Turkey Hunting Tips

I have known many turkey hunters over the years and have guided many others. This spring I wasBrians Osceola Gobbler with Larry Stephens - Bull Creek Outfitters 3-19-14 fortunate to get to meet and hunt a guy from South East Georgia by the name of Brian Threlkeld.

We had a tremendous hunt here in Florida and Brian took a really nice Osceola with me that sported an 1 ¼” spur.

After spending 3 days hunting with Brian it became evident that we were cut from the same camo cloth when it comes to hunting and the woods. Our style of hunting is the same, We are both meticulous about the equipment, and we both have a deep appreciation for the new adventure, sights and knowledge that each hunt brings.

Brian and I hit it off right from the start and I expect will have many hunts together in the future.

After the our turkey season was over here in Florida Brian invited me to come up for a hunt on a tract he owns in Georgia.

Luckily Brian is only located about 3 ½ hours north of me and I stopped at his office on the way up to make our plan for the next morning.

Brian had already located a bird and from his sign knew he was using a few hundred yard stretch of black jack oak ridge that bordered a narrow creek drain. The drainage was predominately thick and impassible with a very small opening in the creek bottom.

The first morning we moved to a spot where Brian figured we would be in easy hearing of the roosted tom. As the light began to break to the east, Brian Owled and the Tom thundered a booming Gobbled in response.

We moved towards him owling periodically to course and distance him. He was in the tight creek bottom just as Brian had figured. There was a terrible thick cut over adjoining the back side of the creek and the turkeys had to come to the hill on our side.

We set up on the sand hill to the gobblers right on a little harrowed food plot strip. We had cut numerous hen tracks crossing the road in the dark and we surmised that they were roosting in the creek then moving up onto the hill to spend the day feeding and loafing.

I only gave the bird a few tree calls until it was time for a turkey to be on the ground. He never answered a single call! Brian was set up behind me about 30yds. After more than an hour of silence and no birds showing up, I moved over to Brian to discuss a new plan.

It was obvious the bird was not going to come to this spot. We were very close to the roost and he surly had moved away by now. Brian suggested we relocate a little and give the bird an hour to start up.

We gave him some time but it was getting late and he had not gobbled so we decided to slip into the creek bottom and have a look at where he was roosted.
It was going to take woodsman ship to kill this bird, calling alone would not get the job done.

  • Turkey Tactics!

Brian and I went back to hunt that creek bottom bird the next morning. We now knew his roost spot was a hole in the creek where the only option for him was to move from there onto the hill. We located a small game trail that we believed the turkeys were using to enter and exit the bottom and marked it for our return in the dark.

The next morning he was exactly where he was supposed to be. It was another Masters move! Brian stayed up on the hill and kept the bird gobbling so I could course him without calling and move in silently for the kill.

I sat quietly on the bank of the little stained, sand bottom creek, a mere 60 yds from the roosted tom, watching intently for his departure from his limb. By 8:30 AM I had not seen him pitch off the limb and Brian could only hunt until about 9:45 so I slipped out to discuss a new plan. Though I never actually saw the gobbler this was a great hunt. I was within a long shotgun shot of him for over and hour and a half, tight as a string the whole time. I just knew I was about to deal the death blow any second! Wow, that was a hunt!

In true turkey form that old tom made the only play possible, short of migrating out of there that could have kept him from getting shot……He sat right there on the roost until we just had to leave him due to our limited time to hunt that morning.

  • The 6 minute Turkey hunt!

Brian Threlkeld & Larry Stephens - Georgia gobbler 11 inch beard 4-27-14

Brian had heard another tom hammering that morning so with only 45 minutes left to hunt, we charged off after him. We pulled the truck down the road and Brian got out to try to strike the bird with his wing bone call. It took him several calls but he finally gobbled. He was not far either. We raced to the truck to grab our gear and took off.

We were on a sugar sand hill with scattered black jack oak, some scattered pine etc. with a ridge paralleling our movement. We stopped to call and course the bird after about 100yds and he responded immediately, just on the other side of the ridge. We barely had time to get set up.

I picked a group of 8-10” oaks and Brian dropped back to call. In just a few moments the bird topped the ridge in front of me within gun range. He turned slightly to follow the ridge and I immediately recognized that it was time. A quick shift of the camera and a load of #6 was on its way down range. Big gobbler down! I jumped up and ran to the flopping tom. Brian was standing where I had shot from when I came walking back up with the bird and a big smile. He looked at his watch…..”you know it’s only been 6 minutes since we struck this bird! That’s got to be a record!”

Big Georgia Gobbler taken by Larry Stephens hunting with Brian Threlkled

The big Georgia Eastern had a 11” beard and 1 1/8” spurs.

We are already planning some new hunting adventures for next year and to say that I am looking forward to it is quite an understatement.

Best of hunts,
Larry Stephens

Man by his very nature, is a Hunter, a predator by design. To deny this fact is to be dishonest with ones self. Though the desire to hunt is instilled in all of us to varying degrees, the ability and knowledge of how to hunt, must be learned.

Starting your young hunter on the right foot is critical to their development and future as a hunter. Hunters above all and by far carry the majority of the burden for care of the wild places and the creatures that reside there. The recruiting of  young hunters into the sport is very important to its future and thereby also, the future of the wild places.

Adventures in the Outdoors!

I can’t say that I have any real memories of my first hunts with my dad and grandfather. They were more than 40 years ago now. However, they served as the foundation that so many futures adventures would be built upon. What those experiences accomplished was to instill a love for the outdoors that I will carry with me to the end of days.

Dad couldn’t leave the house to go hunting or fishing without me, and it was a rare occasion when he did. There wasn’t any adventure in the outdoors that we did not embark on and we were in the woods or on the water on almost every day that he was not encumbered by work.  We hunted anything that would run, trapped coons and wild hogs, ran trotlines, cut bee trees, gigged flounder, crabbed, cast netted mullet off the beach at night, fished both salt water and fresh, stayed out all night gigging frogs, shrimped, you name it, we did it!

All of these experiences served to instill a great appreciation for all things wild. I have hunted from the mountains of Idaho to the swamps of Florida and seen sights that no hand and canvas could match. I’ve have witnessed wild creatures embroiled in their most secrete of  habits and of course, learned of both life and death. All experiences that I would not trade for the world!

If you are reading this article I guess I really don’t need to sell you on the benefits of spending time in the outdoors with your son or daughter. You should already have a handle on that, as well as the rewards that are to be gained. Though hunting may not necessarily be a skill we now need for survival, a more grounding experience you will not find. I do not feel that people that grow up involved with hunting and fishing have questions of what life is all about.

It should also be evident that I have a special passion for turkey hunting. The point of this article is to give you some tips that may help you plan a successful turkey hunting adventure that you can share with your young son or daughter thereby passing your knowledge to the next generation.

Hunting is an experience which has no end to what can be learned. The following information covers most of the basics and some advanced ideas in both gear and “how to” that will help to get the novice hunter started off on the right foot in the sport of turkey hunting.

  • What Is An Appropriate Gun For A Young Turkey Hunter?

Most young hunters will not be able to handle a full size shotgun. For very small hunters I would recommend a single shot 20ga shotgun in 3” magnum. They are some of the lightest weight style guns and have a simple action which are both equally important qualities for the novice.

