Saturday, May 12, 2007

Late Season Turkey Hunting Tips

Turkey hunting season is coming to an end in a few days. The hunters that have not filled their tags yet ask in desperation for last chance tips on forums like SHS hunting Chat Forum and Jesse’s Hunting and Outdoors. If my email is any indication then there are quite a few of them.
This late in the season there are three categories of hunters.
The happy hunter: he has scored early and is now happily telling his tale over and over again.
The disillusioned hunter: like all of us he started out with high hopes of getting a tom, but as the season’s end comes closer he gives up. His favorite excuse usually is: “I hunted hard all these days and didn’t get a turkey- a few more days won’t change that”.
Then there is the determined hunter: he will not give up no matter what. His theme is: “It ain’t over till it’s over!”.

It is often the last category of hunters that close the season with a turkey in the freezer. Lets face it, you can’t kill a turkey if you sit at home contemplating the bad luck you’re having so far. So get out there and hunt till the last day. With a little change in strategy and some last ditch tactics you still have a more than an average chance at walking out of the woods with a turkey slung over your shoulder.

Here are some of the tactics that I use when there are only a few days left in the hunting season.

Late season turkeys are the smart birds. The dumb ones are in the freezer. These turkeys are a true challenge to hunt. You have to be a skillful caller and keep it simple. Forget the usual set ups and change your tactics to get you directly on top of the traveling toms. The birds you hunt now have heard just about every call from the good to the bad and the ugly. These turkeys have learned that calling means trouble and thus they shut up. It is possible that a gobbler will come in to your calls but he will not answer you. Instead, he will sneak along quietly, using available cover, towards you. These birds will usually hang up well out of shotgun range and watch for the slightest movement. If the tom does not see a hen where he expects to see one, he will slip away the same way he came in. To be successful with these paranoid, call-shy birds the set up becomes even more critical than at any other time during the season.

Despite all the challenges the later part of the spring turkey season is still one of my favorite times to be in the woods and chase a gobbler or two. I have the woods to myself and I do not have to get up so early to be in the hunting area at the crack of dawn. I am also more relaxed since my expectations are not as high as they where at the beginning. At this time of the season I am not after a boss tom; any turkey will fit the bill provided it is a legal bird.

I share the opinion of many other experienced turkey hunters that in the late season turkeys become call-shy. Especially in areas where there has been a lot of hunting pressure. So I keep my calls mostly in the pocket and instead spend more time scouting the area and trying to pattern a tom’s movement. I try to find the roosting tree and the strutting zones and from there figure out the gobbler’s travel path and time of day he travels. Then, the next day I set up as close to the travel path as possible, preferably within shotgun range, ambushing the bird when he walks past me. The best set ups for this tactic are where the turkey has to walk around a corner or over a hill. Anywhere where the bird cannot see me from a long way. For some hunters not seeing a turkey until he is in shooting range is a bit frustrating. But lets face it: If you can see the tom coming from a mile away then he will very likely see you too. Add to this the fact that a gobbler is always looking for a hen and at this time of the season has become very cautious- picking the surrounding terrain apart with his binocular like eyes for unusual movement-the you can understand why I set up where a tom cannot see me until it is to late for him.

Another tactic I sometimes employ is to be in the woods at around 9 am. By that time most other turkey hunters have left or are on their way out. Where legal also consider hunting in the afternoon. These are the times when the turkeys begin to relax and resume their normal activity with less paranoia and alertness. I try to get to a high point where I can observe a lot of territory below me with my binoculars. If I spot a tom I watch what route he takes. Then I try to move toward him, using the terrain to move unseen ahead of the tom and intercept him. This trick has worked for me often enough to give me confidence. If this tactic sounds familiar to you from elk hunting then you’re right, I borrowed this elk hunting tactic and modified it a bit for turkey hunting. It may sound strange for some of you but turkey and elk hunting are very similar with the difference that a turkey is much smaller than an elk of course.

If all else fails I move to a rather desperate last-ditch effort by employing a tactic that is very successful in the fall turkey season. Breaking up a flock of turkeys is not something you see often in the spring season, but can work well too. I admit that this is a rather off the wall tactic for spring turkeys. But hey, what do you have to lose when the clock is working against you? There are two ways to bust a turkey flock. Either you go right at dawn to the roosting tree and chase the birds out of the tree or the other method is to scatter a flock in the field. When you bust a flock the plan is to separate the tom from the hens. Watch where the tom is flying to and then follow him from a safe distance. The tom quickly will get lonely and starts to gobble to assemble the hens.

Try to be near the tom before a real hen is. Set up close to him and then give him some sweet hen talk; gentle yelps mixed with purrs and kee-kee runs. Kee-kee runs are associated with fall hunting but can work very well in the spring too; these such calls soon will convince the tom that one or more of his lost hens are searching for him. He will quickly come toward the calls to meet up with the hens but that’s where you are waiting for him with your shotgun at the ready. One precaution with this tactic though: please do not use this strategy if you are certain that there are still other hunters in the area. It’s just not safe plus the other hunters could get upset at you for spoiling their chances.

There you have it. Don’t be disillusioned or frustrated because you didn’t score on a bird yet. There are still a few days left of the season, so you had better get up, take your gun and try some of these tips rather than sit at home and bemoan your bad luck. Remember, its not over until it is over. Good luck.

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huntingyourbest said...

Love reading others tips on turkey hunting and am putting them all together in one big collection! Great article!

Othmar Vohringer said...

I am glad you found the turkey hunting tips useful.

-Othmar Vohringer-

Jagtstøvler said...

Great List. Will definitely be saved.

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