By Vikki Trout
Three Strategies for Gobblers at the Buzzer
With only two days left to pursue the elusive Eastern wild turkey, my confidence had dwindled. As the sun peaked over the horizon on this beautiful, calm and warm morning, gobblers weren’t talking. My husband John and I had moved to several different locations trying every call and tactic in the book – hearing only silence. That is, until the ground shook from a thundering gobbler!
In less time than it takes to tell, John set up behind me and let out gentle clucks. It was then that I saw the longbeard moving toward the barrel of my Remington 870. On our way out of the woods that morning, with the tom heavy in my vest, we reminisced about how dismal things had looked only hours earlier.
Hunting late season turkeys is challenging. By nature, they are spooky from the moment they hatch! Rightfully so. Everything out there wants to make a meal of them – including turkey hunters.
By the time late season has arrived, most turkeys have seen it all, heard it all, and some barely escaped death at the moment of truth. Additionally, fewer birds are left roaming the woods. Nevertheless, die-hard hunters still have some good news – hunting pressure is typically lighter, and you can apply several effective late-season strategies.
1. Double-teaming strategy: Hunters working together can pay off in late season when calling to a gobbler that refuses to cross that imaginary line. Placing the shooter 25 to 30 yards in front of the caller can make the tom think “his girl” is farther away. He may not come within gun range of the caller, but might easily be within range of the shooter. Alternatively, if hunting on a hill, placing the shooter just off the top and the caller below could prompt the gobbler to top the hill for a close look around in front of the shooter.
However, avoid a dangerous situation from developing. The shooter must know – at all times – the exact location of the caller!
2. Silent strategy: By the time the late season rolls around, a gobbler may have had run-ins with other gobblers and is hesitant to face a more dominant tom. On the other hand, he may be one of those birds that barely escaped with his life after approaching a “hen”. For one of these guys, the silent strategy might change his mind.
During early season, gobblers seem to respond better to consistent social talk. Perhaps the best calling tactic in late season, however, is calling less. You may not need to be completely silent – just stick with quiet yelps, clucks and purrs and call sparingly.
3. Mobile strategy: Moving around the woods in late spring typically becomes easier, thanks to dense vegetation screening your movements. Unlike early season before the green-up occurs, briars, brambles, weeds and grasses now cover the forest floor. With a little caution, hunters can relocate without being detected. However, although the green-up helps hide us, it can also work against us when calling a bird.
During late season, many gobblers lose confidence in hen sounds because hunters have called to them so many times. We also know that toms fully expect a hen to move about, so moving like a hen is a great way to boost a gobbler’s confidence. To remain hidden, I always rely on dense vegetation, ditches and hills. Veteran turkey hunters are fully aware that it could be necessary to move consistently and call from each location. If they do come in, though, they may sneak in quietly.
I recall a particular gobbler John was hunting. This bird loved to talk. Problem was, that was all he would do – gobble and barely move. The issue was a huge thicket between them. The gobbler would not come through or around the vegetation. Instead, he held his ground and gobbled. John made the decision to walk away from the bird and circle around the tom using the foliage to his advantage. It worked! John made a huge loop and got in front of the tom. He set up and I began calling. The gobbler came in strutting, raised his head above the foliage, offering the perfect shot.
The mobile strategy works well on loner gobblers. Hens are typically nesting during late season. This can be good news, because the threat of one of them running off with the gobbler you’re after is minimal. A jenny or two may be available, but for the most part gobblers are all alone, and vulnerable!
A loner gobbler that suddenly hears the sweet call of a hen nearby becomes excited, but that doesn’t mean he’ll come running to commit suicide. After all, he completely expects the hen to come to him since that is the way nature intended. Moving gives him the impression the hen is doing what she’s supposed to do.
Late-season turkey hunting is tough and usually drags our spirits down. Nevertheless, as I prepare this story, I’m counting off the days until the opener debuts. I hope success comes early, but if it doesn’t it’s nice to know some solid buzzer-beating strategies.
About Vikki Trout
Vikki is a full-time freelance writer and photographer from southern Indiana. She loves hunting turkey, deer, bear, and small game. When she’s not hunting, she loves capturing wildlife thru the lens of her camera. She’s married to outdoor writer John Trout, Jr. Please visit their website at www.troutswildoutdoors.com.
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