Magnum turkey loads can kick like a mule! If the punch from a magnum load is a concern, a high brass 2 3/4″ shell could be used. For that matter even a low brass game load in 2 3/4″ could be used, however you should shorten the shot range accordingly based on how your gun patterns. I would start at 20 yds and advance until the the number of shot in the kill zone dropped to less than 5-8 pellets. That would be the guns max effective range.

For the mid-sized hunter a semi-auto or pump action 20 ga, in 3” magnum may fit and carry with them for a number of years. The semi-auto produces a little milder kick due to the gas operation which is a welcome result.

I would recommend practicing with 2 ¾” #8 dove shot but hunting with 3“ magnum in #5 or #6 shot.  In the excitement of  shooting a turkey, the extra kick from the magnum load shouldn’t be noticed but it surely will be at the range!

Homemade Remington 870 Stock 3-9-13 028The gun should be a youth model gun with the shortest barrel length available. The extra weight of a longer barrel is difficult for most youths to handle. The shortened butt stock is typically mandatory also. Most Youth stocks have a LOP (length of pull) of 13” but most could be altered if necessary.

My 10 year old daughter went on her first turkey hunt this year and since I had neglected to deal with the long stock issue of her weapon until the last minute, I had to build a cut down stock to fit her Remington 870 from a piece of 2X8 yellow pine I had in the shop. I could not bare the thought of cutting off the walnut original. I robbed the softest butt pad I could find from another shotgun and the job as complete. The little 16 ga. Pump fit her like a glove and she downed her first turkey within an hour of the coming of daylight, on the opening mornings hunt.

I would also recommend having the youth hunter practice on a life sized target to learn what the sight picture should look like when the moment of truth comes. You can easily sketch out your own full size turkey silhouette onto a piece of cardboard or even purchase some pre-printed copies.

  • What Is The Best Choice In Camo Clothing?

Camo for youths is not as readily available as adult sized camo and is available in less of a variety of patterns.

Also, there are not a lot of camo patterns with a substantial amounts of green in the pattern for spring turkey hunting. Currently my personal preference is either RealTree’s – “all-purpose green” or Mossy Oak’s – “Obsession“. It can be a good idea to use a browner pattern on the upper body as this will blend with the trunk of a tree better. I personally like to miss-match my camo, using a different pattern on top.

Mossy Oak Obsession®

Mossy Oak Obsession®

Realtree APG ®

Realtree APG ®

Realtree Xtra ® Green Camo

Realtree Xtra ® Green Camo

Of course turkey hunting requires top to bottom total camouflage so you will need gloves and a head net that fits as well. I prefer a ¾, mesh type head net as a rule.  I always prefer to cut the tips off the fingers of my gloves. At least for the thumb, index and middle finger’s. The others can remain and do not hamper your feel or use of your fingers.

If there is a thing I hate, it’s wet feet! A pair of light walking boots that are waterproof are mandatory in my book. I do not like rubber boots if I can avoid them but when hunting wet woods they are pretty valuable gear and beat wet feet. Rubber boots tend to also be heavy but the worst problem is stepping in to deep and over topping the boot! They don’t dry out.

Though I don’t personally give them a second thought…..snakes may be a consideration when hunting in the south. Turkeys here are typically associated with wet areas, particularly in the early season. A young hunter with little woods experience may not pick out that coiled moccasin before he steps on it. A pair of snake boots or gators might be worth the parents piece of mind.

Coiled Cottonmouth Moccasin

The photo above is of a Moccasin I ran across while turkey hunting this year. This snake is more dangerous than the average as he is about to begin shedding his skin. Though difficult to see in this photo his eye is beginning to take on a blue hue and that is the first indication that they are about to shed. When this happens their vision is impaired and they are less apt to run. This is a snake that would let you walk right up to him and then strike with no warning.

I would also recommend a turkey vest for the young hunter. Having his or her own gear just like dad will go a long way towards making them feel a part of the hunt as opposed to just an observer. I guess there is a cool factor in being completely outfitted with all the necessities. Of course a dry seat is of utmost importance and a waterproof cushion is a must, at a minimum.

  • Which Turkey Calls Are Best Suited For A Young Hunter?

I would definitely recommend you purchase your young turkey hunter his or her own call. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had by mastering your own call. Also, it gives the young hunter something to do when trying to out wait a longbeard. Allowing the young hunter the ability to call affords him or her a larger more active roll in the hunt. A box call is probably best but a slate or glass call is also a good choice. I would consider some of the small diameter slate type calls to fit the youths hands better. One of my favorite box calls is the Lynch box. The smaller single sided, Fool Proof, model 101 call would be a great choice that he or she would never out grow.

Children have a heightened ability for learning and if your son or daughter expresses the desire to learn to use a diaphragm call that would be an outstanding achievement and worth the effort. However, they should master all the basic calls on a box or slate call first so they have a feel for not only the sound they are trying to mimic but the cadence as well.  The diaphragm call is an advanced and much more difficult call to master but comes with some real advantages.

If you decide to give a diaphragm call a try, depending on their build, you may need to select a small frame type call made for women and youths. I would start out with a simple, single or double reed type call. They typically have little rasp to them and are a clear sounding call but easier to learn on. I can’t tell you how many turkeys I have taken with a standard twin reed call! it’s a pile!

I would also recommend outfitting them with an owl and crow call. They are easy to learn to use and there is nothing like hearing a distant gobbler respond to your call from his roost. Even if they cannot quit get the turkey call down in time for their first hunt they can at least experience the excitement of fooling a tom into a response with a locator call.

  • Things to Consider When Planning a Youth Hunt!

Another very important consideration when planning to take a young hunter afield for their first hunt is to remember that they have a shorter attention span than an adult. They will not have developed the drive and enthusiasm for the hunt that you may have. A 3 hour stint in a turkey blind with nothing to do may seem more like an endurance test than a enjoyable adventure to a beginning hunter.

When afield, it is important to not just take the prospective hunter hunting, but to make an adventure out of the entire occasion, teaching them everything about the natural world that you can. The average person knows little of the world that exists in the woods and on the water and therefore can never really understand or appreciate the  love for the outdoors a hunter develops over time. Doing this will keep their mind occupied and fill the day with interest.

It is also important to remember that your son or daughter does not have your stamina for a 5 mile prospecting adventure. It is best to start off with relatively easy hunts and preferably in a dry area.

Keep in mind the comfort of your young hunter. This is another important aspect that will make the hunting experience a failure or success. Of course, if you are hunting from an enclosed blind you will need chairs to keep you high enough to see out and shoot. You may be there a while…..get a chair with a back and avoid stools. A prolonged and  uncomfortable position could ruin the hunt.

A compact pair of binoculars can also be a big plus. Searching for game with his binoculars is a good way to pass the time. Also, there is usually almost always some kind of bird or animal activity to watch, even if only a fluttering redbird.

  • How to Close the Deal – Taking the Shot!

This is one place where you can make or break the new hunter. You want to stack the deck on his side as much as possible. Hunting a location with few turkeys is not the best way to start off. You want them to be entertained and see as much game as possible.

Consider their shooting limitations. Set your hide for a relatively close shot when possible, 20 yds is ideal. From your target practice, He should already have a good feel for the sight picture he will be looking for.

One thing that can make a big difference in the enjoyment of the hunt and the success is an enclosed blind. A blind affords the young hunter the ability to move a little without scaring off the turkeys. Little things like being able to thump a mosquito when necessary helps keep the hunt from being more like a torture test.

