By Mark Fike
May is nearly here and the woods sure have greened up, totally changing the landscape from what it was back on the season opener. Whereas before you could see a hundred yards or more through the woods, now you can barely see fifty yards in some places and even less in others.
After weeks of chasing gobblers, a body can get tired and frustrated if they have not tagged a bird or in some cases even heard a bird gobble since opening day. I admit that I have been in that spot a number of times.
A few years ago, I had a rough season. We all have a rough season at some point. I heard a few gobblers the first week of the season and then had a LONG dry spell where I did not hear much at all unless you count woodpeckers and hawks and other hunters. I nearly gave up hunting turkey for the season and then on a whim one Saturday morning decided that I would give it one more go around.
I was tired and wanted so badly to sleep in but managed to drag myself to the woods just in time to get set up. I heard a bird sound off a few hundred yards away and called in vain to him a number of times. It was then I decided I needed to change my approach and do something different if I wanted a different result before the season ended.
Here is what I learned from a number of hunters that I have spoken with and used with success. Last season I was particularly successful with the tips listed below and took a very nice bird weighing over 21 pounds with a thick 10.5-inch beard.
- Call less. Many hunters call like mad when they don’t hear a bird. I scaled back the amount of calling I did and found that the one bird that was looking for a hen found my tactic to be the equivalent of playing hard to get.
- Once the bird answers, call softer. Sure, there are more leaves and sound is dampened quite a bit. BUT, you would be amazed how well a turkey can hear. Give it a try but be ready!
- Hunt the afternoons when and where legal. Most hunters hit the morning hours hard because that is when the bird is more likely to gobble when coming off the roost. In the afternoon the birds might get discouraged by a nesting hen that is no longer interested.
- Speaking of disinterested hens, keep in mind that many have nested by now and the toms are still looking for a willing mate. Late season may just be the time to pick up that bird and punch a tag.
- Those of you fortunate enough to have fields to hunt might consider using the big woods more now that the season has progressed so much. Basically, swap your tactics and hunt near where you hunt normally but not in the same spot. Sometimes birds get conditioned to hearing calls and such from the same field or logging road.
- Be more mobile too. If you get a bird to answer once but he does not arrive after a reasonable amount of time, be willing to move some to try a different angle.
- If you have a breeze, try setting your dekes up so that the breeze moves them around. I found this trick out by accident one time. My hen decoy caught a breeze about the time a suspicious hen was about to leave the area. When the breeze turned the decoy around on the stake the hen perked right up and began feeding back toward the decoy and drew in a jake with her, which I watched for a while. Then a tom showed up.
Just because it is hotter, the bugs are out and fewer gobblers seem to be talking back to you this month don’t give up on your turkey tag. Give it one or two more trips and see if these tips won’t help you bag a bird. Good hunting.