With the forest greening up and the song birds all coming back as the days grow longer and the temperatures go up I can't help but to think about those distinct gobbles from a roosted tom on a crisp, clear spring morning. I get goose bumps just thinking about those loud, hair raising gobbles piercing the air as I sit, motionless and patiently waiting for the sun to come up.
Turkey hunting is definitely one of my favorite times of the year and certainly one of my favorite animals to hunt with my bow in hand. The adventure of calling to these birds in hopes of getting them tricked into thinking I'm a love struck hen has always intrigued me. It's a beautiful time of the year and an even prettier bird to hunt especially when they're all puffed up, in full strut and headed your way! There truly is nothing better than seeing this sight and I hope that you all get to experience this each and every spring.
Since most of you are all diehard bowhunters I wanted to do a blog entry all about archery turkey hunting and a few tips and tactics that I've learned over the years to help you increase your odds this spring. Hopefully I'll be seeing a bunch of you behind some beautiful tail fans with those bows in your hand!
1.Use a decoy with a plan
Many times throughout my hunting career I've had a decoy help me kill a smart, old tom. But I've also had other times where a decoy placed in the wrong spot cost me a bird as well because it wasn't spotted by my prey OR because it wasn't spotted quick enough to give this bird time to see it and adjust. Let me explain the system that I use most of the time and why it works!
When it comes to decoying turkeys with a bow I believe a plan is definitely a must. For me, I like to put my decoy up past my location and away from the direction that this tom is heading towards me. What this does is it allows me to call this bird past me, with his eyes locked on my decoy. As the old boy walks by with his attention on the decoy I'll draw my bow back undetected and put an arrow through his boiler room as he walks away with no clue that I'm present! This takes his greatest sense out of the equation- his eyes! In order to kill him, YOU must beat his vision!
2.Call less for more results
More times than I'd like to admit have calling TOO much cost me a bird. As a youngster I literally couldn't get enough of hearing these birds gobble and I honestly wanted to call to them at all times until I figured out that this was costing me birds. Turkeys are very curious and we must remember to play them on this weakness. Once a tom hears a hen that he's interested in he's expecting this hen to come to him. (Just like how it happens in the wild) So when we “shutup” and only call here and there this frustrates our feathered friend to the point where he will break off of his strut zone and come our direction in hopes of finding this hot hen! At this point is where calling less can play a huge factor in killing a stubborn bird that probably wouldn't have left his strut zone. Curiosity can kill a tom just like it can a cat! Get that bird hot and then wait him out instead of calling. Make him come find you and I promise you'll kill more stubborn birds that otherwise would never have left that strut zone.
3.Do your homework to kill more birds
Everyone knows that I'm a huge believer in doing my homework long before all of my bowhunts take place. In my opinion preparing before a hunt and having a solid gameplan is the foundation for success on any bowhunt. Turkeys are no different!!! Figure out the roosting locations, how they pitch down, where they feed and locating good strut zones are all awesome ways to get ahead of the game and put my strutters in front of you this spring.
I love to get out well before the season starts and listen before daylight for those tom's to cut loose and gobble. This let's me know where the good roosting trees are and from there I can make a good prediction on how they'll pitch down. More times than not they'll fly downhill versus uphill, so keep that in mind when thinking about where they may pitch down. I've killed many birds right off the bat by being setup well before daylight in these good pitch down areas. Also I like to walk my hunting area before season and take note of where I'm seeing the most turkey sign. These are areas where strutters probably spend time in and where these birds are naturally congregating at. These spots are great spots to ambush a midday bird as well as good feeding spots. Glassing fields will tell us about what the local birds are doing and feeding on. This all puts the puzzle together just that much more for us as a bowhunter.
4. Hunt from 9 A.M. till noon
If I was only given one time frame to hunt turkeys from the rest of my life I would choose 9-12 hands down without a doubt. Now before you all go into cardiac arrest let me explain why I've picked this time. I realize that most of us think about early, sunny mornings and lots of gobbling right off the bat when asked about turkey hunting. Rarely do we think about the middle of the morning or mid day as being as “turkey” type of time, but I'm here to tell you that in my opinion it's the best. Why is it the best?
In my opinion killing a bird right off the roost is tough. It's tough because more times than not he's already got a girlfriend with him OR he knows exactly where she's roosted at and if you're not with her or close by when he flies down you're basically up shit crick without a paddle. (Not good my friends) So then what do we do? Well we can try to call him off of her, which is slim to none or we can wait him out. Rarely will many hunters wait 2-3 hours, so a bunch will say “he's henned up we may as well go home and try another day.” At this point is where 9-12 comes into play!!! By 9 this tom that was henned up earlier should be single again and out searching for a new girlfriend!!! Also most of the hens are back on their nests by now and not taking strutters away from us. This is great because we no longer have to compete with the real hens like we do more times than not right off the roost, which usually hear our calling and take their men away from us.
In short 9-12 has provided me with a ton of punched turkey tags because it's a time frame where a lot is in favor of the hunter. Less hens, tom's looking for a new girlfriend, less hunters left in the woods AND it provides us from not having to wake up at 4am every morning which I'm sure a lot of you will like an appreciate. HUNT 9-12-youll be happy you did!
5.Run and gun like you're a lunatic
I know some of you will say that blind hunting is the way to go especially with a bow and I'm okay with that, BUT in my opinion Runnin and Gunnin is the only way to bowhunt turkeys! I love the thrill of mixing calling + spot and stalk hunting together when turkey hunting. It's basically like the best of both worlds because it allows us to call and be patient at times and then at other times we take off and go close the gap or move to a better spot. This keeps the hunt more interesting and exciting in my opinion!
When running and gunning I like to cover ground especially if im not hearing a bunch of birds gobbling and giving me the opportunity to go hunt them. So what I'll do is I'll walk and call every 100-150 yards until I get a Tom to light up and gobble back (shock gobble calls like an owl hoot or sharp yelps and clucks work great to shock a Tom into talking). At this point I'll then pin point where I think he is and start moving in with a slow, methodical approach. I'll only call enough to get him to gobble and give away his presence, which will tell me whether I need to move again or stay put. Obviously if I think he's headed my way I'll stay put and get behind a tree or bush to block my movement when drawing. But if I think he's in his strut zone and not moving towards me I'll then make a plan to close the distance and make a move. Sometimes this move is all it takes to make a Tom buy into your calls and believe that you're without a doubt a real hen because you're moving around mimicking what a real hen does. This has worked time and time again for myself and many of my friends. Sometimes it's all it takes to trick the old boy into committing and heading your way!
I hope all of these tips and tactics help you out this spring on a big, paint brush bearded bird. Make sure you tag us here at Working Class Bowhunter so we can see all of your turkey kills! We can't wait to see them start hitting the ground. Above all have fun and enjoy yourself this spring and DONT forget to keep an eye out for some sheds that you might have missed and the mushrooms that will start popping up soon. Those sure do go good with bacon wrapped turkeys breasts on the grill and a cooler full of cold buschlattes! Enjoy and go give em hell fellas!
GO SHOOT YOUR BOW
CHASE YOUR DREAMS NOT YOUR LIQUOR