Perhaps it’s because I live on the sunny side of the Mason-Dixon Line that I seem to have gravitated to the southern reaches of several states when it comes to hunting wild turkeys. I’ve taken gobblers from south Florida to South Dakota; south Texas to south Alabama and if I’ve learned one thing, turkeys can be tough hombres no matter the section of the country they inhabit.
As I’ve thought over the successes and goof-ups I’ve enjoyed/endured over the past years of chasing spring gobblers, I’ve been able to piece together some things that work and those that hunters should shun like the plague. In the process of letting gobblers make a fool of me, I’ve learned several lessons. They include….
Lesson No. 1
Newly weds, if you want your youngsters to grow up to be turkey hunters, avoid having them born in March or April. My birthday is in late March and when you reach the plateau of longevity that I have, your spouse, kids and grandkids like to feel obliged to throw surprise birthday parties for you.
My most recent surprise party was indeed special, but it occurred the night before turkey season opened. Several of the entourage spent the weekend with us and it left me with a twinge of guilt as I snuck out of the house before dawn to open turkey season. The longer I sat in the woods, the more my guilt grew so I did the proper thing. I came home early and took the grandkids fishing.
Lesson No. 2
When you hear a turkey gobble fairly close, find a spot right there and sit down immediately.
A friend and I were slipping along a trail that split a briar patch in two. Halfway through the brambles, a turkey gobbled just ahead. With no place to sit, I made the ill-advised decision to continue on through the briar patch instead of backing out to set up. As we cleared the briars, there he was……and there he went. The gobbler was standing in the trail 50 yards past the briars and we could only listen to his alarm putts as he got the heck out of there.
Here are a few other things to consider when you set out to try and outwit a gobbler.
• Listen to a gobbler on the roost and attempt to get as close to him as you can without spooking him, usually within 100 yards.
• Take his temperature. Sometimes he gobbles at every sound he hears; owls, woodpeckers, crows or a passing train. Other times, he may gobble only a time or two. If he’s hot, give him a soft yelp and see what happens. If his response is immediate and hard, put your call down and wait.
• If you hear hens on the roost near the gobbler, your work is cut out for you. He already has willing participants for his morning games and you’re outnumbered. I’ve had better results in trying to get the hens riled up and wanting to come over to whip the brazen hussy trying to steal their gobbler. When they come to investigate, the unwitting gobbler often trails along behind them.
• Resist the temptation to move. Too many times I’ve decided that a gobbler that had been gobbling his head off and suddenly became silent, had left, only to stand up to move and heard the “fwoop..fwoop..fwoop” of wingbeats as he flushed 30 yards from where I’d been sitting. He was coming in silently. A good rule of thumb in such situations is to sit still for 15 minutes after his last gobble; then sit another 10 minutes, just for good measure.
No matter if you hunt gobblers north, south, east or west, you’re likely to encounter a bird or two with one purpose in mind, that being to see just how much he can mess with your head. Hopefully, these tips will help you to level the playing field just a tad.
Glynn Harris Outdoor column is sponsored by D.C. Pawn in Minden