Turkey Hunting: Walk the Walk or Take a Stand?

https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/hunting/pages/turkeyhunting.aspx

I have had an enormous amount of good fortune hunter deer while sitting for days on end at a stand.  The goal is to find an area with plenty of deer activity (rubs, scrapes, active trails etc.) and park it until a legal buck comes along.  The tactic can be agonizing for us folks who struggle with patience yet has the potential to be fruitful for those who can stand it.  The same strategy can produce success during turkey season, however, for some reason, I am unable to hold out in the spring like I do while waiting for whitetails in the fall.  I wonder why that is?

Turkeys are primarily creatures of habit.  Undisturbed, they are apt to follow their patterns of travel day after day.  A flock that comes through after 7 AM today, just might repeat the same jaunt tomorrow.  So, one may theorize that all you must do is find fresh turkey scratching and sit and wait.  They’ll eventually wander by.  It’s a form of hunting that has worked for many hunters I know.  Except it hasn’t worked for me.

Perhaps it’s the time of day the birds are coming through is what is lousing me up.  In my state, we can only hunt until noon.  If these birds are in the area at 3 PM, it does me no good to sit there.  A trail camera might tell me this is happening; however, it may take a day or two to find out my worst fear is true.  I have now wasted two days of hunting.  That said, finding this turkey sign during preseason scouting missions should allow me to hang a camera and pattern the birds.  Just don’t scout more than a couple of weeks before the opener, as turkeys typically transition from winter to spring areas during this time.

While patiently waiting for turkeys is an effective form of hunting, I prefer the run and gun method.  There is something about making a call and having a tom sound off about 100 yards away that gets the juices flowing.  While the textbook turkey hunt is roosting them the night before and setting up on them in the early morning darkness, I don’t always have time to head into the woods in the evening, forcing me to hunt “blind.”

Run and gun is simply strolling through the woods and trying to find turkeys.  In the early morning, an owl or coyote call cand elicit a “shock gobble” from a tom that simply can’t help himself.  As the day breaks, making yelps, cuts, and purrs with a turkey call might do the trick.  The key is to stay with it and cover lots of ground.  It is common to walk for miles and hear nothing, only to strike up multiple toms just above the next valley.

When I do find the toms, I try to set up as close as I can without bumping them.  Turkeys have incredible eyesight so one false move can ruin a hunt.  I like to use the terrain available to me, such as a ditch or drainage.  Maybe it’s later in the season and the woods have been thickened with new greenery.  My goal is to get to within a hundred yards and sit down.  The spot I find to sit will have some cover, whether it be branches and leaves from an adjacent tree, or a fallen down log.

The way I call to the turkey will depend on his behavior.  If he’s gobbling his head off and getting closer, I’ll shut up and let him walk in.  If he’s gone silent, I may call aggressively to entice him to come to the “hen.”  If he’s gobbling but stuck in cement (not coming any closer), I sometimes drop back 30-40 yards and call, only to quickly head back to my sitting spot, giving the bird the impression that his hen is leaving.  This is risky and should only be done if the terrain in front effectively acts like a smoke screen.  A pair of hunters working in tandem can use the drop back method more easily.  A big thing to understand is that all turkeys have different MO’s and mindsets, and one bird will do the exact opposite than the next.

So, whether we run and gun or sit and wait, there are plenty of useful ways to hunt turkeys.  While I prefer the action of being mobile and never knowing what is up ahead, it can be beneficial to sit in an active turkey area.  Good luck to all hunters this spring!

Author: Whipped Owl

Writer Musician Historian Sportsman Loner

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