I have been turkey hunting for over 25 years. Recently I discussed tactics with someone that wanted to get started. I have read a small library of articles, tips and have bought about as much gear as you can to chase these birds. When discussing what works I realized I had to keep it simple and cut through all the “noise”. What would you tell someone new to turkey hunting? A piece of advice you could give them to help them succeed?
I started by saying you can roost them at night so you know where to start in the morning. Get in the woods in the dark and get as close as you can without letting him know you are there. We discussed this idea, how close you can get, what to do when it gets light, proper camo, calls, and decoys if you want them. I could hear the confusion set in in his voice.
So I backtracked and simply said, “Scout a bit if you can, see where they hang out in daylight”. “If you don’t have time to scout them then get there early and listen to where they are on the roost, call them when it gets light and if they don’t come in, pay attention to where they go.” That seemed simple enough. He asked what that did and would that help him the next day if he didn’t get one? I thought about that and all the experiences I have had with birds I have harvested. I said it would, sometimes they are unpredictable but hens are after food, gobblers are after hens and food, they have areas they like to travel, go where they want to be.
That answer is so simple it seems, well too simple. But when you are talking to a new hunter everything seems complicated when trying to get a shot at a tom. Often times they are watching shows on t.v. that have gobblers running in from all over the place. They are reading about the best new calls, best new decoys, seeing a million pictures of harvested birds. Some guys taking out two or three a season, but they don’t hunt where you do (hopefully), figure out your area.
Go where they want to be, there is a pattern, though not as defined as we would sometimes like. How many times had I gotten in early, had one responding on the roost, only to have him get down and go the other way? Too many, I was not in the right spot for what the birds where doing off the roost. Of course I would say, “Well, they aren’t responding to calls today” or “He was with hens right off the roost”.
I think of their daily travel as a roost area, food, and back to the familiar roost area. It forms a messed up looking circle if you draw it out. Sometimes they change it up, you have to be out there to pick up on the changes in food and roosting, a skill you learn from time in the field. But if you keep it that simple you can get close enough to know exactly where you need to be to give yourself the best chance.
He thanked me for the talk. He had been thinking about setting up in a nice looking grassy area that looked like birds would love to hang out in, he would then just call them to that spot. But now that he discussed tactics he thought it was too far from where the farmer said he sees them. I said it might work, but if they don’t use that area often, it might be a long day sitting there.
I am sure many seasoned turkey hunters that read this are rolling their eyes! Yes, go where they want to be, no kidding! But remember, it isn’t as easy as you think trying to explain chasing turkeys to a new turkey hunter. It can get confusing quick! If you hunt pressured birds you know they aren’t likely to come running from a half mile away into your set up, go where they want to go or get as close as you can to that area. Every spot is unique. How much pressure they receive, what they are eating, the cover, the travel routes, how they respond to calls (or don’t), simplify and figure them out. It has helped me countless times throughout the years and I am sure it will help a new hunter as well.