A shooting stick can also be a big help for smaller hunters that have difficulty with the weight of the gun. As a rule, the gun may have to be held in shooting position for some time before a shot at the turkey is offered. The young hunter can’t be rushed on the shot.

One last important thing to consider when turkey hunting is how to actually sit during the hunt!

Unless you have some physical limitations that prevent this, you should always sit with one knee up, the left for a right handed shooter, with the gun resting on your knee. Of course this does not apply if you are in an enclosed blind. For a right handed shooter you should sit so that the birds approach is left of center. Sitting in this manner provides for the least amount of movement prior to the shot. Hunter movement is the number one reason for missed shot opportunities when turkey hunting.

Sitting at the swell butt of a big cypress 4-13-13 sm

Turkey Hunt - Oak Tree Set Up 1 SM

If you are hunting with a very young hunter you shoulder consider having them sit between your legs. You can whisper instructions readily and even help them with the gun a little if necessary.

  • Safety First!

Last, but one of the most important issues with this sport is SAFETY! Hopefully your young hunter comes to love and appreciate the outdoors as much as you and these early trips afield will shape how they handle themselves and a weapon, probably for the rest of their life. It is extremely important to teach them all of the aspects of both gun and personal safety. I find that the best way to accomplish this is with repetition. Each time your son or daughter handles a gun you should be reminding them what to do or quizzing them with questions. For example, just before they pick up their gun I like to ask…..o.k., what’s the first thing you need to do when you pick up a gun?  Then comes….Where should your barrel always be pointing?  Eventually gun safety will become second nature and done without need for thought.

 

With some preplanning and a few tools of the trade your son or daughters first hunts can be an enjoyable experience that will provide memories for years to come.

Passing on the knowledge and love for the outdoors is the best way I know, to ensure that our hunting heritage is preserved for the future.

If there are any questions or advise you need help with that I did not cover here, don’t hesitate to contact me using the contact form. I’d be glad to help in any way that I can. Any comments that you may have are greatly appreciated as well.

Best of Hunts,

Larry S.

I almost hated to pull the trigger on this bird! There was so little turkey sign to be found this weekend he reminded me of the movie “The Last of the Mohican’s”! He was like….the LAST ONE. At Least it sure seems that way anyway.

High pressure Gobbler!

This was the next to the last weekend of the Florida Spring Gobbler season here in central Florida. The last couple of weeks has been some really tough hunting. The hens have been nesting and the gobblers have shown little interest in responding to calling. The gobbling has been reduced to next to nothing compared to the first two weeks of the season.

This weekend was not looking to good. Not only has the activity been slow but we have a front passing us.

I actually hunted in 3 different counties on Saturday! No telling how many miles I put on my ole’ Chevy.

One of the larger tracts I hunt is being timbered right now (good timing) and there is right-of-way work going on as well?

I spent three hours scouting there on Saturday and saw very little turkey sign. It had rained Friday so that did not help much. I finally cut a gobbler track on a hard sand road on the westerly edge of our tract of land. The bird had worked down the road strutting every so often but he would only leave a strut mark about 12″ long. He was on top of the rain from Friday so I knew he had been there that morning. One vehicle had run it over but had not noticed the tell tale marks in the road!

Only seconds to live!

Only seconds to live!

There were several things working against me on this one. For one, this bird had been heavily hunted!! He was actuallyliving and roosting across the fence so I was limited to making him come to me….good luck! Secondly, I only had Sunday to hunt him before the loggers would be back. Third, he’d been hunted real hard for weeks.If you haven’t’ noticed, daylight is coming pretty early now and gobble time is about 6:15 AM. I am about worn out from weeks of chasing turkeys….. guiding, videoing, roosting, running trail cameras and trying to keep my design business going. I was a little late this morning.

By the time I got to where I planned to hunt it was about time for the birds to be on the ground. The only way to really hunt this spot is to hunt the road which I do not like to do. It’s a good way to get your hunt ruined.

I stood in the road and listened for a gobble. There were various owls, crows, etc. going off but no gobbling. I owl’d and crowed and got no response. I decided to do some loud aggressive yelping and cutting on a new mouth call I just added to my call arsenal. I know that seems to go against what you would do when dealing with a highly pressured tom but my gut told me that was the thing to do. I wanted anything within hearing to know I was there and then I’d shut up.

I ran a series of aggressive yelps and followed up with a cutting sequence……nothing! I was committed to putting some time in here so I set up a decoy on the edge of the road and found an oak tree that I could tuck back in about 20yds off the road. It was a great set-up with good visibility.

I had not been there long when I heard a bird free gobble across the fence about a hundred and a quarter. I called at him real quick with some raspy yelping and he immediately answered. It sounded closer than the initial gobble.

I decided to let him make the next move. I wouldn’t have to wait long! The next thing I know he gobbles again and now he’s just on the other side of the fence. I remember thinking, he must be coming on the run to cover that much ground that quickly.

I readied for the confrontation that appeared eminent!

Just then a big black bird with a flaming red head emerged from the bushes! “THERE HE IS!”

gobbler down 4-14-13He looked at the decoy and checked his wings, usually a nervous reaction. He was just to my left but if he moved to his right, getting a shot might get a little dicey! I decided to call at him and take my shot! Needless to say the video is going to be a little short but that is real hunting and if you want to go home successful, you need to take your first best shot!

At the report of my 11-87, the wary old tom hit the ground and the hunt was over, just that easy. There is no telling how many hunters this bird had eluded but there is also something to be said for catching a tom in the right mood.

I spent some time taking pictures to honor the bird and another great hunt. If I could I’d breath life back into him and do it all over again tomorrow.

The Tom was one of the smallest mature gobblers I can remember killing. Though he was a three year old bird with sharp 1″ spurs, he only weighed 14.48 lbs! He did have a nice, fairly heavy beard at 9 3/4″. I haven’t reviewed the video yet but hopefully I had the record button pushed!

Awesome Osceola Gobbler

Best of Hunts,

Larry Stephens

The Florida Osceola can be one of the most difficult of the turkey sub-species to harvest consistently. He is noticeably more wary and typically does less calling than his northern cousins. Besides these facts, he prefers to live in an environment that is thicker and very wet compared to other turkeys. There are some important tip you need to know when setting up on these “swamp toms” if your plans include harvesting one.

Location, location, location!

Your setup can be one of the most important keys to bagging a trophy tom. I am sure you have heard the old realtor,s saying, “location, location, location as being the key to real estate sales. Well, if you want to close the deal on a wary old Osceola, you need to apply this same principal to where you set up on these birds next spring.

Roosted turkeys always have a plan for where they are headed when they fly down! This is a very important point to understand and you have to develop a plan to deal with this.

During the early season both the gobblers and hens will be roosting deeper in the swamps and usually over some flooded real estate. Sometimes it can be difficult to find something dry, above the water line, to actually keep your butt from getting wet. Usually, you are going to have to sit on a small tussock. I have even been reduced to sitting on my heels up against the swell butt of a big cypress or gum tree when no dry land could be found. This can be really uncomfortable and is a poor choice but if that’s all you have to work with, you bare with it and make the most of it.

Typically, the turkeys will move to the edge of the flooded ground just before fly-up and mill around picking until its just the right time to fly out over the flood water to roost. They will usually fly out a hundred yards or so and lite high up in the leafy canopy. The next morning they will fly right back to this same spot . If you have some historical knowledge of a preferred roost spot like this you can be there that evening and listen for the turkey to fly up then move to the edge of the flood water to see where you need to be the next morning. You probably will not even need to call! This is hunting through sheer skill and woodsmanship!

