Outdoor Articles

Spring Turkey Hunting

by Pursue The Outdoors on June 25th, 2005 in Turkey Hunting

Midmorning Tactics

The most widely used hunting technique for spring turkeys is to locate a tom on the roost before sunrise, setup nearby, and use decoys or calls to get the tom to come into range. But, what do you do if you don’t get a tom within a couple hours of sunrise? You adapt, and keep trying. Although gobbling activity drops off after daylight, toms that are not with hens may continue to gobble throughout the morning, and they may answer your calls. If you don’t get a tom in the early morning, you can slowly work your way through the woods, or near feeding and loafing areas, calling intermittently as you go. When you hear a tom get as close as you can without spooking it before you set up to call. I like to set up in a small opening if I can, where I may have seen birds before. Then I put out my decoys and start calling.

When you are calling midmorning toms you can use the same calling routine as you do when you call a bird off the roost, except that if the tom is any distance away you may have to call louder, and use the Cutt more often. Try to imitate a lonely hen looking for a flock, or a tom. If the tom is not with a hen he usually becomes interested and starts to come in. Once the tom responds it’s back to playing the game, trying to figure out which calls to use, how loud to call, and how often to call, to keep the tom interested and coming.

If the tom hangs up you can pick up and start to move on him; a combination of stalking and calling, trying to keep track of his location without getting too close and spooking him. This makes the tom think the hen is really interested, because it sounds like she is moving toward him while he is waiting or coming toward her. The key to this tactic is not to let the tom see you before you see him. You should be set up and waiting before the tom appears. This tactic can backfire if you can’t keep track of the tom, and it comes in silent, when you aren’t ready, or you get too close. You have to move slowly at all times, stay under cover, move silently and stay alert and ready to shoot. If you’re ready when the toms comes in you may be able to ambush him when he comes toward you, or you may get a shot as he sneaks off into the woods. The ideal situation is to move in, set up, and call the bird to you.

Ambush

Toms often feed and gobble in open areas late in the morning, after the hens have gone to their nests. If you have done your fieldwork in observing and patterning the birds, you may know where these late morning feeding/strutting sites are. These late morning feeding/strutting sites are a good spots for permanent blinds, especially for archery hunters. You can take along a book and a lunch, call every few minutes, and wait for the birds to appear.

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I set up a flock of decoys, as many as six including a jake, and make a day of it. If you are in a “high use” area you can use the calls and decoys to attract the tom into shooting position. This is the same technique used by many deer hunters who sit long hours on a deer stand. You have to be patient and have perseverance. The key is to be in a spot the toms use regularly.

Hunting Flocked-Up Turkeys

Turkeys may be in large mixed flocks when food sources are scarce, and when the birds are still on the wintering grounds; or after they migrate, but before they breakup. Turkeys are hard to hunt in large flocks. It’s hard to get them in close, because there are so many eyes and ears watching and listening for danger; it’s even harder to get ready for a shot. It’s also hard to call the toms in, because what they are looking for they already have; hens.

I use two main tactics in this situation. No matter when I hunt I try to pattern the birds, so I know where the roosting and feeding areas are, and the routes they use between those areas. Then I try to get between the roost and the food source, to call, decoy or ambush the birds when they come by. If that doesn’t work you can scatter the birds like you would in the fall, then set up a few decoys and call the toms back by using Assembly Yelps or Lost Yelps to imitate a hen trying to gather her year old female offspring. If the birds begin calling by themselves, try to get between them, and let them do the calling for you.

Hunting Henned-Up Toms

During the breeding phase the toms may follow the hens throughout the day, rather than spend the day on the strut. This is especially true if the hens leave the feeding/strutting areas in groups, rather than by themselves. If the toms are still with the hens in the late afternoon/early evening, there’s a good chance they’ll roost near the hens. This usually results in less pre-dawn gobbling, because the toms know where the hens are. It also results in the toms getting together with the hens shortly after they fly down. This makes the toms difficult to call, because they’ve already found what they’re looking for.

If the toms have roosted far enough away from the hens you may be able to get between them, and call the toms in as they go to the hens. If the toms have roosted close to the hens, and you have previously patterned the birds, or think you know where they will go to feed when they fly down, you can setup between the roost and the feeding area. You can also use a dominant hen call to try to get the hens to come to you and bring the toms with them. Or you can use a Fighting Purr to bring in the whole flock.

One of my favorite techniques is to scatter the birds off the roost after they have flown up in the evening. Then I go back the next morning and wait until the toms start gobbling (so I know where they are). If the toms don’t gobble by themselves I try to get them to shock gobble. Then I setup nearby, put out a couple of decoys, and use a Flydown Cackle, a few soft Yelps, some Cutts, and try to get the toms to come in.

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