I get a pile of questions relating to turkey hunting and decided to share some of the better ones here as I have time to post them, for everyone’s benefit.
1. Q: Kyle asked,
“I have been hunting turkeys for 3 years now on central Florida wma’s. I have had good luck finding birds on the roost but after they fly down I come up empty. any insight?”
A: Kyle, Thanks for your question.
Finding turkeys that are roosted is obviously the first and most important hurdle and it sounds like you have that covered.
There can be many reasons for a gobbler not coming to your calling. There is plenty of blame to go around on this one. Some of it can be the hunter but on WMA’s you have to factor in what other hunters have done, to the turkeys before you got there. Still other reasons lie with the turkeys themselves.
Here is the first problem….you are asking a gobbler to do something that does not come naturally, that is, for him to go to the hen! It’s supposed to be the other way around. He gobbles to pull hens to him! Gobbler to hen ratio has a lot to do with how well many gobblers will respond to your calling. Florida does not allow the harvest of hens anymore as a rule and hen populations have really expanded in the places that I hunt. This creates less competition among gobblers and they don’t need to respond to a hen that is calling when he has 6-12 feeding within sight.
As you know, in hunting public land, you are hunting turkeys that have been hunted before and can be call shy. Over calling or aggressive calling can be an instant red flag to a gobbler. I like to hear a bird gobble as much as any body but it is important not to hammer him with calling while he’s on the roost.
First….THIS ATTRACTS ATTENTION! somebody else is bound to hear all the gobbling and try to go to him.
Second….calling aggressively with a lot of yelping and cutting while he’s roosted will do to things, It is guaranteed to hang him up on the limb and he is probably going to call up a hen! Unless you are luck and dealing with a satellite, sub-bird that does not have hens, a gobbler will normally be roosted about 75-100 yds away from the hens. If there are hens near by and you fire him up, one (or more) will come to him and as soon as he sees here it is probably, game over. He’ll pitch to her and they will leave together, in the other direction.
If there are hens around, try calling to the hens or better yet, the dominate hen. The best advice here is to answer her calling with like calling. If you can pull her in, you’re in the driver seat.
Of course, you want to try to get between the hens and the gobbler if possible.
Here is the number one tip for dealing with the issue you describe. SET UP CLOSE! I’m talking really close….60-80yds close. Each situation is different but as a general rule, If the woods are tight he will not fly to far from the roost and you need to be really close. If he is on the edge of an opening he may glide 100-150 yds and you don’t want to get flown over. That’s game over! He almost will not walk back to the roost. The object is to be close enough that he lands within shot gun range when he flies down. It is not as hard to do as it sounds and will kill the baddest bird in the woods.
In my opinion, the biggest mistake many hunters make it is over calling to a roosted gobbler! Big mistake! You might make him gobble 100 times on the limb, hot as hell and he’ll fly down, shut up and leave or leave gobbling.
Give him very little calling on the limb. When he stops gobbling, He’s about to fly down. You should be able to hear or see him fly down. Then it’s time to play!
Roosting is crucial to a successful turkey hunting strategy, your on the right track. You just need to alter you game from that point.
“Larry, Thanks for the reply. I try not to do much aggressive calling at all because I know and have heard and seen other hunters blow a call up. But its hard when you aren’t hearing gobbles to find birds. So I guess that is a good question for you, where and what’s areas should I look for birds in?
I hear toms on the roost but don’t want to get to close to them and I haven’t seen them fly down yet 🙁 I never call to them on the limb! Should we be at the WMA in the evening trying to roost birds? It kills me wondering where where they go when they fly down?
Two days ago I had one gobble on the roost and he was gone an hour later I heard him gobble so I called softly and he closed the distance to 80 yards within an hour but hung up so we talked back and fourth for 2 hours. I decided to try and crawl in on him some. And got within 45 yards and had a hen bust me, I heard her putt and they were gone! He was BIG. Lessons learned from that. I didn’t realize how soft their gobbles are compared to easterns.
Oh well it was a blast and my first tom in real life that I called in and it was an Osceola:) I need that book. Are you an outfitter? Do you hunt on WMA?”
Here are some call that I find most effective for striking a bird……#1 cackle then it’s a toss up for #2 & #3 between cutting and a long series of yelping (like a lost yelp) 12-15 yelps. The problem with the lost call is the bird can cut your call and you might not hear it but it is one of my favorites. I have gotten birds to gobble at that which were gobbled out and would not gobble at anything else. Use with a little caution though and when you really need it as you might not get him to gobble again after that.