Don’t try to get so close that you get over flown at fly down!

Occasionally, the turkeys will wade out into the water if it is a broad flat of ankle depth before they take wing. In this case, they sometimes will pitch down into the water the next morning. You can still wait at the edge of the flood but if you prefer maximum excitement, then move in as close as you dare keeping in mind not to get so close that the turkeys over fly you when they pitch down. If that happens you are all but out of the game as they will already have a destination in mind and they will not back track to you. They will call to you trying to get you to assemble with the flock but within 20-30 minutes they will be moving on. You have to place yourself in between the turkeys and where they are going when they are flocked up at this time of year.

Use the flood water to your advantage for a silent approach!

Some of my most memorable hunts took place when the situation dictated an awkward and uncomfortable setup with mosquitoes eating me alive and my body in utter pain from being pinned down by a tom that was just out of shotgun range for an extended time and me unable to move. I don’t know if you have ever had your hand go numb under the weight of an 8lb autoloader bearing down on it while propped on your knee, but It’s coming and the throbbing will have you praying for that tom to move behind his fan or step behind a tree so you can move and gain some relief! When you have endured and over come such a situation and managed to take a tough tom like this you will feel like you have been in a battle of wills and I promise you, the success will be sweet.

If you are lucky enough to harvest one of these dark, long legged toms you will count him among your most treasured trophies.

My hope here is that you will gain a better sense of the importance of roosting and can incorporate this information into your own hunting methods.

Best of Hunts,

Larry Stephens

 

P.S.  If you have any turkey hunting questions or comments, take a few moments to jot them down and I’ll be glad to respond with any help I can provide, L.S.

Hen Turkey Roosted in a Cypress Tree
Photo by Larry Stephens

There is one technique when it comes to turkey hunting that is responsible for producing more turkeys than any other! It requires a considerable amount of extra time and effort but you will learn more about turkey hunting and woodsmanship than you ever dreamed!

I am talking about Roosting and if you are not implementing this into your turkey hunting strategy  you are missing out on some of the most exciting turkey hunting you can imagine!

If you are following my writing, you probably are picking up on the importance that I place on Roosting. It is the keystone of my turkey hunting strategy.  It’s hard for me to imagine turkey hunting without roosting. Truthfully, I think I have as much fun tracking roads and roosting in the afternoon as I do actually hunting. When you cut a big set of gobbler tracks walking down a graded road, headed for a roosting area and it’s on top of all of the recent vehicle wheel sign, you know your in the drivers seat for the mornings hunt. It is that much more exciting when you know you have that waiting for you when you wake up. Of course I will always go to a bird I actually heard gobble from the roost over the set of tracks. After all, there is always a chance that the tracks could belong to a jake though as a rule jakes will travel in small groups so a lone set of tracks is a real good bet. I am always suspicious of 3-4 tom tracks traveling together. These are seldom mature gobblers. I would only hunt this kind of sign if I did not have anything more promising.

Big Gobbler Track on a Sand Road

There are two schools of thought or primary methods for hunting turkeys. The first is to locate yourself in a location that turkeys frequent and try to call them to your location and the other is to take the fight to the bird, roost him and move in as close as possible for the kill!

  • Whats in a Turkey’s Head?

Roosted turkeys always have a plan for where they are headed when they fly down! This is a very important point to understand.  If you are dealing with a flock of turkeys and you can’t locate yourself in between the roosted birds and where their headed you have lost the fight before it even began. I won’t say you have no chance at all at this bird but you won’t kill very many gobblers with this setup, especially older Toms. If you are lucky you might pull in a two year old satellite tom but the mature tom that rules the flock is headed where the flock is going and you will very seldom persuade him otherwise.

  • Rely More On Your Woodsmanship and Less On Hunting Gear for More Success!

However, If you are familiar with the woods you are hunting and roosted the birds you should have a good idea where they are going when they pitch down. If you can get on that side of them and get set up without blowing them up you will more than likely get a shot at the gobbler. You probably don’t even need to call. When you start to rely more on your woodsmanship and less on calling and gear you will see your results improve without question. When you make it to this point you can consider yourself a Master Turkey hunter. Any hunter that can harvest turkeys consistently with just his woodsmanship skills and intelligence has truly mastered the art.

  • What call is more important to turkey hunting than an actual turkey call?

If I could only use one sound to turkey hunt with, it would not even be a turkey call at all! It would be the call of a barred owl! I have taught myself to owl with my natural voice and without this ability or at least being able to use an owl call, I would not have taken nearly as many turkeys as I have. The reason I would select the owl call is that it plays such a key roll in roosting. You can’t kill them if you can’t find them. On average a gobbler will only gobble for about 20-30 minutes from the limb before he flies down. Once he hits the ground, he may not even gobble again. At best, his gobbling will be cut in half. Within 30 minutes or so it will drop off by half again. What this means is that you have very little time to locate a turkey in the morning before he shuts up. This bird will usually start gobbling a little again, later in the morning but it’s probably over for a while otherwise. Now, the converse of this is the bird that don’t gobble from the limb! If he is not vocal on the roost, he is probably going to gobble good once he’s on the ground. That ones worth remembering!

  • Roosting Provide Valuable intelligence!

Another important thing that roosting does for you is to gain you valuable intel on exactly what the woods are like where the birds are roosted. Once you wait for the light level to get just right which is something you have to learn the hard way, you can approach a roosted bird fairly easily. This also depends largely on the amount of ground cover and leaf canopy above.  As a rule, when I roost a bird that is responding on the limb well, I am going to move in close enough that I can see him! I want to know what I am getting into in the morning…. is there a thicket or small creek or any other obstacle that’s going to keep the bird from being able to come to me. Sometimes, you may only learn where not to be before it gets so dark that you have to back out but that is valuable intel also. I can’t tell you how many long beards I have stood under at last light and watched them trying to shake the mosquitoes off their snood……. big ole beard swinging around!

By the way, I highly recommend a good pair of smaller binoculars, they are invaluable for turkey scouting and roosting. I have been using Nikon’s Monarch in 10×36 paired with a good Bino system for a number of years now.

This Tom pitched right back down to the road that he had flown up to the roost from. Big Mistake!

Most of the time a turkey, especially a mature tom, will roost over an area that is thick at ground level. If it is a wet area it will probably be open on the ground and you can move easily. In places where there are not a lot of open woods (which means a low turkey population) a turkey will fly up from a road and out over an old cut-over.

Here in Florida that may likely be an old bay head that has a few mature pines left  here and there. As a rule, if you don’t disturb him he will probably pitch right back down to the road in the morning.

This is just the kind of situation I fell into a couple of seasons ago. I was tracking some graded roads in my huntin’ club and I cut a pair of fat toed gobbler tracks walking down the road. I could tell they were hot tracks as you could still see the texture from the pads of their toes. I parked the truck and started tracking. About a half mile later they came to a bend in the road that had a short dead end  spur off to the south. To the left was a oak scrub, to the right was a long narrow bay head that bordered a creek strand. The bay section  had been cut over many years ago and grown back into an impossible thicket. I have tracked a crippled deer or two into this tangle and it is one miserable place to be. We call it the hell hole!

