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 were not talking. My husband John and I had moved to several different locations trying every call and tactic in the book resulting in 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.
Sometimes the slightest change in strategy will help you to tag a late-season tom. (Photo By John and Vikki Trout)
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 arrives, most turkeys have seen it all, heard it all, and some barely escaped death at the decisive moment. Additionally, fewer birds are 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.
A 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!
A Silent Strategy
By late season, a gobbler may have had encountered problems 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 birds, 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 soft yelps, clucks and purrs and call sparingly.
A Mobile Strategy
Moving around the woods in late spring typically becomes easier, thanks to dense vegetation. 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 detection. 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 relocating 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 new location. If the tom comes in, though, he may sneak in quietly.
I recollect a particular gobbler John was hunting. This bird loved to talk. The 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 gobbler. 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 also 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 tom you are after is minimal. A jenny or two may be available, but for the most part gobblers are all alone and vulnerable!
A single tom that suddenly hears the sweet call of a hen nearby becomes excited, but that does not mean he will 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 is supposed to do.
Late-season turkey hunting is tough and usually drags our spirits down. Nevertheless, as I prepare this story, I am counting off the days until the opener debuts. I hope that success will come prior to late season, but if it does not, it’s nice to know there are other strategies that could work.
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