As far as where to find birds, That’s a long discussion but I would fall back on tracking the road system. If the woods are pretty thick on a tract, turkeys will come to a road at some time during the day and leave some foot sign…and probably some strut marks as well. Depending on when you find it and how fresh it looks you can work backwards and try to figure out where they came from, i.e., where the roost it. As long as they are not bothered they will likely be back.
Finding turkey in the woods is a whole other problem and it depends on what kind of woods you are dealing with. Vast swamp sections sections are different than strands and ponds, etc. the turkeys use them differently and use different parts at different times of the season. Turkeys tend to roost deeper in a swamp in the early season and roost progressively closer to the hill as nesting time arrives.
In my humble opinion, not getting as close as you possibly can to a roosted bird is a mistake. I covered this one on my first response. If I could only have one call to hunt turkeys it would not even be a turkey call…..IT WOULD BE AN OWL CALL! I could kill as many turkeys as most guys with just that call. The trick is you have to make him gobble and you have to sneak in close. I can’t tell you how many I have had fly down and land in shotgun range. If you want an exicting hunt, sneak in close! There are turkeys that can’t be called in and this is about the only way to deal with one. You will screw a few up but you’ll kill way more than holding back 150-200yds and calling.
If you can get on the WMA to roost in the evening, I feel this is a must!!!! I guess I made that one pretty clear above. VERY IMPORTANT! Many WMA’s, especially the quota hunts won’t allow you to drive in after hunting hours so check the rules on that.
More often than not, a bird will gobble up a hen and she will lead him somewhere, always away from you it seems. Sometimes making a move on him is your only best chance. The 3 hour hunt you described is a long time to trade calls. I promise you I would have moved long before that. Sometimes you get busted but sometimes you convert on a bird that you wouldn’t have killed otherwise. Don’t beat yourself up and just stay at it. The sneaking stuff all depends on the terrain and how thick it is. To sneak to within shotgun range of one turkey let alone multiple is a feat by itself!
Soft gobbles? A turkey will vary the intensity of his gobbling. GOBBLING IS DANGEROUS! It attract attention from predators. Also, the sound is affected by the terrain, canopy, time of day, humidity and especially the wind direction! I have had turkeys that I know were a mile away from me that I could hear gobble and others that you could not hear at 75 yds! Do a lot of listening!
THE BOOK! I am finding it hard to get time to work on it but I will be one of the best books on hunting and killing turkeys ever. Most things that are written are so vague and general that they are pretty useless. I want to strive to have some super in-depth discussion on the areas that I feel are the most important to being able to harvest a turkey. There will be a DVD in there somewhere as well, taxidermy how to that you can do yourself, 12-15 of my most interesting turkey hunts, etc. etc.
Outfitter….I started guiding a hanful of people each year. I was already basically doing the same thing for close friends so I decided to offer a few hunts to others when I got access to the BC Ranch. It is small but the turkey population is top notch! I also have access to a 6500 ac private tract and possibly an 1,100 ac tract next year. Actually, I have a hunt scheduled this coming week and the next but I am limited to how much time I can spend guiding, unfortunately,
Thanks for taking your time out to talk with me. Like I said I’m addicted! But I do eventually want to kill an Osceola! So from what I gather is when I hear one on the roost try and sneak as close to him as I can but keep a distance not to get flown over. When sneaking in in the morning do you use a flashlight? I hunt at richloam and green swamp, both places you can be in until dark so I could try roosting birds. How do I pick a spot they might roost? And do I carry an owl call after dark and make them gobble on the limb to find them?
With so much action it is hard to track them on roads that aren’t drove over and what not. If I don’t hear a bird on the limb in the morning do you suggest just walking around and changing up the calls every 150 yards like you mentioned? And then terrain should I choose cypress swamp, pines, or oak hammock if I wanted to set up and blind call?
I try to scout but I find it hard to find feathers or strut zones. I love learning all I can so if you ever wanna bring a “rookie” scouting or roosting or what not I’d like to volunteer myself. Lol. I know I could go to my farm in GA and shoot a eastern but I’m infatuated with a public land Osceola!
