By Pete Rogers
Opening day of turkey season is wrought with anxiety for the dedicated turkey hunter. He or she has been waiting for 11 months for this day to arrive, and finally, it arrives only to find silent toms and crowded woods.
For those that can hunt later in the morning, that is your best chance for killing a mature Tom.
When the mornings are silent, I like to settle in a good spot, sit back in my Browning strutter chair and take a nap, waking about 10:00 a.m. to get started for the day.
Beginning with a soft series of yelps and purrs (in case a Tom is close by), I listen and wait. Ten minutes later, again, soft yelps elevating into louder yelps.
If I get a response, the odds are good that Tom is going to come in and give me a chance. Patience is key. Sitting still and offering some purrs on my pot call is all that is needed.
A gobble here and a gobble there will tell me if he is coming in, or if he has other plans for the morning. Often in the mid-morning, Tom will come quietly. If he gobbles at all, it will only be on occasion.
Not knowing if he is coming in or not is really a crap shoot. If you decide to get up and move to another location, you risk him seeing you. If you stay put, you may not ever see him.
Knowing your land is a benefit. How do the turkeys move across the landscape? Where do they like to feed in mid-day? How do they get from point A to point B?
Having hunted the same property for nearly twenty years, I have learned a thing or two about how the turkeys like to meander through the property.
Opening day usually finds me in the exact same location as the previous fifteen plus years – the edge of the clear-cut positions me in a place that allows for fast relocating if the Toms are roosting in the pines or hardwoods.
Often times, if they are silent, I will wait, sitting in the broom sage, calling occasionally, soft purrs, and I mean S-O-F-T purrs, as soft as you can possibly make them.
When it appears the birds are not here, I use the terrain to move toward the mature pines where the turkeys like to feed. Open woods, lots of seeds and bugs for feeding, the open mature pines seem to be a favorite place to find birds.
Never one to get too close, I set up where the hardwoods and pines meet and try to get a response. If nothing seems to be happening, a nap is in order! Settling in and snoozing for a bit will often be the best method.
Experienced turkey hunters have learned the art of napping with one ear open for the slightest sound of a turkey. On more than one occasion, I have awakened to birds in front of me.
If napping isn’t your thing in the woods, then sitting patiently for a few hours never hurts. Corralling the excitement of opening day enough to sit still is difficult. But often it is the best method.
In the thirty-five years I have hunted turkeys in South Carolina, more of my turkeys have been killed after 10:00 am than before. Patience is key.
When opening day feels like a bust, sit back, relax and determine to wait them out. At the end of the day, you don’t care when you kill your bird, just that you do!