This is the last of our three part series on spring turkey hunting. This session will cover late season tactics, field safety and preparation for the table and taxidermist.
Late Season Tactics
It is now May and the mating season continues. However, most of the hens have been bred and/or are in harems of dominant gobblers. They roost with the gobbler and spend early to mid-morning in the fields together feeding and breeding. Gobblers continue displaying, strutting, spitting and drumming. When with their hens, gobblers are almost impossible to call into a decoy set up. The tactic here is to set up and put out a hen decoy and set up in a known strutting area or travel route. Here is where your pre-season scouting will pay dividends. Now we are going to attempt to call the hens, namely the “boss” hen, into our setup. Do this by starting out with putts and clucks then moving into cuts and cackles. This will get the hens attention for sure. Also, the gobbler will respond gobbling as well. This is where the “fighting purr” call comes into play. This call gets the hens riled up and they may come over to kick the intruder out of their area. When they do, they will bring the gobbler with them. However, you will have to be extremely patient as he will be at the end of the line when the group come to you. He may not even come into range at all. Mastery of the turkey language on several calls is a must. I like to use a diaphragm and slate combination in this approach. I have been fortunate to have this tactic work four times in twenty plus years of turkey hunting, taking a nice gobbler each time.
There is a simpler method for those who are not as experience in calling. Above, I explained that this time of year, the hens roost with the gobbler and spend time with him until mid-morning. Around 10 am they leave the flock and go to either lay an egg (hens lay one per day) or to spend time on the nest. They do this until late afternoon or early evening. They then return to the gobbler or go straight to their roosting area to spend the night. During the time the hens are nesting, gobblers go in search for more hens. They begin gobbling and wandering randomly in their search. This is when you have a good chance to fill your tag. You can use a decoy set up. However, I prefer not to use any decoys at all in this situation. The reason being gobblers may be vulnerable but they have become extremely wary too. No doubt they may have been pressured by other hunters. This holds especially true on public lands. Or they have been pursued by predators such as coyotes and bobcats (mountain lions in the west). In any event they are very cautious in approaching hen calls. When I get a response gobble, I may return the call just once. Soft yelps or soft purrs are the answer here. Then I go silent and make him come look for me. Since there in no decoy set up he will continue his search often coming within gun or bow range looking for that sweet hen.
Never wear red, white or blue when in the turkey hunting. Those are the natural colors of the gobblers head during the breeding season. Be absolutely certain of your target. Never shoot at what you think may be a turkey or a turkey that may be out of range; 45-50 yards maximum even with the best loads and turkey choked guns. Also, especially when hunting public land, set up in front of a tree or large object like a rock. Hunters have been shot from behind and this adds some protection. Be careful in using a jake or full-strut decoy on public lands. I like to place blaze orange flagging above me in my set up when hunting public lands. Remember to have your license and a pen with you in the field. Most areas require that you fill out your tag and attach it to the bird before transporting it from the kill area. Place orange flagging on yourself and the bird when you walk out of the area.
Preparation for Table and Taxidermist
Wild turkey makes excellent table fare. Therefore, you will want to be sure to dress the bird as soon as possible. I carry a knife with me and remove the entrails in the field. Place ice in a Zip Lock bag and place in the bird’s body cavity. This will ensure it will not spoil. I recommend you have a deer or elk bag and in which to place the bird to keep the feathers from being ruined. Take the bird to the taxidermist and they can skin the bird and prepare a trophy mount of your choosing. They will return the meat to you. You can go on the internet and find several recipes for preparing wild turkey. It make an awesome meal!
If you would like more information on turkey hunting, check out our video,
“What You Need to Bag That Springtime Gobbler!” You can find it on our web site, www.huntsmartpro.com.
Good luck in your turkey hunting endeavors and we will see you next month with some tips on keeping your bird dog in shape during the off season.