natural materials, use camouflage
fabric, or erect a pop-up tent. Evening birds are jittery, suspicious, and
ultra-alert. A good hide provides some forgiveness if you stretch or make an
and gobblers alike often aren’t much interested in breeding—or talking about
it—late in the day. No calling at all may be best. If you do call, use only the
softest clucks and whispery yelps. Sound carries far in the evening.
5. Run an Interception
so this one isn't low-impact. But in the prairie states and open areas of the
West, use the late afternoon and evening to glass from vantage points. Once
you've spotted a moving flock, drop into a parallel drainage to sneak ahead,
come over the top, and intercept them. —T.C.
that scene from Top Gun when Maverick tells Goose he’s going to let the enemy
fighter jet get closer? To Goose, the tactic seemed counterintuitive, if not
crazy. That’s exactly how I felt when my turkey guide, Jimmy Warner, told me he
was going to run off the jakes in front of us.
gonna do what?” I mouthed through my face mask. We’d taken an hour to slip into
position undetected. Generally speaking, a group of turkeys has a calming effect
on other turkeys, so I couldn’t believe that Warner was about to blow it all by
running them off. But that’s exactly what he did when he leapt to his feet,
waved his hat, and sent the mob flying. Thirty minutes later, a gobbler crept
in, now uninhibited by the band of randy jakes, and I nailed him. As it turned
out, Maverick—and Jimmy—knew what they were doing.
are a few other times when it makes sense—however wrong-headed it might seem—to
charge ahead instead of melting into the background.
1. Bust the Flock
areas that produce large annual hatches, jakes can band together like a
high-school clique and harass solitary gobblers into conceding some turf rather
than fighting it out. Jakes can be especially aggressive with decoys. If you
are hounded by groups of jakes and not seeing mature gobblers, then employ the
same tactic that Warner used. Get up and run off the adolescents, then sit back
and call softly. Often wary gobblers will sneak in without a sound.
to some scouting, Warner and I knew turkeys liked to loaf in a large feedlot on
a working ranch in Oklahoma. But the lot was almost completely open, with no
way to approach the birds undetected. So Warner did what any turkey guide in
ranch country would do: He opened a gate and quietly shooed cattle toward the
feedlot, then we slid in behind the yearlings until we found cover in a corner
of the lot. The cows dispersed, and we called in the turkeys.
Try a High-Speed Fan Charge
a turkey tail fan to approach gobblers is nothing new, especially for
Westerners, who are long on vistas but short on cover. Most hunters use this
fanning tactic—which has recently been given the grim name of
"reaping"—to pique the dominance instinct of a tom and lure him into
range, or to shield a hunter's movements in order to get into better position.
But in the right circumstances—a last-gasp effort to kill an open-field tom in
an area where you have exclusive hunting access—you can modify the technique
and actually charge the turkey. Hold a large tail fan to shield as much of you
as possible, then run toward the gobbler until you get within gun range. This
high-stakes tactic works only occasionally—maybe once every five or six
times—and when it doesn't work, it will spook the bird into the next township
and stymie any follow-up approach. But when it's your final opportunity, and
you are sure no other hunters are working the area, then it can save a hunt
where more conventional tactics failed. —J.J.
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