As turkey season approaches, hunters get excited to hit the woods as early as possible. Opening day is a holiday for serious gobbler chasers. There are more turkeys in the woods and they haven’t been educated by hunters yet. Lovesick toms are eager to answer calls as they search out any opportunity to breed. But early season isn’t all milk and honey. Crazy weather, big flocks, henned up gobblers, and hoards of hunters can complicate early season hunts. Late season hunting usually means better weather, fewer hunters in the woods, and more predictable turkeys. Here are some great tips for late season turkey hunting.
Scout, Scout, & Scout More
One of the benefits to late season hunting is the birds can be more predictable. Unless there are big changes in weather or hunter pressure, what they did yesterday is probably what they are going to do today. To take advantage of this you need to know what the birds are doing. When most turkey hunters think of scouting, they think of roosting birds. Roosting is important. But knowing where the birds go to feed is just as beneficial, if not more so. If you don’t have the time or opportunity to scout midday hours, a trail camera can help. Set the camera up high in a tree and set it to take a photo every three or four minutes. Whether you’re scouting with binoculars or trail cameras, you want to know where and when birds enter and exit a given field.
Use The Foliage
By late season the woods are completely greened out. Trees are covered in leaves as is the underbrush. The extra cover allows you to sneak in closer to roosting areas in the early morning hours. Getting close can lead to pretty short hunts. All the extra leaves provide a lot more daytime concealment to hunters as well. I’ll often bring some camo netting to provide a screen for early season hunts. It’s just not necessary late in the year.
Late Morning Hunts
Days can be pretty long during late season. In my neck of the woods the sun comes up before six and it doesn’t get dark until almost nine o’clock. We can hunt all day, so that’s a lot of time in the woods. During multi-day marathon hunts I’ll often sleep in a little bit during one of those days. Believe it or not, I’ve killed just as many birds on those sleep in days as I do on the days I’m up in the early morning hours. After dropping from the roost, hens fill their bellies and head for the nest. This can make for some lonely gobblers… just what you’re looking for. Locate a late morning haunt and set up on it. It’s nice to get close to a likely hang out, but I’ve called toms from hundreds of yards away during late morning. Sure, those roost hunts are popular. But late morning hunts are just as effective, especially toward the end of the season.
Late Season Calling
Most turkeys have heard just about all the mass produced calls you can find at your local sporting goods store by the time May rolls around, especially on or near public lands. This is a good time to switch up your call selection. Go with a wingbone, a custom homemade call, or even a scratch box. Try to do something someone else hasn’t. Do the same thing with your calling strategy. The average turkey hunter is going to call in an average way. Go to one extreme or the other for late season success. If you like to stay quiet, really tone down your calling. Maybe a few clucks or purrs, then shut it down. Play on a gobbler’s curiosity. Be patient. If you’re like me, calling can help break up the boredom of birdless days. Amp up your calling and get way more aggressive than normal. Try to sound like an angry boss hen. Cuts, cackles, and loud, fast yelps are the rule. The goal is to avoid sounding like previous hunters.
Late season hunting is a lot more productive than most people think. The idea that fewer birds are in the woods is hogwash. A small percentage of the total gobbler population is actually harvested by hunters. Use the mistakes of others to increase your success this spring.