A gobbler can be heard a long ways away (up to a mile) from a good vantage point, such as a top a ridge on a clam, clear morning. But more times than not, the windy days out number the calm days in the spring.
When the wind is howling, it is difficult to hear a tom sounding off just a few hundred yards away. If it is difficult for you to hear a tom, a gobbler also has a hard time hearing you. The makes what can be difficult under good conditions, very difficult on a windy day.
Not only does wind effect hearing, but it makes it difficult for the birds to see predators such as coyotes, and the growing population of bobcats, because of the swaying branches in the wind. A bird that is unsure of its surroundings is a nervous bird. A nervous bird is less likely to aggressively respond to calls like a relaxed bird normally would.
When I was first learning to turkey hunt, I asked an old-timer the best techniques to hunt birds in less than desirable weather, especially the rain and wind. His advice was to sleep in, and head out when the weather cleared up. If I listened to that advice, there would be some seasons I would never leave the house. Fortunately, I never listened to him even though it would have been easy to hit the snooze button a few times.
Hunting in windy conditions is only as bad as you make it. Take the time to think things out and make the necessary changes to the calls you intend to use, where you hunt, and your overall strategy to combat the heavy wind.
Even though birds get nervous because they can’t see danger well when the branches are moving back and forth in the wind, it also means that they can’t see you as well when you move your head, shoulder, your weapon, or move into position.
Wind does not blow with the same strength throughout the day. Normally, daybreak is the calmest time of the day, and from then on the wind picks up in strength throughout the morning. This is when it is best to put the birds to sleep the night before the hunt, or find them very early in the morning with a locator call when you locate. When you locate the birds, waste little time getting as close to them as you can without spooking them.
Start calling at the bird right away before the wind picks up and he can’t hear you anymore. That means getting close to him under the cover of darkness, and throwing everything you have at him.
Sometimes, though, the wind is already too strong at daybreak for your calls to travel, or the strategy you used at daybreak did not prove to be successful. If that is the case, plan on doing a lot of walking to find birds that are not very vocal, and to make up for your calls that do not travel very far in windy conditions.
Mature gobblers are going to want to be in an area where they can hear, and be heard. If the wind is blowing in the evening when they roost, they will likely roost in the hollows and valleys where there is protection. If they do not roost there, that is where the will likely head when they fly off the roost in the morning to avoid any harsh breezes.
Another reason they like these areas is they want to be where the hens are, and that is where the hens will probably be. Plus, the birds can relax a little more with the ability to see and hear without the wind causing a disturbance. This will allow the birds to get on with their normal routine throughout the day, such as feeding and breeding.
There might be times that instead of flying all the way down into a valley, the birds will stop upon reaching the lower third of the hill. The birds are still out of the wind, and can see and hear well.
It is best to stop and call more in windy conditions than it is on calm days. I prefer box calls, and high-pitched diaphragms that can be heard for long distances. Cutting and yelps seem to penetrate through the air better than other sounds in these conditions.
Call loud and aggressive until you locate the birds. Once the bird has committed on coming in, you can reduce your calling.
I pause a little longer after calling when searching for birds. I like to pause for five minutes, compared to a couple of minutes when the weather conditions are better. A bird might not hear your call the first time, so call several times before moving on. The wind could be playing havoc on the bird’s abilities to hear you, or your ability to hear his response, so that is why I like to call more than once to give me and the gobbler a better chance to hear each other.
I never use a decoy in extreme winds. If the decoy is spinning in circles it does more harm than good.
If the wind is not too strong, pull out the decoys and stake them good. Place sticks on either side of the tail, allowing the decoy to move slightly side to side, giving it a natural appearance.
A final piece of advice I have is to remember the wind could die down throughout the day. Be prepared to take advantage of it if the wind diminishes. Also, birds will likely move to open fields in strong wind. This will allow them to see danger without the obstructions of swaying limbs and brush. Scout to find where the birds come and go from the fields, and set up an ambush.