As the 2017 turkey season winds down, it seems like the birds can be more and more difficult to bring to a call. The brush gets thick, there are fewer hens actively looking for gobblers, and it warms up quicker. All of these factors often cause a turkey hunter to pick up and leave the woods much sooner than they should.
Everyone that pursues the almighty thunder chicken, as a friend of mine calls them, lives for that moment when the bird calls on the roost, you call back, they answer, then fly down, and march right toward your setup. Yes, this happens, but not as often as we would like.
When a gobbler hits the ground and finds hens, he often goes silent and has no reason to wander off and pursue your calling that may be a hundred yards away. The ticket to success is to stay in the woods and be patient.
Those early morning hens will leave that tom and head toward their nesting areas. When they do, the big boy will get quite lonely. This means that he is more susceptible to your calling now than he was earlier in the day, but there is one catch. That bird is more likely to come to your decoys completely silent.
I have had this happen many times. I would be set up for a sunrise hunt, it didn’t work out and I prepare for a late-morning outing. I think every time I have bagged birds after 10 a.m. each of them came in without a single sound.
I remember the first time this happened to me. I was hunting with a buddy and we were changing locations for our late-morning hunt. We spotted three big birds cruising the edge of a field. We moved down the road and placed our decoys about 200 yards away.
I called, waited a bit, and then called some more. I wasn’t yelping like some crazy hen that had lost her mind, but instead I would pause between calls. I might even wait a minute or two, then make a few more soft clucks and purrs. Every now and then I might throw in an excited yelp for good measure, but nothing like you might do at first light.
After 30 minutes, my buddy started to get up. I asked what he was doing and he said he was leaving. Those birds weren’t going to come. Thankfully, my turkey hunting mentor in Alabama taught me enough that I still had confidence those birds were on their way. I persuaded him to give it another 15 minutes.
He nestled back into some brush and leaned against a tree. He just got quiet when I noticed a red, white and blue head peeking over a clump of grass. A second later, all three toms came into view of our decoys and started to strut and drum.
The eyes on my buddy were the size of dish plates. I smiled under my mask and almost laughed out loud.
That morning hunt turned out to be a success. Keep in mind, though, we bagged one of those toms nearly six hours after we first saw the sun come up. That takes a lot of patience.
I know not everyone has the chance to stay out that long, but if you do, your odds go way up when those gobblers lose their hens for the day and are still looking for some companionship.
I prefer the excitement of the morning fly down and gobbling just a much as the next hunter, but there is something quite satisfying knowing that you were patient, understood the bird’s routine, and walk out of the woods in the late morning with your spring turkey. Have confidence and be ready for a silent approach. Good luck as the 2017 season winds down.