Thanks again! Kyle
First you need to start with tracking the roads that are not over run with vehicles and find where some turkeys are using to get you in the general location. Then I would track that spot again that afternoon and hope you can find some gobbler tracks and or strut sign on the road. If you do, now you know it is fresh enough for the birds to be relatively close to that location. you can try roosting from the road with an owl call right at hard dark.
RIGHT NOW, FLY UP IS ABOUT 7:50-7:55. It will take him about 5-10 minutes to settle in before he will gobble but that will be before or by 8:00 right now. I just roosted a bird with the very technique I am telling you about. Unfortunately, he only gobbled one time and that is not enough to be able to really get close like I prefer. This information all has to be adjusted based on how much he gobbles and how thick the woods are, etc.
A turkey mainly prefers to roost in a large pine and that will usually be in the edge of a cypress pond or swamp strand. If you are dealing with big blocks of timber or swamps you are going to have to get in there and do some tracking on foot, maybe there are some skidder roads or something you can find a track on. Early in the season the hens and thus the gobblers will roost deeper in the swamp and then gradually roost closer to the hill where the hens might be roosting. Again, this all depends on the terrain.
If the bird ir roosted in some heavy woods he generally will not fly that far, maybe 40-50yds…..75 tops.If he is on the edge of an open place he will probably glide farther…up to 100-150yds sometimes. He will try to land in a spot with a little visibility if he can.
Using a flashlight?
Try not to use a flashlight if possible. Certainly don’t use one when you are close to the roost. Get there early and just go slow. you can use a dim light only up to a point. I have had the light from my video screen scare turkeys before.
Where do turkeys roost?
See my above comments. I have not hunted either of those tracts so I would need some description of what the woods are like to help you more with this one.
A: See the abv. comments also but you owl just at hard dark. I have had turkeys gobble in the dark at night and in the morning but it is not very common.
Q: tracking on the roads?
A: If it is a heavily traveled road you are not going to have much luck. get off the beaten path a little and do your tracking in the afternoon after many have left. Again, try tracking closed roads and interior roads by foot.
Q: What if you don’t roost a bird?
A: You should have a good idea based on your scouting and tracking the roads where some birds are using. That should get you within ear shot of a bird that morning. If not then yes, your going to need to strike out on foot through the block, prospecting but each time you stop to call use an owl call early AM or a crow call once the natural owls quit. If no response then cackle, cut or lost call.
Q: Blind calling
A: I am not a fan of blind calling, especially if your time to hunt is limited such as a 3 day quota hunt. But if you are going to set up and blind call you obviously need to do that where some turkeys are using. You are right back to needing to have found turkeys with this method also. Blind calling in an areas where there are no turkeys produces…..no results!
Turkeys like hammocks and my bet would be there if the tract has some or a hardwood swamp, creek strand etc. Public land means no pastures, etc. so you have to find where the birds are feeding in the woods. A cypress strand might be good but you probably will not find many turkeys in a cypress pond. It could happen under the right conditions but not likely.
If you are hunting pine flatwoods and there are hogs on the tract, inspect any hog rooting you find for signs of turkeys feeding on pink root and such where hogs have been rooting. Pine plantations don’t offer a lot to turkeys for feed so that would not be my first choice unless they have been recently thinned or 5th rowed, ETC.
inspect any powerline R/W you can find, green areas, etc. Also, pay close attention to any clear cut that is new to up to about 3 yrs old….turkey magnet!
Q: Can’t find Feathers, strut zones, etc. ?
A: And you’re not going to! That is some fantasy they outdoor writers like to indulge in and don’t. You will find a turkey feather here and there but that is just about useless information. I have hundreds of photo of turkey feathers I have found but none ever helped me kill a turkey!
Strut zones! You will never find a strut zone in the woods that you can identify from found sign. I feel you have to have a really high turkey population for a gobbler to go to a spot to try to gobble up hens to that location without actively searching for them (roaming). On properties with really high gobbler numbers is the only time I have found “strut zones” Turkeys strut in various locations. He mainly struts in the presents of hens! No hens, no strut! Strut sign is pretty faint depending on how soft the soil is. You have to look for strut sign in places with no vegetation or leaf litter. That is mostly a road. Have a look at the strut sign photo’s on the guided site……http://
What you have learned about Easterns for the most part also applies to Osceolas. Though Easterns in Georgia do like to roost in mature pine plantations where an Osceola tends not to do that.
Public land Osceolas……Well, you picked a tuff subject my friend!
