Gobbler hunting now involves more patience
S econd-week gobbler hunting is in full swing this week.
But many hunters have faded away, victims of fatigue and/or a crowded schedule. Getting up at 4 a.m. and hunting for a few hours and then going on to put in a regular work day is exhausting. By this time in the season we are tired and discouraged with turkey hunting.
So we end up not hunting the very week that probably offers some of the best gobbler hunting. Since the foliage is fully out, you have to choose your calling location carefully, trying to select one from which you will be able to clearly see the bird before you pull the trigger.
Your “hunting ears” need adjusted too. Foliage absorbs and muffles sound so any gobblers you hear talking will be closer than they sound, especially if they are on the ground. When you hear a gobbler sounding off this week, estimate how far away you think he is, then cut that figure in half and you will probably be more accurate. One of the boners hunters make now is bumping a gobbler because we thought he was farther away than he really was.
By late May, the biggest reason why you had so much trouble in the early season is eliminated: hens. Hens have left the gobblers to incubate their eggs. So these days, gobblers greet the dawn alone and they don’t like it much. If an adult gobbler hears a hen calling these days, he’s much more apt to respond to your calls than he was a couple weeks ago.
One of the most difficult situations in the early season is that jakes (year-old gobblers ) do a lot of gobbling but do very little breeding. The dominant gobbler in any group is most always an adult bird, at least 2 years old. He does the breeding and may not gobble much.
The dominant bird and his hens usually roost close together. He may gobble a time or two from the roost but after he and his hens fly down he is too busy breeding and strutting to gobble much. Jakes, however, gobble lustily. Sometimes they sneak in quietly to a calling hunter, hoping to steal a little action while the boss is busy.
But very often, jakes are gobbling but are really not all that interested in breeding. So they gobble a lot but they don’t come to a hunter. In the early season, hunters spend a lot of time fooling around with these contrary jakes and wondering what is wrong.
The late season is the time when the trophy gobbler, the old boss bird, the long-bearded, long-spurred monarch is actually the most susceptible to your calling. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be a pushover. By now, he is also spooky and cautious. He’s heard almost nonstop calling and owl hooting for weeks now. And if you have worked the same bird a time or two, he knows the sound of your calling too.
So now it is time to use a different call from the one you’ve been using all season so far. Use a box call, a tube call, a raspy mouth yelper; the choice is yours of course, just make a different sound than he’s been hearing for the last week.
One season I found a ridge that had four birds gobbling. The first morning, I managed to call the birds to me. Two jakes came by first and I let them go past me because I could see two longbeards behind them.
The first longbeard spotted me however, and putted and off they both went! I went back for the next three mornings. These birds would gobble back at my calling, but they would not come to me.
So I took a friend with me and suggested he do the calling because the birds would not recognize his calling. It was easy; Steve called and both gobblers (the adults) came marching in, one behind the other. He bagged his, and I missed the second one. So change your calls this week, you could be quite surprised at how effective that can be.
When the hens leave the gobblers, the gobblers often begin to travel every day looking for receptive hens. So it may be that you will work your way into areas where you heard gobblers the early season and hear nothing. When that happens I go trolling for turkeys.
I walk slowly through the woods stopping every 100 yards to call and listen. After about 10 minutes in each spot, I move on. It’s a very effective technique.
For safety’s sake, don’t call as you walk. If a hunter is sitting, concealed in your pathway, and he hears calling and then sees movement, he may get so excited he fires before he absolutely identifies the movement as a hunter and not a turkey.
Patience is truly the word of the week because big gobblers are not so easily fooled as they may have been the week just past. The last couple of years birds have been slow to come, silently inching their way to your calling position. They are determined to see the hen before they commit themselves.
A decoy can be valuable in this situation, but if you have been working the same bird for a few times and he has seen your decoy several times, he’ll know it’s a fake. Get a different decoy or two and call to him with a call that will produce a sound markedly different from your favorite call you have been using all last week.
If he is coming in quietly, keep your calling sparse. Starting this week, when I know I’m going to probably be doing much more sitting and waiting, I choose to do it in my one-man chair blind. I am comfortable for hours sitting in the canvas chair rather than trying to stay unmoving on the ground. I sit up higher in the blind so I can see around better.