The creek strand was approximately a hundred and a quarter from the road and there were some scattered mature pines still standing. About this point, the edge of the road dropped down to a low flat that extend out into the bay. This is where the tracks ended! The creek was thick but not so much that he couldn’t have fluttered down in there if he wanted but up on the hill behind me was a big pasture that the hens like to nest around. I knew that was where he was going to want to go in the morning. That meant he just about had to fly back down to the road that he’d flown up from.

By the way, neither bird gobbled from the limb that evening.

The next morning I set up on the edge of the road about 15 yds back from the edge of the flat and waited for gobble time. Both toms gobbled the next morning but had roosted about 100 yds apart. They had flown up from the same point but angling away from each other. The bird that did most of the gobbling was behind the flat though I never could pick him out in the tree. Finally, he pitched out and sailed 125 yds and landed within 18 yds of my  position. When his toes touched the dirt and he got stopped, I sent a load or Winchester #6 down range and the hunt was over!

Inspecting the black wings of a nice Florida Osceola

Here’s another tip:  when a roosted tom starts to slow down his gobbling or stops all together, you need to be ready, he’s just about to pitch down!

The actual place I had to set up would have been ridiculous for any other situation. Literally, there was no way to get off the road and set-up. I had to just back up into a tiny pocket looking down the road though I did it in such a way that I could only see as far as I could shoot. Boy, was that gobbler surprised when he touched down and saw me sitting there!

  • Did Roosting Really Kill This Turkey?

Here’s the point of that story….. That was not an area that many people would have picked to try to strike a bird in the morning if they were hunting cold, without benefit of having scouted. Had I not roosted that night and cut those tracks, there is a good chance I could have ended up some place out of ear shot of a gobbling tom. That hunt could have easily been a bust. Get the picture?

My hope here is that you will gain a better sense of the importance of roosting and can incorporate this information into your own hunting methods and become a more successful turkey hunter.

Best of Hunts,

Larry Stephens

 

P.S.  If you have any turkey hunting questions or comments, take a few moments to jot them down and I’ll be glad to respond with any help I can provide, L.S.

 

If you are planning a turkey hunting trip to Florida, it could be one of the most memorable hunts of your life or one of the most miserable adventures you could imagine. The following are some tips that will help keep it from becoming the latter.

Hunting long beards in Florida can be one of the most difficult turkey hunts you will ever set out on. It will most likely be wet and you can expect it to be hot. There may be frost on the ground in the morning and in the upper 80’s by noon time. You will probably come close to stepping on a moccasin before its all over and the mosquitoes can be so bad they’ll eat your eyeballs out! The ticks and chiggers can be rough also. Did I mention the mosquitoes!

Osceola River Swamp Gobbler!

Just locating a place to hunt can be very difficult for someone that wants to go it on his own. Unless you have some contacts, friends or family with land or access, you will probably be looking for a Guide or hunting public land. As you might guess this adds another level of difficulty. If you find a good outfitter and are willing to cough up some cash you can get in on some great hunting in some of the best turkey woods around but it is not mandatory for having a great hunt. Most all of the public management areas have limited entry and many have some down right excellent turkey hunting.

If your hunting public land, research what permits will be required.

The State of Florida has a quota hunt permit for each WMA that is a lottery drawing process. Along with this you will need a State hunting license, Turkey Permit and Management area permit, all of which can be purchased online. Go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s web site and review their permit drawing system. Be sure to mark on you calendar when the quota hunt permit application period begins so you don’t miss out on applying for your permit or you’ll be out of luck until the next year.

Plan your trip carefully!

If you intend to accept the challenge of traveling to another state to hunt you had better do your homework! There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into a successful and enjoyable hunt.. There are many different ways to accomplish your goals and some of the things to consider are: where to hunt, lodging, drive vs. fly, will I be hunting somewhere that is wet, what gear do I need, what kind of access to the hunting area is available, etc.

A bug tamer, permethrin and knee high rubber boots are mandatory!

A bug tamer suite and rubber boots are one of the most valuable pieces of equipment you can bring on you Osceola hunt but a can of Permethrin based repellent runs a close second. If your boots are snake proof that’s a plus. Most Osceola hunting takes place in flooded swamps and low wet hammocks. Other creatures call these places home as well and one you hope you don’t run into in the dark is a moccasin. Pay particular attention when you are wading through some arrowhead lilies trying to get to a roosted gobbler, Usually a moccasin will be lying on a fall down log or coiled up on a rotting stump and the first thing you’ll see is a slight movement and a white spot appear as he opens his mouth wide in warning. The bad part is when your standing in 8-12” of mud and water and the snake is on a log, that can put him almost , thigh high!

Prime Osceola Habitat!

The Florida Osceola is arguably the most prized of the turkey sub-species!

The Osceola is not a large turkey weight wise but they tend to have longer beards and spurs than most other species. A typical bird will weigh about 18lbs or so. Anything that tops 20 lbs is a real heavy weight. The spurs of a mature Osceola are typically long, hooked and very sharp. Their beards do tend to be thinner than most of their cousins but 11“+ beards are not uncommon where pressure is low. The Osceola covers a small geographic area compared to some of the other sub-species, particularly the Eastern. Typically, they are less vocal and can be difficult to hunt due to the type of habitat they call home. If you are lucky enough to harvest one of these dark, long legged toms you will count him among your most treasured trophies.

Good luck & hunt safe,

Larry Stephens

If you’re a turkey hunter, sooner or later you’re going to want to travel somewhere to pursue turkeys in an area that you are unfamiliar with. What you do in preparation for the hunt can be just as important to your success as the decisions you make during the hunt.

two Osceola Long Beards

The Bull Creek Flock!

 Planning and Preparation, The First Steps towards Success!

I have spent untold hours away from home chasing deer and turkeys and have had some tremendous experiences with the good friends that I shared a camp with. One thing that I have found is that everyone brings something to the table and more often than not, I end up learning a few pointers from everyone I get to spend time with. Take for example my good friend, Capt. Rick Ruebel, his strong point is planning and preparation. He is meticulous in planning a hunt and leaves nothing to chance. Rick scrutinizes every aspect of the hunting location, accommodations, travel, support gear, you name it. Not only does this directly effect the success of the hunt but it also indirectly effects it. When all aspects of the hunt run smoothly you are able to concentrate on just hunting. You’re not spending valuable time with vehicle break downs, travel issues, failed gear, etc.

Personally, I have almost as much fun planning a hunt as the actual hunt itself. I enjoy tweaking my gear and making sure every aspect is ready for battle. Everything from building my own custom arrows to modifying and making fine tuning adjustments to each and every piece of my gear.

Scrutinize every aspect of your gear!

While videoing one of my turkey hunts this year I set the camera up outside the natural blind I had built. I got back in with the camera running so I would have some video to cut into the hunt. When I reviewed the footage I realized the 12 year old camo paint job I had added to my Remington 11-87 had become worn and the gun is starting to shine un-naturally. Before next season it will have a brand new custom camo paint job to remedy this. This is just one small example of the kind of detailed review and adjustment of your gear that you can do that can make a big difference in the out come of your hunt.

There are a multitude of other aspects that you need to pay special attention to if you’re going to have a quality out of town turkey hunt. Here is a short list of the key points to consider:

  • Plan your hunt around a location with a high population of turkeys.
  • Make sure all the support aspects of the hunt are well planned.
  • Fine tune and tweak all you hunting gear.
  • Take advantage of Local Knowledge
  • Stay in the Woods as long as possible
  • Always Roost! Very Important.
  • When hunting cold, start you hunt from a vantage or open area.
  • Know the area you are hunting inside and out.
  • Consider hiring a reputable guide!

