My hunting partner and I gave it all we had on a particular clear morning last May. We did everything we knew to do, but we could not get a late season gobbler to respond to our calls. My hunting partner, who is also my wife, has a little more patience than I do. I would have been at home having breakfast long before, but she was determined to wrap her turkey tag around a gobbler. It was not long after I started daydreaming of my comfortable recliner that a gobbler responded to Lotte’s calling. He was almost on top of us when he responded and we had little time to get ready. Thankfully we were ready for him and able to get a shot off, but many hunters I not always prepared and never get a shot off. It does not matter how good your setup is, if you are not in a position that will allow you to get a shot off, you simply will come home empty handed.
If everything went as expected when turkey hunting everybody would harvest a bird. Thankfully, things do not always go as planned and that is what makes it fun and challenging. After roosting some birds the night before the hunt, I often think I know where to be the following morning for a good chance at a bird, only to get there the next morning and realize it is not what I thought it would be when the sun comes up. Maybe the bird did not fly down where you expected it to. In order to be successful, I have learnt to change at a moment’s notice, much like the Midwest weather is quick to change.
I have written in past articles, and I will again, scouting is the first thing on the list of things that makes a turkey hunter successful and one that had a tag in his pocket at the end of the season. I am not for sure how many times I have seen or heard a turkey far off in the distance and the only way I would have a chance at that bird was to move towards him. Without my pre-season scouting and getting to know the land I was hunting on I would more than likely ruin the hunt before it really got started.
Knowing the lay of the land helps me move without being detected. Deep creeks, ditches, patches of thick woods and other terrain often helps me move without being detected. Also, by knowing the land, I have a good idea where I need to move to setup and with my prior scouting I have a good idea where the birds are moving and I can often get in front of them.
I love hunting out of ground blinds, but there are times I have to run and gun to be successful turkey hunting. I can put a blind up the night before the hunt and turkeys are not scared of it unless it is blowing haphazardly in the wind. Blinds offer protection from the weather and I can get by with a slight movement that I would not be able to get away with if I was posted up in front of a big old tree.
For the hunter who prefers the run and gun approach of hunting turkeys some care needs to be taken when choosing how to dress. Camouflage has come a long way from when we were wearing Army type camouflage clothing. Today’s camouflage comes in so many patterns that blends with any terrain you might experience. Depending on the weather, dictates how to dress, whether it be a cold weather outfit, or simply a long-sleeved camouflage t-shirt and pant. Whatever the case I always wear a facemask and gloves.
Take a moment and think what part of your body does the most moving when turkey hunting. If you immediately did not think your hands you should have. They are used when calling and getting your bow or gun into position for a shot. That is why I believe that camouflaged gloves are either the most important, or a close second to the head net, of camouflage that a hunter can wear.
When it is time for me to setup, there are a few things I look for. The first thing I search for is something that will prevent my outline from being seen such as a big tree or natural backdrop. If possible, I will get on the shaded side of the cover to help prevent the sun causing a reflection off my glasses or a piece of my equipment that could get the bird’s unwanted attention.
When I do sit down I want it to be comfortable. My turkey vest that I use has a fold down seat that has some cushion and keeps me from getting wet. A vest with a padded back cushion also comes in handy when sitting against a hard tree for any amount of time. An uncomfortable situation can easily be changed with a quality turkey vest.
Just like when I am hunting whitetails, I always carry a small folding saw to get rid of any brush or small trees that could prevent me from getting a shot off, or something I could rub up against and cause noise. Also, be sure to clean the area on the ground where you will be sitting. Shifting your legs and breaking a twig or the rustling of leaves could very well send a bird running.
No matter where you set up, the bird has to want to be there. It might look perfect to you, but ultimately it is up to the bird to decide if it is a good location or not. The best advice I have is to find a spot that you believe the birds will be attracted to and stay motionless. Hopefully, the comfort of your turkey vest will allow for this.