Hunting turkey, no matter what variety, follows the same rule as any other type of hunting. The important thing is to know the game you are hunting. And most importantly, do your homework. Get as much scouting in as possible both before and during the season.
Gobblers, simply put, prefer to stay near the hens. If you have scouted and know the general area that the birds like to roost, then 9 times out of 10 you will hear the morning gobbles just before the sun peeks out over the horizon. And also, unfortunately, 9 times out of 10, the toms will be in the company of those hens when fly down time is over. Sounds like a waste of time going out at dark thirty to look for these birds, doesn’t it?
Not for me.
I enjoy getting up and sitting in the pre dawn darkness so I can pin point exactly where those birds are. That way, if I cannot call one in to my ambush location at first light, at least I know that there are birds in the immediate area. I know what you are thinking. If the birds like to follow the hens, then how can I get one to come to me in the early morning? There are a few tricks I have done that have worked. Sometimes, imitating the boss hen and interrupting her turkey morning calls will infuriate her and she will come in to see who the intruder is. And the gobbler will follow. BAM! Game over! But come on… this is hunting. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I can assure you that staying in bed will not do you any good at all if you want to know that birds are in your favorite wood lot.
There is a calling sequence I like to use every time I go out. The first call I make is a very soft tree call. This is a soft yelp saying that “I’m here and just waking up”. I mix it up just a little with yelps that might get just a little louder… not much. Never call too loud in the early morning. It is not natural and the birds know it. If you hear a gobble right away, get your weapon of choice ready because the fun is about to begin and it will happen fast.
When I wore a younger man’s clothes, I was hunting turkeys with my shotgun. At that time, I used the same calling sequence that I still use today. A loud gobble pierced the early morning air. Thank goodness I was resting my gun on my bent knee at the time and already pointing in the direction of my decoy. I never heard the tom fly down, but there he was right next to my decoy and I never heard him come into my spread. He stayed there long enough for the morning light to give him away and I soon made this morning hunt a memory.
If I do not hear any hens calling, then I usually take my hat and slap it quickly against my leg to simulate a fly down. You would be amazed at how real that sounds. Add a cackle with it and it is almost a sure thing that the tom will be convinced there is a hen ready and waiting. Using a couple of hen decoys with a jake decoy nearby might just seal the deal! But not always! That is why they call it hunting and not shopping!
If you find that the gobbler decides to go where he hears the same hens that were there the night before, do not think the hunt is over. Oh no, my friend, the game just got a little harder and the rules have changed a bit.
If I am near the area that the turkey roosted, then I get comfortable and stay right there. Every once in a while, maybe every half hour, I would yelp just to let that tom know that I am still there. It is not uncommon for the bird to come looking for you once the hens he was with at first light go to their nest. There have been many mornings when I hear a loud gobble seem to come out of nowhere; usually happening mid morning about 9:30 or 10. If this happens to you, then your chances of success are much better. He is alone and coming to find you. Now is the time to yelp softly throwing in a seductive purr now and again. Just remember, that bird can pinpoint your location quickly, so do not call too much. You will hear him gobble and double gobble in frustration. That is alright because that just means that once he sees your decoy spread, he will get careless and you will be filling your tag.
Turkey hunting can be challenging. These birds can hear every noise, sneak in without making a sound and have the eyesight of an eagle. And many mornings, you will go home empty-handed but remember, if there were no challenge, then it would not be as rewarding when we do score on a nice tom.
As turkey hunting seasons come and go, you will find your own ways to fool this amazing bird and when this day comes, teach a young hunter your turkey tactics. His success will be another reward for you.
Have fun and hunt safe.