Plan your hunt around a place with a good turkey population.

“You can’t kill a bird if they aren’t there” an ole’ timer one told me. Truer words were never spoken. If he’s not living where your hunting there is no chance of harvesting him. You have got to do your research and put yourself in the best possible position for a harvest. Even if you’re reduced to hunting an area with a low population there are still techniques that can put a trophy in your sights. All of your basic hunting strategies area still applicable, you’re just going to work at it a little harder.

When possible, take advantage of any local knowledge you can gain access to.

Always try to acquire any possible intel that you can from Locals that know the area. A classic example of this is the Farmer you are leasing your farm from. He’s probably there every day and gets to see the habits of the game that uses his land. The interesting thing about this is that the deer and turkeys seem to know that a farmer has no ill intentions towards them and reacts to them differently than others that show up on the property. They learn the Farmers routine and become accustomed to see him at certain times and location and don‘t give him the same regard they will you..

Other possible sources of information might be the local mail carrier. You can’t believe the game that one of these guys encounters while delivering mail to all the farm. They are usually happy to share what they have been seeing with you also.

Stay in the woods as much as possible on the hunt!

Tracking turkeys after dark

Gobbler Strut sign in the headlights!

Hunt until the end of legal shootings times, roost, do some long distance recon in the afternoon. Basically, staying with the birds will put you in tune with what they are doing and tell you where you need to be next.

Having knowledge of the birds daily routine can be a big advantage though you’ll need a few days to figure that out. If you only have 3-4 days to hunt you might not get to figure all that out.

A word of caution about this though. You don’t want to pressure the birds either. This could cause them to change their routine and even roost in a different location. That’s a bad thing!

Do your homework!

You need a good mental image of where you’re hunting. I always start with Google Earth to get a handle on the lay of the land and any key features that could impact the hunt and where the game is using.

Depending on where you are hunting, game biologists can be a valuable source of information on population density, etc.

Be prepared.

Make sure all of your equipment is ready for battle, This includes your transportation, Be sure to bring some basic tools, jumper cables, duct tape, electrical tape, tie wire, tire plug kit, DC air pump etc. for emergency repairs. You don’t want to spend your time working on your rig when you need to be hunting. You can’t avoid a breakdown once in a while but the fewer the better and the more time you get to concentrate on hunting.

Consider hiring a local guide.

Hiring a reputable Guide can make all the difference in the world, especially if you are a novice. This takes a lot of the work out of traveling to hunt.

The best guide is one that will involve you in the scouting and locating process. This can be some very valuable experience and give you some insight into other scouting techniques, etc.

gobbler scat

Things You Can Do Once You Arrive at the Woods!

Besides gear management, preparation and planning, there are a few things you can do during the hunt to drastically improve your odds for success.

ROOST!

If you are hunting on your own, Roosting is one of the most important things you can do. I cannot stress how important this is. Roosting provides a great deal of valuable intel. Many times it will put you in the drivers seat for the next mornings hunt

Roosting provides another great advantage when a front pushes in and the birds stop gobbling. Turkeys don’t like to gobble under low pressure conditions like they do when it’s high pressure and clear skies. If you have roosted a bird the evening before you already know right where to be whether he gobbles or not!

How to Hunt Cold!

What do you do when you have to hunt cold in unfamiliar woods. Ok., your hunting on your own without a guide or anyone to do all the leg work and put you on a bird….what do you do?

Maybe you’ve draw a permit for a management area or your traveling to some uncharted territory that you’ve never hunted before. Prior preparation before the hunt could make all the difference in the world.

First, you need to familiarize yourself with the woods you’ll be hunting. I like to use google earth. Locate as many key terrain features as you can and mark them on your map. i.e., creek bottoms, swamp strands, power lines, pastures, hammocks, etc.

Once you’ve arrived the first thing you need to do is start covering ground! Drive as many sandy woods roads as you can find, looking for sign. This will get you in the right area. Now refer to your maps to figure out where those birds are likely to roost. From there, keep scouting and locate as many birds as possible. Then return to what you think is the best spot to roost that evening. Hopefully, you hear him gobble on the limb and your in like Flint.

Start your hunt from a vantage!

If you were not able to roost for the mornings hunt, the best thing you can do is to get to a vantage and wait for gobble time. In hilly or mountainous country this would be an open ridge top. In flat country like here in Florida, a large clear cut where sound can travel is an excellent position. You want some place that affords long distance hearing without a thick canopy to block the sound of a gobbling bird. Also, consider the wind direction…you would be surprised how much better you can hear down wind as opposed to up wind.

Hunting in new country can be some of the greatest hunting adventures that you will ever experience. With the proper attention to detail and planning, your chances of a successful hunt will increase dramatically.

You’ve got to love it when a plan comes together!

Best of Luck,
Larry Stephens

For the purpose of this discussion were going to be talking about pop-up type blinds vs. no blind at all. There is a middle of the road blind situation where a hunter utilizes whatever natural vegetation is immediately available or carries a short netting that can be deployed pretty quickly but we’ll save that discussion for another day.

– Why I Seldom Utilize a Turkey Hunting Blind!

Turkey Hunting Without a Blind!

Personally, I find a turkey hunting blind of any kind more trouble than they are worth unless I plan to be camping out somewhere and that don’t happen to often. I like the freedom of mobility and the feeling of being actively involved in the hunt. Being tied down to one spot while turkey hunting goes against my nature. 

My two most important reasons for not making use of a pop-up style blind is that I just have to much gear to hump in as it is, especially now that I have gotten into self filming my own hunts. The second reason is that I use a very mobile style of hunting and the blind does not mesh well with that. Besides, I just never found them necessary. I would offer this tip as well, if you plan to hunt without any blind or cover in front of you; try to set up such that you cannot see the bird coming from a long way off. If you can see him, he can see you, really good! If you know anything at all about turkeys you know how easy one can pick you off from long range. A turkey’s vision is so good It’s almost scary. If it their great sight magnification was not bad enough, they are very good at quickly accessing what they see and recognizing shapes or anything that is out of place.

Here is another key point; I am not sure exactly how many gobblers I have taken to date but it must be North of 80 by now! The percentage of them shot from a blind is very small. Even smaller is the number shot from a completely enclosed blind. Most of the time I set up so close to a roosted gobbler that any movement required to set up a blind would likely blow the whole deal. The proof is in the results!

– How Can You Locate Your Turkey Hunting Blind to Force a Gobbler to Hunt You!

There is no doubt that there are situations where a turkey blind is a big benefit for a turkey hunter. However, If you feel your need to be in a blind the majority of the time you are probably setting up in the wrong locations to begin with.

One of the most important principals of luring any animal to gun, whether it has feathers or fur, is you have to be calling from the right location! This is where most articles drop the ball and leave you wondering, O.k., just where is the right location? Well, it is not so much a specific place as it is a place with the correct visibility!

It is crucial that your hide be in an area that forces an animal to hunt you!  What I mean by that is this, If you are set up in a place where a turkey can see your position from a long ways out, say 100 yds plus and he can’t see the turkey that he hears calling from that position……guess what happens next? He’ll hang around there, (100yds plus), for about 15 minutes until he realizes there is no turkey there and he either gets suspicious or looses interest and walks off having never come into shotgun range!

