Many years ago, it would not have been possible to hunt a farmland turkey. Today, though, things have changed. Turkeys have expanded their range and adapted to a variety of habitats including agricultural regions where fields sometimes outnumber the woodlots.
It’s no big surprise that the turkey’s expansion into farmland areas have led to more hunting opportunities. Nonetheless, we’ve also discovered that this “new” gobbler has developed new habits and has established a personality that differs from big-timber gobblers.
Hunters are still in the learning stages when it comes to tactics that fool farmland turkeys. We’re finding out what works and what doesn’t. And believe me, it’s easy to choose the wrong tactics if you have been used to hunting big-timber gobblers.
In the old days, when hunting the big woods, I usually selected a high ridge to locate a gobbler. I stuck with old logging roads and trails when walking to a listening point. I still like high points. Nevertheless, in farmland areas I seldom accept the risks involved in getting to a high point. First, we know that hearing an early-morning gobbler means the hunt is getting off to a good start. It also provides an opportunity to work a bird before he gets on the ground and joins the hens.
Getting spotted is perhaps the biggest mistake made by turkey hunters in farmland areas. Open fields are usually the culprits. Most hunters will typically cross a field and get to a high point to listen in early morning, not realizing they are at great risk of being spotted.
Stick to the valleys and fringes when moving across and along open fields. The darker it is when you move in, the better. Moving across or along a field 15 minutes or so before dawn is usually not early enough. In farmland areas, I often get to my listening point about 30 minutes before I expect the gobbling to begin.
Unreliable Roost Sites
When hunting the big woods, I have typically found that turkeys routinely roost along certain drainages, or perhaps in a certain stand of timber. They might move 200 yards here or there, but you can count on them to be in the same vicinity each morning.
In farmland areas, this is seldom the case. In fact, turkeys commonly roost in a given woodlot one day, but they will often be in a different patch of woods on another day.
In one agricultural area I hunted last spring, I heard two gobblers from a listening point just a few days before the season got underway. I walked into the same location early the first morning of the season, yet never heard a turkey.
Fortunately, I did put my tag on a gobbler a few hours later, but only because I had some idea of where the birds would be. I might add; I returned on another day with my wife, Vikki, and again discovered the gobblers were not where I had heard them prior to the season.
Hunting The Fields
There are a few reasons why farmland gobblers visit fields faithfully. One primary reason is so they can strut and be easily noticed by hens. The time of morning a gobbler arrives depends upon various factors. For instance, a hen might delay how soon a gobbler enters a field or prompt him to get there earlier than he normally would have. It’s also true that a hunter’s call could affect how soon a bird walks into a field, and the gobbler’s direction of travel.
Farmland Setups And Tactics
You’ve heard it a thousand times before. Always set up in front of a moving turkey. This theory applies if you hunt big timber or farmland. However, when hunting farmland birds, it’s usually best to assume a gobbler will want to move toward a field. He usually expects the hen to move toward the field. The closer you get to the field, the better. If opportunity allows, I typically set up about 10 yards in the timber, where I have a good view of a field and woodlot.
Most gobblers, when they get close to a field, will scan the area. Thus, a decoy strategically placed will lure the gobbler to where you want him. Decoys have become important tools for hunters in pursuit of farmland gobblers, but they offer no guarantees. In fact, farmland gobblers learn quickly. Decoys are most effective early in the season, before the birds become wary.
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