10 Late Season Tactics for Hunting Turkeysby Doug Howlett
Going solo or with a partner, there are still plenty of ways to fill a tag before the sun goes down on the season.
You blew it. You were in the woods the first two weeks of turkey season but for one reason or another, you failed to fill all of your tags—or worse, you didn’t fill any! You had a couple of longbeards scouted out, took several days off work to figure out and capitalize on their daily patterns and you even had a few working to your calls, but still, no prize.
Now it’s getting into the final weeks or even days of the season and desperation is setting in. This is the time some guys simply quit. But it is also the time that a real turkey hunter can shine. When the birds have been pressured and they’ve gone silent, that’s when a sportsman who really knows how to hunt turkeys is most visible. Here’s how to be that guy or gal.
The Lone Hunter
Photo by: Author
1. Be Early—By the end of the season, most hens have been bred and are sitting on nests. Mating activity is winding down and gobbles are becoming rare. Few if any birds will gobble once they fly down from their roosts and some may not even gobble from the tree. But for those that still will, you have to get there early.
If you’ve pinpointed a likely area where a tom or two might be flying up each evening, make sure you’re standing in that spot before the sun rises. Then, just as the sky begins to brighten and the first gobbles break the silence, use the cover of remaining darkness to move in as close to the roost tree as possible.
The trees are leafed out by now, so don’t worry. If you move quietly, you should be able to get within 75, maybe even 50 yards from the tom’s tree without him seeing you. Get in position so you won’t have to move until it’s time to pull the trigger and make just a few soft purrs with your call. If the big boy answers, sit motionless and wait for him to fly down your direction when it’s light enough.
2. Don’t Waste Time—If you’re not able to get close enough to a bird while it’s still dark, at least start heading his direction as soon as you hear him gobbling—and quickly. At this time of season, turkeys won’t sound off for an hour or two after hitting the ground. You’ll be lucky if he gobbles more than three or four times with the most likely scenario being with him gobbling a few times from the roost and then once or twice upon flying down.
By then, you’d better be close to him so you can toss out a few soft calls that gets him coming. Yelp sparingly and use more clucks and purrs than wild cutts. He’ll likely come in silent, so sit still and keep your eyes alert to any motion ahead of you and your ears tuned to the sound of spitting and drumming or more likely footsteps in the leaf litter from behind you.
The good thing at this time of the season is that if you get one to gobble on the ground to your calls, it means he’s interested. He thinks you’re one of the few hens still interested in mating. The odds are now in your favor.
3. Switch Calls—Most hunters stick to the basics throughout a season—box calls, pot calls and mouth calls. They are the most common and often the easiest calls to learn.
Try a tube call or a wingbone or some other type of call to create a different pitch and sound. Leave the other calls in your pocket. By this time of year, toms have heard everything hunters have thrown at them, so you want to give them something different.
Tommy Barham, a Virginia hunter and one of Primos Hunting Calls pro staffers, has an area of expertise with the tube call and swears by it. Tubes offer good volume and versatility—Tommy can yelp, purr, cutt and even gobble with it—and they are not that hard to use once you have it figured out. But most importantly, few other hunters currently use them, which means when Tommy blows on his, it makes a sound turkeys haven’t heard yet.
If you’ve been hunting the same woods all season, remember to also change the cadence of your calling. Many hunters employ the same cadence or series of calls every time they work a bird, making it easy for a tom to identify and avoid them.