Whenever and if at all possible, always call from a place that has enough cover or limited visibility to force the gobbler to have to come in to look for the source of the calling and not allow him to use his superior eye sight. You will loose that contest almost every time. This is the number one mistake many turkey hunters make!

If you remember nothing more from this article than this one tip you will have made it over the biggest hurdle that keeps most hunters from being able to effectively harvest animals using a call.

-What Are The Negative Aspects of Employing a Turkey Blind?

– Bulky and heavy to pack in.

– A hunter may become careless with extended blind hunting as the blind hides his sins.

– There is a great deal of motion and noise necessary to deploy a Turkey Blind

– Reduced Hunter Visibility.

– A Blind Reduces the Hunters Mobility.

– The Blind limits your shooting lanes to a degree and makes follow up shots difficult.

 

Turkey Hunting Blind!

 

– What Are The Benefits of Using a Blind?

– A blind really shines for concealing movement? (a turkey hunters nemesis)

– Comfortable, particularly in bad weather.

– Very useful in open country or pastures with little cover.

– If you are hunting with a young hunter that can’t sit still for more than 10 minutes it affords them some movement without blowing the hunt.

– Amazingly and unlike a deer, you can through up a blind in the middle of a field and as long as it don’t move, a turkey will pay no attention to it and walk all around it!

In the end, the decision to utilize a blind basically comes down to your style of hunting for any given hunt. If you are going to be hunting in open country with little cover or large fields, a pop up blind is a big advantage. However, If you are going to be covering a lot of ground, you need to lighten the load and dump the blind! It is neally unnecessary for most hunting situations and presents more negatives than positives.

Best of Hunts.

Larry Stephens

Hunting turkeys in the fall is considerably different than hunting turkeys in the spring. However, many of the basic turkey hunting skills you would use during the spring are also necessary for pursuing turkeys in the fall. The key to being successful in the fall is being able to locate the flock. The flock will be where the feed is! The following is some of the more important information and tips that I have learned over the years that could help you harvest more fall turkeys.

Fall Gobbler By Bow!

-How does Fall Turkey Hunting Differ from Spring Hunting?

The hunting and calling techniques differ from fall to spring and turkeys in the fall are typically “flocked-up”. These turkeys present different movement and social patterns. Where the hens in the spring are in very small groups of 2-5 with many singles, during the fall the hens will be in large flocks that typically contain her brood from the spring and maybe a few other hens. Sometimes a flock may consist of several hens with broods associating together. These flocks can contain jakes at this time of year also. During the spring, jakes will be in their own bachelor groups for the most part. Gobblers on the other hand will only associate with other gobblers in the fall and will also be found in bachelor groups. One other major difference from spring hunting is the lack of gobbling by mature males. Also, mature males are less likely to respond to a hunter’s calling than hens and juveniles.

The greatest difference between fall and spring hunting is the type of calls you need to use and where the turkeys will be found. Finding the turkeys at this time of year is the greatest hurdle to over come.

-Can Hens be Harvested During The Fall?

Unlike spring hunting where only bearded turkeys or gobblers can be harvested, in the fall, most states allow the harvest of hens. One of the main reasons the harvest of hens is allowed is that many hunters find it difficult to tell the difference between hens and immature toms.

One of the first decisions you need to consider if you plan to pursue fall turkeys is whether you are going to target mature gobblers or hen flocks. The turkeys will be split up into these two groups based on sex and the mature gobblers do not associate with the hen flocks at this time of year. The Hen flocks can however contain young immature gobblers from the hens spring clutch. These immature toms are known as “jakes” and can also be found in small groups of their own.

-How do Calling Tactics Differ From Spring to Fall?

The calls a hunter needs to be able to mimic for fall hunting are different from the calls he would use during the spring. For most fall hunting scenarios the hunter will be trying to imitate the sound of a turkey that is trying to locate other birds from its flock. The most common calls to imitate in the fall are the, lost yelp”, the “assembly cluck” of an adult hen, the “kee-kee” of the juvenile turkey or in the case of mature toms, the “coarse gobbler yelps” and occasionally, the “gobble”. However, Keep in mind that while mature toms often gobble in the fall in Northern latitudes, they almost never gobble at this time of the year in the south. In fact, I have only heard two gobbles in all the hours spent afield here in my home state of Florida. The gobble call should be used very sparingly in the South but you could incorporate it more in the North.

Your calling tactics for fall need to match the type of turkeys you are calling to. Young hens, and immature toms are the easiest turkeys to call in during the fall, followed by mature hens and then Mature gobblers.

For immature turkeys, the “kee-kee” or “whistle” is a very important call but if you bust up a hens brood flock, using the “assembly cluck” to call the young back in is a deadly tactic! This is the meat and potatoes of fall turkey hunting!

If you are calling mature hens, the best calls to employ are going to be the “lost yelp” and also the “assembly cluck” of the dominate hen.

For mature Gobblers, “course yelps” are going to be one of your best calls. Again, in the North you can also do some gobbling but birds in the South just do not gobble in the fall and therefore, it is my opinion that if it is an un-natural call for that time of year, I would not use it, or very, very sparingly at the most.

-Tips for Locating Fall Turkeys?

Locating turkeys during the fall is 75% of the battle!

Pre-season scouting is one of the best things you can do to increase your odds of taking a fall turkey. Once you have found where a few different flocks are using and feeding you can probably expect them to be in that same location until something scares them off or the feed runs out.

Turkey feeding sign!

Osceola Turkey Feeding Sign!

Turkeys have substantially different habits during the fall than during the spring season but many of the same methods for locating them can be employed.

One of the main difference in the birds habits is where they spend most of their time. Food and safety are the primary driving forces behind the day to day movements of turkeys during the fall.

During the fall the food sources for turkeys vary widely and are distributed over a broad area, hence the turkeys must cover a lot of ground to make a living. In the northern states the turkeys will mainly be found in the timber, scratching in the leaves for any left over seeds and bugs they can find or feeding on AG fields. In the south, there will still be some green available to be picked so it’s a 50-50 shot on whether they will be in the woods or in some open areas. The trick to locating turkeys in the fall is to know where the feed is that they are keying in on. If you like hunting turkeys with a dog, this can be a tremendous advantage for locating them.

-Strategies For Hunting Fall Turkeys!

Scatter the Flock: One of the most used fall turkey hunting techniques is to locate a flock of turkeys and flush them, preferably in all directions. The hunter then sets up at the flush site if the birds scattered well or moves ahead maybe 50yds or so in the direction the majority of birds flew and then sets up and attempts to call the birds back in, working on their strong instinct to stay in a group at this time of year. Remember, most of these flocks will be comprised of a hen and her brood from the spring so they don’t want to loose momma!

Roosting: Roosting is another technique that works in the fall but it is very much different than in the spring. During the spring you can hear a gobble from as much as a mile away but since there is no real gobbling going on in the fall you need to have a good idea where the turkeys like to roost in the first place and get into the area before they do. Many times the hens will cackle when they fly up just as in the spring but here in Florida you are probably only going to get to hear them take flight and beat their way through the tree tops.

The Ambush: This is somewhat like deer hunting but does involve calling. Like roosting you need to know ahead of time where a group of turkeys likes to feed in the morning or maybe where they are loafing at midday. Basically you set up in one of these locations depending on the time of day and do some intermittent calling. However, remember that as the day progresses, turkeys do less and less calling unless one is lost. It is unnatural for a turkey to do a lot of calling from one location and will make a turkey suspicious if you do it.

