Who doesn’t love a traditional turkey hunt? One where the birds fly down in the morning and gobblers immediately start putting on a show. They puff up and strut, and come charging into the decoys either looking for love – or a fight.
That’s the type of turkey hunt everyone wants, after all, that’s the way it appears to work on television. The fact is though, that many – at least half – of turkey hunts don’t work that way. Rather, all of the gobbling on the roost as daylight and fly-down time approaches gets us worked up and anticipating an exciting and quick hunt, only to end with the gobblers dropping down, hooking up with hens and marching away.
This is the time when the men are separated from the boys when it comes to turkey hunters. The boys pack up and head to town for breakfast, feeling as if it just wasn’t in the cards that morning and maybe tomorrow morning things will work out differently. Chances are they won’t, and history will repeat itself. This is when the really good turkey hunters shine.
Experienced hunters know that, while things do slow down after the toms hen-up in the morning, being patient and adaptable can be clutch.
One good rule of thumb is to stay put for a while, especially if the gobblers were answering your calls earlier in the morning. They may have left and followed the hens, but once the hens leave them to go nest, the gobblers will start getting lonely again, and they won’t forget where they heard that hen earlier in the morning and return to see if she is still around and bored. It may take a few hours, but staying put can pay off.
If you just aren’t patient enough for that, or if you have plenty of ground to hunt at your disposal, there is also another method that can help you put a bird in the truck. If having sat in your starting off spot for a while hasn’t paid off, get on the move. By either hopping in the truck and cruising by other properties you can hunt, or by slinking from one vantage point to another on the one you’re one, if you can spot a gobbler in the open strutting, you can sometimes make a play.
If you spy a tom strutting in a field or open area and there is a slight change in terrain nearby, consider doing what most hunters wouldn’t dream of; going to the gobbler.
If there is a dip in-between you and the gobbler, use it to your advantage to stay low and out of his line of sight to advance towards his position. Better yet, if he is on one side of a ditch, or even a fencerow, from you, drop down and walk in the bottom of the ditch, or crawl along the fencerow in an attempt to get within shooting range, or at least close enough to where he will be more easily coaxed into coming in for a peek.
In order for such a move to work, however, you need to make sure that while doing so, the bird will not see you. So, hunker down in that low spot or stay low in that brushy fencerow, and if need be, only move when he is strutting and facing away, etc. That only works if you can occasionally get an eye on him though. Do not get in a hurry. That is the easiest way to blow the hunt. Take your time and proceeds cautiously, staying low and out of sight of him.
This method of turkey hunting is not only good for toms in their strut zones, but it can also be your best – and sometimes only – play for birds that are working away from you. If there are birds that are just not into whatever you are putting down and are so disinterested that they are meandering away from you at an angle, it may be time to cut them off, but only if the terrain allows you to do so.
Have a drainage behind you that will enable you to slide down into it and make your way towards the direction the birds are heading to allow for a possible interception? Use it. Did the birds crest a hill making it impossible for them to see you? Hurry up and shuffle to the nearest patch of cover that will afford you the chance to use it to get closer to where the birds are heading. This does not only mean being sly and using low spots, etc. to slowly try to close the gap between you and them, it can also mean, once the bird(s) have disappeared out of sight, and you think you have a good idea of where they are headed, beat feet out of there and beat them to the area where you think they are going. This should only be done if doing so will allow for a good set-up though. If there is nowhere to make a move or set up on them over there, then let them go for another day.
If the bird you watched walked off and crossed a ditch or headed into another patch of timber, again, use the terrain to make your way over there.
If hunting multiple properties and you struck out at your first sit of the morning, don’t cash out for the day, start driving around looking for birds out and determine if there is any allowable cover that will let you sneak in on them. All it takes is a small woodlot between you and the bird. If he is strutting out in a field next to a patch of timber, go around to the other side of the woodlot and sneak through the timber towards the field edge. He might just come close enough. Creeks, ditches, rises, and valleys can all also provide the needed cover.
The most important thing you can have when trying this maneuver on a gobbler though is faith. That and confidence. You have to have faith that the bird will still be there once you finally do make it there. It could be fifteen minutes, or it could be over an hour, but without the belief that he will still be there, you may as well not even try. Sure, sometimes they are long gone by the time you reach within turkey load distance of them…but sometimes they aren’t.
Besides faith, confidence is key. The reason most hunters won’t try this style of hunting is that they simply aren’t confident that they can get close to a bird this way. But you can. Yes, it’s tough. Yes, you can burger the bird. But, what is there to lose? The bird wasn’t coming to you anyway, so sometimes you have to make something happen.
If you spot a bird or group of birds that you reasonably feel will be at a specific place when you get there, and if the terrain is such that you can close that distance to possibly have a chance at closing the deal, then go for it.
Going after turkeys like this means you will be encountering many different types of terrain in a single hunt. From open hardwoods to brush and thickets and open fields. This is where it really pays to be wearing our Bullgator camo. With Bullgator, you won’t have to worry about sticking out, regardless of what type of cover you are hunting turkeys in as it will keep you concealed in almost any environment.
Turkey hunting in this fashion is not the exciting, heart-pounding type of hunt that everyone dreams of. It can be hard work, and quite frustrating, but learning how to hunt them in this manner will help you kill more turkeys. Plus, it will teach you a lot about yourself.