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oldbirddogman

Turkey Hunting Tips       Part 6

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oldbirddogman

There are many ways to hunt turkeys. In this section, I will briefly describe two: One in which the hunter is mobile, one stationary. Each has it's times and places, it's advantages and disadvantages. I do not claim that this is the way YOU should hunt. Matter of fact, I hunt with several people whose methods are quite different from mine. Our results are about the same.

For sake of discussion, we are going to assume a fellow has just given me permission to hunt a sizeable tract of his land, say, several thousand acres. He gave me a map showing the property lines, and the key to his gate. I have free run of the place.

Anytime I am going to hunt a new place like this, I like to begin my hunt a half day ahead of time. I want to arrive at the gate to the property at noon the day before I plan to hunt. Unless this is an extremely large parcel of land, I park at the gate. I do not like to drive around where I hunt, except when necessary.

My hunt begins as a casual walk down the main road leading into the property, and, perhaps, out any "good-looking" side roads. This is more scouting than hunting. I am looking for turkey sign; tracks, scratching, droppings, strut marks, etc. I am particularily interested in old and new sign in the same area. This indicates that turkeys use the area frequently. Sign made the same day, whether old or new, may just mean that a drove had passed through the area. Of course, new sign is better than old sign. Mainly I stay in the roads, occasionally checking out good looking places I see from the road. No noise. No calling.

If I find abundant sign, or see turkeys in an area, I begin a search for a listening place for the next morning. This will usually be a high hill (if in mountain country) near the sign. I prefer it to be at a fork or crossroads as discussed earlier under another topic. Once I locate a suitable listening place, I mark it with a strip of toilet paper tied on a bush on the side of the road. Remember, I am in unfamilar territory and I have to return to this spot in the dark. Everything will look differently then, and I do not want to over run my chosen spot. The rest of the afternoon is spent looking for more turkey sign in other areas and locating other listening places for future use. About an hour before sundown, I select one of these spots (the one with the most, freshest turkey sign) and I sit down there and try to hear any turkeys in the area fly up to roost. I may "owl" a time or two right after fly-up time, hoping to get one to gobble, if I heard none fly up. I wait until dark before leaving in order to avoid scaring any turkeys that may be roosted alongside the road. I time my walk back to the vehicle, so I know how long it will take to get back there in the morning.

The next morning, I leave the vehicle allowing however long it took me to walk out the afternoon before plus 30 minutes. I want to be very quiet and get to my listening place in the black dark. There are several reasons. I just like this time of day. I can hear any vehicles in the area, which is important when hunting on public lands. But mainly, I just want to get down that road without disturbing any roosting turkeys. Some folks try to time their walk to their listening place to where they arrive just at gobbling time. These same folks never hear any turkeys gobble back in the direction they walked in from either. There is an obvious reason for that. I am aware that you can drive right up under some turkeys in some places and they still gobble. You cannot here. There are two few days in the turkeys woods to ruin one by scaring the turkeys before the hunt even begins. Better safe than sorry.

As the sky begins to lighten and birds start singing, I just listen, for I want a turkey to start gobbling on his own. If none does, and it's well past "gobbling time", I get up and "owl".

If nothing gobbles, I turn 90 degrees and owl in that direction. Then another 90, and another. Some turkeys won't gobble unless you hoot straight at then. If a turkey gobbles, I get into calling range, set up and call, as discussed in earlier topics. If none gobble, and it is a good weather day with little or no wind, and I figure a turkey ought to be gobbling somewhere, I stay in the road and cover ground, owling or using other locator callers on every hilltop or good looking place I come to. If I locate a turkey, I go to him, set up, and call. If I cannot find a gobbling turkey, or if the weather is bad and I cannot hear, I simply pick a spot with fresh sign and sit and call occasionally. No use running around when you have no chance of hearing one.

I will continue to hunt, one way or the other, until lunch, take a break, and return to the woods about the middle of the afternoon. Again, if there is a chance I can find a gobbling turkey, I cover ground. No chance, I sit and call. Late in the afternoon, I may change locations. I want to be near a roosting area the last hour of the day.

Now let's say that on my first afternoon on this property, I'm easing down the road and it comes to a big field. I know from studying the map of the property, or from information I gathered from the owner, that this is the only field on the place. I simply slip up to the edge of the field at a point where I can watch the whole field, or as much of it as possible, and sit down. If there are turkeys already in the field, I am very careful to not scare them. If there are none in the field, I just sit and watch. I do not walk out in the field, as badly as I would like to look for sign there. Turkeys are bad about standing around out of sight back in the woods a short distance from the edge of the field, especially during the middle of the day. If I walk out in the field, they run off and usually don't return that afternoon. This gives me a false reading of the field. If I know there are several fields on the property that need checking, I must walk around each looking for sign and ignoring the chance of scaring the turkeys. I have to determine which field the turkeys are presently using.

Anyhow, I just watch the field the rest of the afternoon. If a turkey walks by me, OK, but I'm mainly trying to learn what is using the field. If turkeys come, I note the time, where they entered the field, where they spent most of their time, when they leave, and, of course, I note WHAT they are, hens, gobblers, both. I carry a monocular for that purpose. While I'm sitting there, I pick my spot to set up the next morning. I don't mean that I go to it, I just look at it from where I am. It is marked well in my mind because I have to return to it in the dark the next morning and there will be no paper to mark it.

