by Chris Larsen
When it comes to applying for turkey permits, my last few seasons have been a comedy of errors. I’ve either forgotten to apply for a tag or drawn a time period that I could not hunt for one reason or another. This has forced me to hunt late in the year because the only time periods available for over-the-counter purchase were late season tags. Guess what? I’ll be hunting late this season as well. My wife has a bun in the oven and the baby is expected to arrive in early April. That means I won’t be released to hunt until early May. Hunting late has become a science for me. Hopefully, these tips will work if you find yourself turkey hunting late in the year.
This is obviously a good idea for any turkey hunt. But it’s even more important early in the year. Use the evening to locate and watch birds roost. If you are hunting a familiar area, you probably already know the likely spots. All that is necessary is confirmation. You need to get in close, really close. I’m talking about 50 to 75 yards away. When locating birds, look for a place to set up as well. In most cases, birds are going to come out of the trees in the same place the flew up from. Find a spot that allows you to get close to their fly down area. Try to walk like a deer when walking to your spot. When you know your close, walk a few steps before pausing. Avoid walking ridgelines to prevent being silhouetted.
Swimming In Green
There are leaves on the trees later in the year so getting in close is much easier. Just be sure to move quietly. Oftentimes, I won’t even set up a decoy. You want to limit the amount of commotion on the ground. With thick foliage, turkeys have a hard time finding the decoy anyway. When they do, they will often hang up because they won’t feel comfortable moving through a bunch of cover to get to the decoy. Open areas work best for decoy sets. If you are hunting in deep timber, it helps to have a caller 20 yards behind the shooter. Toms won’t gobble as much as they do late in the year and often walk right up without making so much as a peep.
Find The Food
After late season turkeys get of the roost, gobblers will strut as hens head for their nest. Once the hens abandon them, gobblers start looking to fill their bellies. If you strikeout on the roost hunt, get to a known feeding area. Again, keeping a log book of lessons learned during seasons past will help a lot. Scouting and getting to know your hunting area is invaluable. Turkey sign is pretty easy to find in May. Concentrations of droppings, feathers, and turkey trails are a good indication of where turkeys are eating. Turkeys will use deer trails but if the trail runs under brush and logs, you know it’s a turkey trail.
Ten O’Clock Toms
I have written before about late morning gobblers. I think this is truly the golden hour of turkey hunting. By ten o’clock toms are well fed and looking for action. Most hens are still on the nest and lying low. Yelps and cuts can really be persuasive as loneliness sets in. Set up on strutting areas this time of day. If you can get between a strutting area and a feeding area, even better. Decoys work well in this situation.
By the end of the season, most gobblers have heard tons of calling. Educated birds know the difference between a call and a real hen. I like to use oddball calls this time of year. The Squeeling Hen is a new call that isn’t used by a lot of hunters. I’ll also use a push button call late in the year. Most hunters are too macho to use one so the sound is fresh and in my opinion they sound pretty good, especially if you keep them chalked. My secret weapons for late season birds are my wingbone calls. There are not a lot of hunters using them and it’s easy to get a good sound out of them.
Late season turkey hunting is full of new challenges early season hunters don’t have to deal with. Those challenges make bagging a late season bird that much more rewarding.
More Turkey Hunting Tips:
Gobbler Goofs: Avoiding Common Turkey Hunting Mistakes
Turkey Hunting For Beginners
Turkey Decoys & Placement