Those Final Last Yards
It’s opening weekend/opening day for spring gobbler hunting or should I say chasing. Being a spring turkey hunter is like no other type of hunting. For the most part, we as hunters are trying to convince a mature gobbler to do something everything in their body tells them not to do: go to the sound of a hen. See in a turkey’s world, during mating season, the gobbler sounds off and the hen runs to her. As spring turkey hunters we are trying to get the gobbler to come to us by sounding like a hen.
It’s no secret that quality hunting ground is getting limited. Here in our part of the state, we are fortunate enough to have over 20,000 acres of public hunting ground. I know what you are saying, public ground is crowded, so there is too much pressure or it’s for rookies. Let me ease your mind with a couple things. First of all, yes public hunting ground does get pressure but it’s generally on weekends and in the first few days, after that and during the week these vast untapped resources hold spring gobblers. As far as for rookies, some of the best hunters here in our part of the world were once rookies.
We have got some of the hardest birds to kill than in any other part of the country. Our spring birds have earned master’s degrees in survival and turkey call judging.
How then do we outsmart these educated birds? The good news is there are several time-tested strategies one can use to beat hunting pressure and bust more gobblers season after season.
When the woods are crowded, you find yourself facing tough hunting conditions.
One of the quickest ways to beat outside hunting pressure is to focus your attention on isolated locations with limited access. This means you have to sometimes go the extra mile and target areas other hunters typically never reach. With this tactic, you’ve got to be willing to cross deep creeks, climb steep hills and go around or through heavy cover to put some distance between you and the competition. Stay away from easily located pulloffs and heavily traveled roads. Look for alternate routes to access protected sanctuaries on the backside or opposite ends of heavily hunted locations.
A little rain and some wind is usually all it takes to clear the woods. This can create a major window of opportunity for those who are willing to embrace adverse weather conditions. If it’s raining, simply throw on some waterproof gear and target open locations with high visibility. Fields, logging decks, clean ridges and creek bottoms are key areas where turkeys will generally congregate and hang out when the weather is bad. During windy conditions, try setting up inside of low areas or protected pockets where turkeys can hear and have good visibility. Utilize high-volume calls capable of breaking through the wind and being heard by turkeys. Placing decoys in open areas also is a deadly strategy to grab a gobbler’s attention.
Burning some boot leather and covering a lot of ground is another great way to potentially get on a hot gobbler no one else has messed with yet. The trick is to quietly ease through the woods and momentarily stop to call. Try using a shock-call or mouth diaphragm with aggressive calling to trigger a response. Be sure to utilize the terrain to hide your movement and sneak quietly through the woods to avoid accidentally bumping birds in the process.
Separating yourself from the pack by using a different type of call can make a huge difference when hunting high-pressured gobblers with sore ears. If you notice other hunters are using aggressive calling strategies or a particular style call, then switch gears and hit turkeys with something new. Try utilizing finesse calling tactics consisting of soft yelps, clucks and purrs. In most cases on public land, less and lighter calling will be more productive than loud and aggressive. Don’t be afraid to break out a tube call or even a push-call to entice call-shy birds with a different sounding tone and cadence. It’s also not a bad idea to change over to a hawk or woodpecker shock call to give turkeys a break from the more popular owl and crow calls.
Go with super-close setups that don’t give gobblers much breathing room. Use the terrain to sneak in close before attempting to call or work a longbeard into range. Setting up close will help eliminate potential hang-ups, and dramatically decrease the chances of a tom gobbling up an actual hen or another hunter. We all love to hear them gobble, but don’t allow your addiction to knock you out of punching a tag. The less you make a longbeard talk the better on public land.
Go deep and construct your own hotspot setup locations. For example, create mock dusting sites in between known feeding and roosting areas. Dust bowls attract a lot of turkeys, especially during the midday hours when it’s warm and sunny. Lonely gobblers will often cruise these primetime spots to pick up a date when other hens are off nesting. Another strong strategy is to create your own strut zones inside of locations with good ambush points. Targeting heavily covered areas and clearing out openings offering good visibility is a deadly hunting technique. Longbeards that are skittish and afraid to gobble will flock to these strut zones in an attempt to find hens during the late morning and early afternoon hours.
Try hunting high-pressured areas later in the morning and during themed week. A lot of hunters generally begin to lose confidence in a location once the peek gobbling activity ends shortly after fly-down. As a result, many hunters leave the woods to grab some lunch, take a nap or change hunting locations altogether. A combination of limited hunting pressure coupled with the fact many hens break away from gobblers at this time will increase your chances of hitting paydirt and punching a tag.
Best of luck this weekend and send some pictures.