The hen turkey’s yelping began in the trees about an hour before first light, right after cardinals sound their mating calls and woodpeckers rapped out Morse code on trees. When Old Tom Turkey heard their subtle sounds he couldn’t control himself. His raucous gobbles echoed from treetop to treetop, then across the ridge to the hunter’s ears. Smiling, the hunter moved off, going to the gobble, hoping to bag a bird.
That scene is playing out all across the Midwest as turkey seasons open and hunters attempt to change nature's calling. In nature the old gobbler calls in the hens to repopulate their world. In the turkey hunter’s world it’s the hunter that imitates a hen to trick Tom Turkey to walk right in before going home for dinner, or should I say to be dinner.
I’ve been hunting wild turkeys in Wisconsin from the very first season in the 1970s. Over those years I’ve taken Tom Turkey from the early spring season to the fall season. I’ve hunted them in heat, cold, rain, snow, in fields, woods, pastures, pines and near water. Over the years I’ve learned a few things to make your hunting easier, like in a blind where you are invisible or on your own with just a shotgun or bow and a few calls.
Hunting in rain isn’t fun but turkeys will be outdoors every day, unlike some hunters. Turkeys move a lot in rain but hate getting wet. Hunting short grass and low grass corridors, like pastures in the rain will put a turkey on your table. The same with snow
except I’ve noticed they will move even more, so get set up in a good spot, stay warm and be patient.
What do you do when a gobbler is hung up or has hens with him that he doesn’t want to leave? If he’s hung up figure out why. Is something blocking him from getting to you or is he feeling safe strutting behind a log or some other protection? You might have to relocate and make it easier for the gobbler to come in. If he’s with hens you have to call in the boss hen. Get her mad, out call her. It’s like dueling banjos to get her to come in and if you do, know the gobbler will be the last one to come in, so don’t blink an eye!
Is there a call the old gobbler is responding to more than the others? If so use it! We all have our favorite calls. If they don’t respond at all try an ambush. Be a Ninja in the woods and belly crawl if you have to. Find their roost site by putting the gobbler to bed the night before your hunt. Be where they like to fly down or strut at noon. It’s just like putting a puzzle together. You just have to put all the pieces together to figure out all their favorite spots.
Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org