Nothing better than gobbler time
For the spring gobbler hunter, now begins the countdown to the most exciting season of the hunting calendar. It’s time to scout but for hunters that term means different things to different hunters.
Most of all we want to locate a few gobblers we can try to lure to our calls when season starts. But preseason penetration into the woods lures hunters to do much more than just quietly locate turkey sign (tracks, dusting spots, roost trees, feathers) and listen for gobblers announcing to the world where they are.
Many hunters use the preseason to call birds up to them but in my opinion that is a risky thing to be doing. I once wrote an article for Outdoor Life magazine on this subject. I wrote it in the 1970s when few had yet realized the troubles they created for themselves when they educated birds before the season even began that the woods were filling up with the enemy who had learned their language.
Here’s what I have found over the many years I have hunted these birds, and this especially applies to birds that are on public hunting land, such as State Game Lands and State Forests.
The wise hunter scouts preseason quietly, making his presence in the woods as camouflaged as possible. He listens for the gobbles, makes notes on his smart phone or his memory where he heard birds. He creeps around locating feeding and strutting areas, roosting trees and staging grounds then leaves the woods without ever revealing to the birds that he was anywhere around.
The not-so-wise preseason scouter hears birds sounding off at dawn then tries to see if he can call them up to him. Perhaps he has a video camera with him and wants footage. Perhaps he just wants the thrill of having a bird respond and come almost running in to him looking for a hot hen.
There’s just a couple risks associated with educating gobblers that his woods are now populated with phony hens.
First, if you are successful at calling in gobblers to your calls and you sit quietly hidden, and he comes in, looks around and does not see this hen he heard, he’ll cluck a bit and then walk away. After that scenario happens to him a few times, he learns that there are phony hens out there calling from afar but to go to them produces nothing. Therefore he reacts to this by ignoring those calls.
So when season starts this unwise hunter believes he has several gobblers in his pocket and he’ll get them to his gun quickly, because after all, didn’t they come running when he called to them before season?
This is the bird that now stands and answers all your pleading calls but never moves a step in your direction. If you don’t come to him, he is not going to you. He has learned his lesson. He now knows where some real hens are waiting for him and he’s going there. So he walks away, gobbling as he goes, and you wonder what in the world happened. You, and others like you, taught this bird that looking for hens sweetly calling from afar will be a waste of time. He’s not responding to any hen he cannot see now.
The next situation is that preseason you called a gobbler to you and he was spooked somehow. He putted and ran and perhaps you are able to even get him up to you another time or another hunter with different sounding calls was able to get him up close but then he saw you and was spooked.
A gobbler that has responded a few times to hens from afar and then was scared off learns quickly not to be fooled by strange hens yelping from afar. Like all wild creatures, turkeys learn to react defensively to whatever happens to them regularly.
So the wise hunter scouts preseason wisely, not harassing the birds or scaring them time after time but sneaking into and then back out of the woods without leaving an trace of his having been there. It will pay big dividends in hunting season.
No hunter would ever scout for trophy bucks the way so many scout for gobblers.