Last Minute Gobbler Tactics
Dr. John Woods 04.20.15
Alas turkey hunting seasons are quickly wrapping up all over the country. If you have not yet scored on a boss gobbler like me, then now is the time to pull out all the stops. Frankly, weather here in the south has been the worst ever for turkey hunting seasons that I can recall for a couple decades. It is tough to beat Mother Nature at her own game.
How do you hunt turkeys in wind and rain? The short course is that you usually don’t. I have witnessed strutting gobblers standing out in the middle of a wheat field in a spring time blow with sideways wind, but there was no way to get to them. There was also no way they could have heard any calling from a turkey box or slate soaked in that rain. When I got back to the truck, I was soaked literally to my underwear. That is no way to turkey hunt.
So, this time of year what are turkeys doing? For the most part toward the end of April and approaching May, many of the gobblers have been busy breeding the hens in their harems, and those hens are now building nests and sitting. This is a sort of double edged sword.
First of all, with many of the hens broken up now from their groups and gone to nests, they are out of the way to bust up a good hunt. Though it sure can be done, any turkey hunter worth his salt recognizes that trying to coax a gobbler away from a bunch of hens is a tough assignment. I mean why risk one in the bush for several in hand?
I cannot honestly recall ever pulling a gobbler away from standing in the midst of hens. If you can intercept them then that is something different altogether. I have managed to get between a gobbler and his hens and be successful, but it is tough. When the hens are around it just multiples the number of eyes and ears watching the woods for anything out of place. It is so easy to get busted by a hen that sneaks up behind your set up and then alerts all the other turkeys.
However, after so much hen activity many gobblers have simply lost their interest in further hen chasing activity. But, and that is a big but, there are still he-man gobblers roaming the woods for one last romance. What is the trick to connecting on these types of gobblers?
Roam and Call
At this late season point in the game I think the best strategy is to roam and call. An early first-thing morning set up might be good on a food plot or travel zone, but if nothing shows by 9 or 10 am, then I think you have to move and move a lot. This can be a little tricky. Just movement alone in the woods is a key alert signal to any turkey in the woods.
I can recall a hunt in Alabama a number of years ago when I deployed this tactic, and it worked almost by accident. After hearing nothing most of the morning, I ran across an old logging road following a long, winding ridge top through the woods. It looked ideal for “striking” a gobbler, and it turned out to be just that–sort of.
My plan was to slowly still hunt that log road across the top of that ridge calling every fifty yards or so trying to connect with a gobbler. This was late spring like now and the woods was fully bloomed out and so thick already you could hardly see 20 yards off the roadway.
I walked several hundred yards, maybe half a mile, and heard nothing. When the log road finally played out into thick brush and brambles, I reversed my direction to return where I had started.
I was using my favorite wood box call and using it pretty loudly because of the thick vegetation cover. I would call but get no reply.
About half way back to my point of origin, I stopped to call down into a deep ravine. I has just passed that spot not fifteen minutes before and heard nothing. This time it was different. Before I could even finish the full cadence of my call, a gobbler hammered me. He was somewhere right down into that ravine.
I jumped off the road in the opposite direction to find a quick tree to sit by. My hope was to pull that gobbler up out of the ravine onto the road where I could get a clean shot. I could not have called that sequence better. After just one more call, I could tell the tom was beating a trail up that hill. He popped out on to the road and looked around like he knew some hen ought to be standing right there with a glass of champagne. Boy was he fooled.
I drew a bead on that flaming red head, pulsed the 11-87 Remington Hevi-Shot load in his direction, and that ended that chapter. I sat there in amazement. First, was that gobbler there the first time I walked by or did he just wonder into call hearing range on my return trip? Was he just playing coy the first time around and the time lapse of my walk key to his response the second time by? Pure unadulterated speculation on my part. I have no idea, but with the results it really did not matter. It worked.
All I knew for sure was that choosing to do the walkabout resulted in coming across a gobbler that was ready to gobble at that particular time and space. Since then, I have used the “roam and call” tactic many times and quite often to some measure of success. So I highly recommend if faced with a stalemate to get up and slowly walk the woods calling ever so often at least every 50-100 yards in thick woods.
Decoying late in the season can work but often with mixed results. You might try mixing a couple hen decoys with either a jake or a full strut gobbler decoy to really make a gobbler react. There is no gobbler alive that wants another dude stepping on his hallowed grounds. If a gobbler comes into eyesight range of that set up, he is more than likely going to respond. Just hold tight, call sparingly, and see what happens.
During the final throws of turkey season, I enjoy setting up on a food plot corner late in the afternoon. This is an especially good place to hide if you have ever observed turkeys exiting a plot at a particular spot likely heading to a roost spot. I do not decoy, and many times I do not call much if at all. I do use binoculars to monitor the field for turkey activity. This little trick has worked more times than you might imagine.
Well, the 2015 turkey season might be about over, but there is always time for one more hunt so long as the season is open even one last day. Hunting in large part is a matter of patience anyway, and turkey hunting will surely test that attribute.