Q: Bryceson asked:
Hi, I’m a first year Osceola turkey hunter on wmas. I’ve been successful on private land in Polk county put those were easy birds spotted while driving. I’m hunting at bull creek I’ve found a decent spot that has a creek bed then a swamp then a clearing. I cant hear a turkey roosted. Like I can’t find their roosting spot. I’ve hunted there 3 times this season and I set up in the clearing in the dark and as the sun comes up I hit a crow call about 5-6 mins later I get gobble back I then let clucks and yelps go and he gobbled back opening day for over an hour and never showed his face.
Well today they didn’t gobble on the crow call so I took out my phone and went on google maps and found out if I went up thru the dry swamp there’s another clearing I went there and got gobbles back at 8ish on the crow call then proceeded to go towards them I then hit a creek and started yelping I had 5 different gobbles. And no turkey showed they shut up I admit I am a big over caller.
But how do I find them on the roost. I learned how to hunt in new York for Turkey, so way different. Should I continue to hunt this spot. The creek is about 5ft deep. So no wading across. But I would like to find the roosting spot. And bag a bird I have no idea what to even look for or how to find a roost. I also found a huge Turkey track maybe 7-9 inches long but no other evidence of sign only a huge hog maybe 500lbs.
I hunt with my mom because I’m 16 and I’m very successful during deer season but not Turkey I can find areas that have birds but not their roosting spot. Thank for any advice give.
I just answered some of the very same questions in my Q & A page on the guiding site. Read all of that very carefully and you will get answers to just about all you roosting questions. Here is the link http://guidedturkeyhunting.com/osceola-info-2/turkey-q-a/
To add a couple additional comments:
Roosting refers to locating turkeys in the evening once they have flown up in the tree. Florida is different from a lot of Northern states in that the turkeys really do not roost in a certain tree repeatedly. they will roost in the same general area a lot however. Since they don’t roost over and over in the same tree, there is no build up of sign to be seen. Osceolas do roost in particular areas and certain types of trees. They prefer a big pine above all with a cypress close second. They will roost in a bay tree in pine flatwoods where it has been cutover and is thick on the ground. In swampy areas they will dometimes roost in a maple that has budded out green.
If you really want to find turkeys on the roost you need to be there in the evening and using an owl call. In my opinion that is by far the best locator call but works best early and late when a natural owl would normally call. The crow call works throughout the rest of the day. I would recommend you learn to owl for locating turkeys.
You need to start owling early!! As soon as you start hearing song birds….start owling. It don’t hurt to even owl in the dark! Sometimes they will gobble even before the sky starts to crack and that gives you a big advantage on moving closer. I recommend you get as close as you think you can without being seen but before it gets very light.
When you call, crow or owl either one…if it’s 5-6 minutes before you hear a gobble he is not responding to you actually. He has heard something else or just free gobbles.
Try to resist calling to a bird on the roost….that is a big mistake that a most all new turkey hunters make! Once he has responded to your calling or or even if he didn’t and you know he heard you stop calling for the most part until it’s time for turkeys to be on the ground. Even then….do not try to fire him up on the limb! He will attract hens and fly to them and leave you almost every time! He will also attract other hunters!!!!!!
As far as leaving that spot goes….I recommend you hunt it until you kill him or run him off! Unless you start to feel he is just un-killable, don’t leave turkeys to find turkeys! They are not that easy to find on a WMA.
7-9″ TURKEY TRACK! That is way to big to be a turkey….you may have found a sandhill crane track but they will not be deep in a swamp. They are typically in an open area, road r/w, around a sink hole, pasture, etc.
Keep an eye on my guidedturkeyhunting.com and floridaturkeyhunting.net site’s, I try to keep new info and tips posted on all subjects turkey hunting. Take some time to read the archive posts, etc. Also, look at a short video of some birds I roosted at dark to get a feel for how this works.
Also, I am working on a Turkey hunting ebook that is mostly about the osceola though the majority of the info will cross over to the other sub-species. It has an extensive section devoted to roosting and will really help in that respect. I cannot emphasize how important roosting is!
I roosted two nice birds for a hunter last night and we set up in front of them this morning. the 3 hens flew down right in front of us but the gobblers migrated 180 yds or so and flew right over heads and landed behind us….game over! It was quite a sight though.
Please keep me posted on how you are coming and if you take a bird….send me a pic so I can post it on the site for all to enjoy!
If you have any more questions let me know.
Hang in there!