5 Surefire Turkey Tactics for Spring Success
By: Jace Bauserman
Sometimes at this time of year it’s hard to think the doldrums of winter would ever lift, but make no mistake, winter is loosening it’s grip and spring has sprung. For throngs of hunters spring means deafening gobbles, vibrant fans and long days afield. It’s go time!
Regardless of where your turkey adventures take you, put these five tips to practice and you’ll come out of the woods with more fans bobbing over your shoulder.
The quickest way to blunder a morning roost hunt is to press too close. The eyes of a turkey don’t miss much. These butterballs are under constant threat from bobcats, coyotes and in some locales, mountain lions. From an elevated perch they can scan bottoms with ease, and even in the dark of night, can detect danger. Trust your decoys and your calling. Personally, unless the landscape ensures I won’t be picked off, I prefer to make my morning stands 150-200 yards off the roost.
This one is specifically for all you stick-and-string goers. If you see a tom strutting in a location once, it could be sheer coincidence. If you see him twice, you’ve likely found a favored strut zone. Pay attention to the times you see birds in these areas. This can be accomplished through hands-on recon or by setting a game camera. Toms love to puff up in areas where the ladies can see them from a distance. This may be a pasture, a small food plot or a logging road snaking through the timber. Archery addicts are going to want to set a ground blind, and if cover allows, take the extra time to brush it in. Place your decoys and stay put! Remember, turkeys have nothing to do throughout the day besides eat, walk and make little turkeys. If you’re in a known turkey haunt, you’ll have action if you just resist the urge to pull up stakes and move. When it comes to archery turkey hunting, the grass usually isn’t greener on the other side.
Archery hunters should heed this advice, but this tip specially applies to those that like to sling lead, as well. Turkeys, especially pressured turkeys, can get cement beaks. When you’re walking around the woods with your boom stick, stop often and listen, and not just for a gobble or yelp. Tune your ears to hear scratching in dried leaves. Turkeys love to scratch for bugs, seed and to expose fresh sprouts of green. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sworn there were no birds around, only to hear scratching.
A Reaping We Will Go!
I’m a sit-and-wait turkey hunter. It’s how many of us cut our teeth. I love to use my calls and decoys. With that noted, I love a reaping mission when the conditions are right. Bowhunters will want to opt for a bow-mounted fake like the Heads Up Strutting Turkey Decoy. Shotgun toters can use this same decoy, as it comes with a stake that drives into the ground. With this style of hunting, you are the decoy and are taking the fight to the birds. It’s a thrilling way to hunt and can be super effective. You are always on the move — always looking for a bird to go after. My favorite tactic is to get as close to the bird(s) as possible without being seen and then show the fake. If you can disguise pieces of the decoy with a piece of sagebrush or vegetation and just show parts of the fan and body, all the better.
Don’t Overthink It!
This spring will mark my 21st in the turkey woods, and the most common question I get each year via email and at various seminars is: How often should I call, and what calls should I use? The answer is really simple. Listen more and call less. Let the birds you’re calling to dictate how much you call. If gobblers are fired up and talking a lot, match their intensity with excited yelps and cutts. If the gobblers aren’t talking, keep your hen talk subtle. Call sparingly. Use single and double yelps. Don’t elicit long runs and be sure to mix in plenty of purring and clucking. If hens are talking, pick out the raspiest, nastiest sounding girl in the bunch and try and mimic her. As for which call you should use, I highly recommend learning to master pot-and-peg and diaphragm calls. Pot and pegs ring true, and you can change tone and pitch by simply swapping pegs. Diaphragm calls are essential when hands-free calling is needed.