Bob Humphrey photo
By Bob Humphrey
We all look forward to opening day with excitement and anticipation. A brand new season brings renewed hope and a slew of naive birds that haven’t been called to or hunted in months. But the novelty soon ends. Birds that don’t get culled out early soon wise up. Then, as the days grow longer still, the randy toms’ breeding instincts start to wane, making them even harder still to hunt. Yet hope springs eternal in the turkey woods.
Some of the same tactics you used early on may work, but in order to boost your odds of being successful in the late season, you may need to modify, adapt and overcome.
That aggressive cutting and loud yelping that worked magic on those early-season two year olds just won’t cut it now. Gobblers have heard more clucks, yelps, putts and purrs from hunters in the last two or three weeks than they’ll likely hear from real turkeys over the next 11 months. It’s also likely they’ve had at least one negative encounter with something, or someone, making those sounds and may be a tad call shy.
Tone it down, big time. If you call at all, make it soft and sparing. Do a little tree talk before fly down, then maybe utter an occasional soft cluck and purr. Or, just go old school. Yelp three times then wait an hour.
Be One of the Boys
The turkey’s breeding instinct is triggered by day length. Days get longer in the spring triggering an increase in testosterone. As days get even longer though, that subsides, and toms slowly start to lose interest. They also gradually become more tolerant of one another, and gobbler groups start to re-form. Try doing some jake yelps, or even an occasional gobble. Here again, call sparingly.
This sort of jibes with going old school. Forget the running and gunning, which usually requires fairly vocal gobblers. Late-season birds seem to develop a case of lock jaw. Think more like a bowhunter. Pick a spot, set out some decoys, call sparingly and plan on spending time, a long time, in one spot. And stay alert. Odds are good if a bird comes in, he’ll come in silently.
In some ways, late, late spring season can be like fall gobbler hunting. Food is more important than mating, and birds tend to get back into something of a routine - moving from roost to feed and back - so long as they’re not bothered too much. And that’s one of the positives of hunting really late. Most other hunters have tagged out or given up and switched to golf or bass fishing. You’ll have far less competition, which is just as well with the odds now clearly in favor of the birds.