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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

Turkey Hunting Tactics

Wild turkeys can be infuriating to hunt. These bird-brained animals are beloved, but routinely find ways to thwart even the best-laid hunting plan. Fortunately, that’s what makes it fun. Still, changing tactics throughout the day can increase the odds of success.

While it isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, oftentimes, turkey hunting tactics should change throughout the day. While some tactics work regardless of the hour, others are much better for certain times. Follow along as we work through our turkey hunting tactics by the hour.

Dawn

Most turkey hunters prefer the first hour of daylight. It isn’t the best time to actually fill a tag, but it is the most fun time to do so. Birds tend to gobble the most on the roost, and then the first hour or so of daylight. After that, gobbling tapers off. Most toms are henned-up.

Tips:

  • Use an owl locator call to pinpoint roosted turkeys.
  • If you roosted turkeys the evening before, slip within 75 yards of the roost tree and set up, but only if you get there a couple hours before daylight, and only if there’s plenty of cloud cover and no full moon.
  • Call just enough to let a gobbler know you are there. Call too much, and the hens might take the tom away.
  • Don’t keep a bird gobbling on the limb. This will draw the attention of hens, predators, and other turkey hunters.
  • If possible, position decoys within view of the roost tree or fly-down zone.
  • Try a strutter decoy to provoke a fired-up gobbler.

Mid-Morning

This is usually one of the quietest times of the day. Gobblers are generally henned-up, and gobbling greatly declines. This can be a difficult time to hunt.

Tips:

  • If birds fly down and move off, see where they go, and circle wide around them.
  • Use crow calls to spark shock gobbles.
  • Tone down the calling as other turkeys do.
  • Use a jake and hen breeding decoy pair to spark a reaction.
  • Focus on open fields to find birds.

Late Morning

Gobbling continues to decline, and some toms remained henned-up. However, some are beginning to lose their hens, and might become receptive. As it moves later into the day, this becomes even more likely.

Tips:

  • After turkeys go quiet, and you have, too, fire off a series of hen cutts to spark a sudden sound off.
  • On cold to cool days, look for birds to remain in the fields longer.
  • On warm to hot days, expect birds to head for cover sooner.
  • Find lone gobblers posted up along known strut zones.

Midday

Some states shut down their turkey hunting at midday. Obviously, in those places, hunters must cease hunting. Where hunting is permitted all day, the best hunting is yet to come. Sometimes, birds get fired back up around midday. Lunchtime to early afternoon is my favorite time to turkey hunt.

Tips:

  • Find birds in cooler and shaded areas, such as hardwoods, conifer stands, north-facing slopes, and near water sources.
  • Work along streams, creeks, rivers, and other winding water sources.
  • Find good scratching areas that turkeys have been bugging.
  • Increase calling as gobblers begin losing their hens.
  • Try a lone hen, or pair of hen decoys.

Mid-Afternoon

By now, there are likely several gobblers that have lost their hens. If one starts to fire off, chances are good it might just respond and commit to the call. Stay after gobblers that are loose-lipped.

Tips:

  • Continue to focus on cover but expect turkeys to begin working back toward open areas again.
  • Some gobblers are still alone now. Others are beginning to group back up with hens.
  • Toms that gobble at this point are quite killable. Stay on them.
  • Toss out a hen decoy. Adding a jake to the mix might work, too.

Late Afternoon

This can be a great time to fire up a longbeard that’s looking for last-minute love. Turkeys that ratchet up the gobbling late in the day often don’t play coy. Rather, they are more willing to work to the call, especially as it nears roost time.

Tips:

  • Set up near known roost sites. Post the preferred decoy spread and call sparingly.
  • If turkeys are heading in a different direction, work to get between them and the roost they are headed toward.
  • If gobblers are alone, consider calling aggressively. If hens are with them, this might turn them away.

Dusk

Obviously, the hunting is over by now. That said, don’t head to the truck just yet. This is a great time to roost a bird, especially if hunting the next morning.

Tips:

  • Expect birds to be roosted on ridges, creek lines, river bottoms, hilltops, large trees, trees with good horizontal roost limbs, etc.
  • Use an owl locator call to pinpoint roosted birds for the next morning, or for future hunts.

Turkey hunting tactics can and oftentimes should change throughout the day. Keep that in mind as turkey seasons unfold this spring.

Turkey Hunting 101 with Bone Collector Michael Waddell
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