The next morning I'm at my seat early. I carry a big cushion, food and drink, because I'm going to be here all day, or until I shoot. If a turkey gobbles in the distance, I resist the temptation to go to him. There's no use. Most likely, if he's not too far, he's going to end up right here anyhow. Normally, I sit a few yards back in the woods from the edge of the field. This is one situation in which I quietly build a blind. I hate to sit several hours, waiting, then have an approaching turkey see me before he's in range. I don't like to have to WORRY that one's going to see me. Sometimes that makes a fellow take too long of a shot. BE SURE YOU WON'T BE SEEN. WAIT FOR A CLOSE SHOT. And let me add here that turkeys are big birds. The look closer than they are. The only exception to that is when you are looking through bushes, then the turkey is closer than you think. Be very careful and judge the distant properly. Also be aware that the first turkey to get to you may not be the one you want to shoot. He is dragging along behind. You must be hidden well enough that NONE of the turkeys "pick you out" and ruin your chances.

When hunting in this manner, you will be surprised at how many turkeys crank up gobbling at various times of the day. If one does, call to him just like any turkey you set up on. Speaking of calling, I call ocasionally while sitting around a field. I yelp loudly on a box, and cluck and purr with less volume on a slate, though it doesn't matter what you use. The loud yelping, hopefully, gets the attention of any turkeys in the area, and the clucking and purring helps them hone in on me. These turkeys may come silently. You have to pay attention listening for them drumming or walking in the leaves.

I remain by the field until about an hour and a half before dark. Normally, if no turkeys are in the field by then, none is coming. However, if some are already there, they may stay later before leaving to go to roost. Many times I have watched turkeys fly to roost directly from the field. When the hunt is over, I slip out and return to the vehicle. No roost sitting on these days. I've been sitting all day and certain aching parts of me won't allow it.

This is how I hunt turkeys.

Questions. Comments.

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Brad Eden

We can only hunt turkeys until 11:00AM here is Maine. Something to do with not disturbing hens on the nest or somthing. I also get in the woods very early because I like to let the woods settle down and find this time of day very enjoyable watching the world come alive. Again I like to wait for a bird to gobble on it's own before calling and trying to get a gobble. The birds up here can be quite naive for the most part having not been hunted hard for generations. Not push-overs but certainly more cooperative than birds down south.

I just discovered two very nice gobblers close to home. They were heading to roost at at 6:45 followed by 4 rambunctious Jakes. These were very good birds with nice beards. I don't have a permit but will bring someone in their to try for one in May.

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tjk1952
I went out to Kansas last week and had a great time. I got one bird and should of had another. Both birds came in around nine am. I like to sit in one spot till late morning if I have birds working around me. I figure they will remember where I am and will eventually come in after they have made their rounds. I take a book and call about every 1/2 hour. I had a bird come in with a good beard but the color was a lot lighter than I am used to. I had my gun up but the bird didn't look right so I put it down and called again and the bird goobled. Oldbirddogman do you know if Rio Grande birds look that much different than Eastern birds.

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Michael Stenstrom
Great description.  I am also an early morning arriver.  I tend to owl earlier though, unless I know where the birds roosted the night before.  I have never had much luck with birds gobbling after they roost.  As a result I find getting the birds to gobble early (still dark) lets me move in fairly close with out disturbing them.

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Grey Scot
I hunt the Bluff country of Wisconsin and Minnesota with a lot of available locations to choose from.  It terrain lends some scouting advantages, because groups of turkeys will come down to feed in the draws, below the bluffs, before dusk.  We can glass these areas from the bluffs or roads to help determine whether its a likely location (number of Tom's), set up locations and access routes for the next morning.  While this is not fullproof, we can cover a lot of ground undisturbed and without calling on the birds.

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oldbirddogman

My apologies to ya'll for not responding to your questions and comments more quickly. I have been guiding in Texas for the last week. 'Just got in this morning.

tjk1952,

The turkeys where I was in Texas are Rio Grandes. They don't look any different to me than Easterns except the tips of their tail feathers and on some of the feathers on their back are lighter in color than those on Eastern birds. They act some different than Easterns. In general, and this is just my opinion, they are not quite as sharp a bird as Easterns. They may see as well, but it takes them longer to assimilate what they see, and respond accordingly. I think they gobble better in the afternoon that Easterns. Their beards look stringy.

Michael,

The birds around here seldom start gobbling in the dark like they do in some places. Matter of fact, I heard a wad of gobblers gobbling a full hour before daylight yesterday in Texas. You won't hear that here except during unusual weather. Turkeys here don't gobble very well after flying up in the afternoon either, but I have hunted a lot of places where they do. That helps some,  at times, especially if you get bad weather during the night and the turkey doesn't gobble the next morning. You still know where to set up if you heard him the afternoon before. In good weather, when the turkeys are gobbling good in the mornings, I seldom fool with roosting in the afternoon. Hunting until slap dark everyday will eventually wear you out. A fellow tends to make bad decisions when his mind is tired.

I am tired.

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Michael Stenstrom
Hope you had a good time in Texas.  Was out scouting this morning.  We were listening to birds at 5:10.  I don't know when they started, but that was when we arrived at the listening spot.  First shoot would have been around 5:25.  It was still pitch black out. Heading to Georgia today to visit the family for Easter.  Will be hunting the three following days.  I hope they are gobbling.

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