It’s OK To Be Different This Turkey Hunting Season

Turkey Hunters are rooted in deep tradition, which is fine. However, sometimes, you need to buck the norms if you want to emerge from the woods with a springtime butterball. 

Turkey hunters are a stubborn lot. They love tradition and live to embrace it. While guiding turkey hunters, veteran turkey hunting clients routinely reminded me to set up, stake decoys, and call with textbook purpose. Although I often obliged their requests (mainly to ensure a good tip), I had no aversion to setting tradition aside when I pursued turkeys on my time. 

Turkey traditions are near my hunting heritage heart, but it is OK to be different during turkey season. When a tenacious tom troubles your turkey season, mix it up with a different approach. 

Skip The Roost

Spring turkey seasons coincide with lengthening days. In states where you can hunt all day, sunrise to sunset lasts nearly 14 hours. That does not include hiking in early to set up and hiking out after roosting a flock for the night. You will need a bootlegged Panera Bread Charged Lemonade and a nap to stay cognitive the entire day. One lemonade only per day, as they have been allegedly blamed for several caffeinated deaths. 

Instead of robbing yourself of longevity by not sleeping, consider sleeping in. You heard right. Sleep in, have a Waffle House breakfast and hit the turkey woods. It is a tactic I have embraced for decades, and here’s why. First, when you hunt under a roost, your tom target typically resides there with a bevy of hens. That means you must compete with the boss hen and her posse to commandeer a tom’s attention. 

Sometimes, your calls and decoys work. Often, though, they do not. That tom has been sitting all night with the ladies and knows each one personally. When the turkeys hit the ground going the opposite direction, you must play catch-up until later in the morning. Why not sleep in?

Second, as the season progresses, nesting chores become more common. Again, you fight the hen battle at dawn, but throughout the morning, hens begin to slip away for nesting duties. Mid to late in the season, toms routinely discover themselves all alone by midmorning. This abandonment leaves them longing for company. You can provide that comfort with calls after your Waffle House breakfast. Pennsylvania research places the peak of nesting at approximately May 1, and more recent tracking suggests that incubation for mature hens was May 8 and May 14 for juvenile hens. 

Stay positive on late-day hunts. Turkeys fire up quickly when in the right mood. Start soft, and if a gobbler responds, work up to a frenzied level to show your eagerness to hook up. Any lone tom will have a tough time shunning your sultry invitation. This can be true late in the day as toms seek hens for roost company. 

Skip The Field Edge

Have you ever had a boy bird stare at your decoy in a typical field-edge scenario, then either lockdown in a stare-off or just disappear? The more time you give a turkey to review the situation, the more likely paranoia will replace lust. Consider skipping field-edge sets if you hunt turkeys behind a gated property, and nobody fiddles with your birds between your hunts. 

Despite the realism crafted into modern turkey decoys, their stoic, robot-like motion could raise red flags for a turkey that stares at them for too long. I love the compactness and actual characteristics of my Montana Decoy Company Miss Purrfect XD decoy. Even the faux feathers flutter in the breeze. Still, I prefer a turkey to enter a forest clearing, small meadow, or creek bottom when greeting the fake friend. 

Instead of allowing a turkey to study a decoy for minutes in the wide open, a game of hide-and-seek is a better option. Moving inside cover, setting your decoy in a slight opening, and then crawling into the shadows forces a tom to hunt you. When your calls hook a tom into the search, it forces him to continue looking until he finds your decoy. 

When he does, all his attention zeroes in on the decoy or combination of decoys, and with the proper terrain, he will hopefully be in shotgun range. 

This strategy also has the power to boost a tom’s confidence. Some turkeys avoid open settings if preyed upon by wildlife or pressured by people. They prefer working inside edges and loitering near dense escape cover. Setting up in these dense landscapes might increase a tom’s drive to look for love. Weather could also force you to abandon a field edge and work cover where turkeys might seek shelter. Embrace the nearness and skip the field edge on occasion. 

Skip The Sit

This suggestion goes well beyond a traditional turkey hunt by proposing you move your butt during a hunt. Nevertheless, this suggestion does not advise you to be constantly on the move. Instead, it implies that when a tom sets the parking brake, you must put it in gear. 

Patience is a virtue, but it does not take a master’s degree in wildlife to know when a tom wants you to come to him. When you get that feeling, you have three options. Option one: move to him. In the animal world, hens generally move toward a strutting or gobbling tom, not vice versa. This tactic works best in environments with ample terrain or foliage to cloak your moves. Nudge forward, stop to call, and wait to see if the tom responds. You can even circle the tom to appear like a flock roaming nearby. A quality hunting app helps you map your moves. 

Option two sounds bizarre, but it makes a tom think twice about missing date night. Walk away while occasionally calling. Turkeys have excellent hearing and any stubborn tom will immediately realize that the sound is moving away along with any hookup possibilities. Walk 100-200 yards away, call, and then set up again, waiting silently unless the tom goes gobbling crazy, and then a sexy response is warranted.

The third option resembles the second, but leave your partner at the last calling location instead of sitting quietly to wait in silence. You move on another 100 yards or so and begin calling again. Turkeys habitually show up at the last location, where they hear a bird to listen for the next round of chitchat. 

Moving could endanger your safety in any scenario. Be cautious when moving, especially if you are calling and moving on public lands or hunting properties you share with others. If you see another hunter or sense someone stalking you, announce in a loud, clear voice that you are a hunter. You may even want to consider donning blaze orange during your moves and removing it when you set your back against a tree for another try at a stubborn tom.

Hunting has a long heritage of tradition. Turkey hunters embrace traditions more than any other hunting group. Tradition is fine, but it is time to be different when turkeys transform from paranoid to Einsteins. 

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Glassing for Spring Success
Tested True: Tricer’s-AD Tripod, LP Head, and Bino Adapter
Late-Season Turkey Moves

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