The Rainey Day Hunt: Just like turkeys in the spring, turkeys in the fall are going to head for an open field, powerline, graded road or very open woods, etc. when wet weather moves in. This makes them easy to locate as they are very visible. This is half the battle (and then some) during the fall. Once you have found them, then you can develop a strategy to hunt them.

Gobbler's wing primary feather found under a roost tree!

Couple these tips and techniques with your basic spring turkey hunting knowledge and you will also be successful in hunting turkeys in the fall. It’s just a matter of getting out there, finding them and applying the strategy that’s appropriate for the hunting situation!

Best of hunts,
Larry Stephens

Trio of Osceola Longbeards Gobbling in the Rain!

It is inevitable, your going to wake up one morning full of anticipation, all braced for a great morning in the spring gobbler woods and your going find the weather has turned foul and it is thundering and spitting rain. Are you going to roll over and drift off to sleep or are you going to man up and go kick some turkey butt?

How Does Rainy Weather Effect Roosted Turkeys?

The main thing you need to know and remember about a roosted turkey on a rainy morning is that they are not going to be in any hurry to get on the ground. Typically, the birds are going to hang-up on the limb much later than usual and many times will not fly down until after 8:00-8:30.

Strangely enough, fog does not seem to effect their fly down time nearly as much as the rain. I could not count the times I’ve had a gobbler fly down in conditions that were so foggy that you could not see 20yds!

What is the Single Best Thing You Can Do to Increase Your Odds of  Taking a Tom on a Rainy Day hunt?

This tip applies to all situations as far as improving you odds for success. However, it is especially important if you want to have a shot at harvesting a bird when bad weather moves in.

As with any turkey hunt, If you can have a bird roosted for the next mornings hunt you are ahead of the game. Al though  roosted does not necessarily mean roasted! This all depends on the timing of the approaching front. If the front arrives late in the afternoon, the pressure drops and the humidity builds, you can bet there is going to be no gobbling to be heard from the limb.

          “ A drop in pressure and rise in humidity will kill gobbling!”         (from the book of Larry)

If you are lucky and the weather holds off until after dark, chances are you will be able to get a bird roosted. Once the front has arrived you probably will not be able to buy a gobble come daylight but you will know right where to be sitting when he flies down.

Where is The Best Place to Find Turkeys on a Rainy Day!

One of the greatest benefits to rainy weather is the ability to easily find birds. Under no other conditions will the birds be so visible and easy to locate. All you need to do is go to the nearest pasture or field to find a turkey. Open woods can be a good bet also but the best places are fields, pastures, powerlines and graded roads, etc..

I believe turkeys prefer to be in the open on rainy days for two reasons. Number one is that a turkey walking thru wet bushes gets wetter and standing in the open and will dry quicker when the weather subsides. The second reason is that his hearing ability is diminished during windy wet weather and he can put his best sense to greatest use, his eye sight!

How Does Foul Weather Effect Gobbling Activity?

The answer to this question is three fold. To understand it you must look at the progression of a storm event. Basically, a storm can be broken down into three periods as it relates to gobbling. The initial approach of the storm which may be accompanied by wind and thunder. This is probably the period that is best waited out, the high winds subdue gobbling and make it very difficult to hear even if the bird does gobble at the thunder. The second period involves the bulk of the rain. Turkeys will either be in some very open woods or other type of open ground such as a pasture, woods road, powerline, etc.. This will make them relatively easy to locate but not necessarily easy to call. The third period begins as the rain begins to slack off and the thundering is becoming more distant. This is the period you want to concentrate on. Game is always more active immediately after a rain has ended and the thunder in the distance will usually have the toms gobbling, sometimes fiercely!

I have seen it written time and again that the wet weather makes it much easier to approach a turkey….. Let me assure you, this is not the case! True, you can move more quietly when the ground is wet but a turkey lives on his eye sight, not his hearing! A turkey’s eye sight is truly incredible, do not underestimate it under any conditions, even in high wind. Commit this tip to memory as it will serve you well one day, a turkey can pick you out in high wind even better than times of no wind! The reason is that your form does not move naturally with the back and fourth motion of the swaying foliage. If you are still and the bushes are moving you stick out just as if you were moving through still woods, maybe even worse.

At times this can be some of the best times to hear a turkey gobble but more often it will have the calling subdued. Thunder is one thing that can really get a gobbler going. It is not a guaranteed thing that every tom in the woods will be hammering at every clap of thunder but more often than not he’s going to gobble. At times it can be some of the hottest gobbling activity you will ever hear.

On the flip side of this are the times when you have 2-3 days of light rain. Calling during this type of weather will typically be off but again, the birds will be very visible and are huntable. This is one of the few times I would prefer to be in a pop-up style blind.

The ideal situation is to have a day that is misty to light sprinkling. The turkeys will be more workable and it will be more comfortable for you as well. All of the standard calling and hunting tactics pretty much apply here except that the turkeys are going to be confined to open spaces.

Which Turkey Calls work best for a Wet Weather Hunt?

There are many types of waterproof calls available on the market today. Actually, there is pretty much a wet proof version of all the most popular style calls. Obviously, the diaphragm call is unaffected by water  (or spit). The slate and striker and the box call being two of the most popular. If you get caught in a pinch you could operate your call with a plastic bag over it. A grocery bad or large zip lock will due the trick.

However, the call that really shines here is the diaphragm! It is probably the most difficult to learn to use but the advantages are great. I prefer a diaphragm over all calls and it is my primary call.

What Are The Benefits of Using Decoys When Hunting Turkeys in The Rain?

Personally, I do not recommend using decoys as much as a lot of people. The main reason for that is I like to set up very close to a roosted Gobbler. I can’t tell you how many I have shot that flew down and landed in my lap and I never made a call! When you slip in this close you cannot afford the added commotion of trying to set up a decoy. It will be all you can do to get yourself set up! Also, I like to do a lot of moving. One of my favorite hunting partners, Steve Bailey dubbed it “sneakin’ & peakin’!” I don’t hunt without some glass around my neck! I love to slip down a road glassing around bends, etc., prospecting for a gobbler.

However, a rainy day is better suited for staying put, blinding up and guarding a couple decoys on a field. This is even more effective than under normal conditions. The main reason for this is that all of the turkeys are going to be in the open where they can see your decoys! Another benefit is that you nor the turkeys will be able to hear very well so calling is not going to help you as much as the usual. You need to take full advantage of his eye sight and pull him in with the decoys!

How to Stay Comfortable on a Rainy Day Turkey Hunt?

Good Quality light weight, breathable rain gear is a must if you want to stay comfortable on a foul weather hunt. If you are soaked to the bone and cold, chances are your not going to last to long in the woods that morning. Being comfortable effects your mental game and that is very important under any conditions.

If there was ever a day that was made for hunting from a blind it is a rainy day! This is the place to consider taking advantage of a “Turkey hunting Blind” that will put a roof over your head and keep the weather off of you. Plus, If you are into self videoing your hunts, this is about the only way you are going to be able to get any filming in on a day like this.

If there is a silver lining in waking up to a rainy day turkey hunt it is that most hunters are not going to brave the elements when the rain sets in. You are probably going to have the woods and the turkeys to yourself!

Dress for the conditions, bring a couple calls that you can run in the rain and look for the birds to be in open country! You can’t kill em’ sittin’ on the couch!

Good Luck Guys!
Larry Stephens

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