Turkey hunting on the North Shore presents some unusual problems because of the limited areas we have to hunt. Successful hunters in this area understand that although we are after the toms, it really is all about the hens. And as you know, where the hens are the toms are sure to follow. The trick then is to find those quiet spots near where the hens will nest.
Hens have preferred nesting sites and will return to them year after year. Even their offspring will often lay their eggs within a few hundred yards of where they were hatched. Once you find these nesting sites you can then pattern the behavior of the toms.
Now that the season has started, your scouting should not stop. If you were not successful the first morning, spend the early evening hours trying to hear the big birds when they fly up to roost. If you have an area you think might hold birds, walk in quietly in the late afternoon and just sit. This may take a few afternoons, but the time will be well spent. Remember that listen and silent have the same letters.
These big birds do not fly very well. It takes an incredible amount of energy for them to fly up from the ground to the big limb they will roost on for the night. Their huge wings make a lot of noise as they struggle to get up in the air. That sound will carry a long ways through the trees. Just by listening you will be able to pinpoint their location pretty accurately. Do not try to get closer to their roosting site. In fact, if they go up fairly close to you, wait until well after dark and then sneak on out so you do not bust them off their limb. This sounds like a lot of work, but you will be amazed how a few late afternoon forays can provide you with a couple of spots that may be good for years.
Many big birds in our area respond to pressure by going quiet. Just because you do not hear them gobbling and carrying on does not mean they are not there. Study after study has shown that these old toms will hunt out the hens without making a lot of noise. The trick to harvesting them is to find out where they roost, set up a few hen decoys nearby, and call them in with a few clucks and purrs on your call. As we have mentioned at least a hundred times in previous columns, do not overcall!
The toms will hear you if they are in the vicinity. Just a few clucks and purrs and then sit quietly and wait. It may take a careful bird a half an hour to respond. They may come in silently. It is amazing, after all of these years of hunting turkeys, how close they than can walk in before I see them. They seem to just suddenly appear. That is why it is important to remain absolutely still after you call.
Check the camouflage pattern you are wearing to be sure it fits in with the woods you are hunting. This time of year there is a blend of coming green and last winter’s brown. You want to be sure that you somewhat match the pattern around you. Otherwise you are going to be this unnatural lump of color that will stand out. If you are hunting in the oaks, an outfit with more brown may be the ticket.
Pay attention to your gun in that regard. Many shotguns have a glossy finish that can shine in the light. As you move your barrel into position a glare can occur. There are several items on the market that can camo up your stock. The same with your face. Just a hat is not enough. I love the hats that come with a mesh face mask. You will be surprised hoe clearly you can see through the mesh and how effective this mesh is in concealing your face. Gloves are also important to cover your hands.
Be sure to sit where surrounding vegetation will break up your body outline. If you have your feet out in front of you, throw a few leaves or small branches over them. Put your back up against a large tree trunk. Try to look like a stump! Anything to break up your silhouette.
Don’t be discouraged if a tom does not come to your set early in the morning. Most toms fly down from their roost, service the hens they have in their flock before moving out to find new hens. If you have done your late afternoon work and know where he roosted, set up nearby in the pre-dawn darkness, listen for him to flop down off his limb, give him some time to do his morning ablutions, and then give a few clucks and purrs. If you heard him come down, he will surely hear your offerings.
Sometimes when you call the gobbler, he will call back immediately. I have had them cut me off just as I get started. This is a hot turkey! Every time he hollers now , cluck back to him. Vary your call and keep it really soft. Once he is coming hard, stop calling all together and make him search you out.
Once in a while you will get a tom that will hang up. He will just come so close and then will stop. This is often an smaller male that has been whipped off some hens by a bigger tom. He hangs up because he does not want to come into a spot where a large tom will hurt him. When that happens, give him a couple of re-assuring purrs at a very low volume.
Be safe out there.