I’ve become a pretty good spring gobbler hunter simply because I’ve been doing it long enough – 40 years – to have made most of the mistakes, although I’m sure I’ll come up with a few new ones this spring.
It’s true, though – in perhaps no other kind of hunting is experience more important than during the spring gobbler season. And after having killed birds in five different decades and numerous states, I’m convinced that it’s experience that leads me to make more of the right decisions than I did when I was relatively new to the game.
Often, it’s the little details that make a difference between tagging a tom and wondering where the heck the bird disappeared to. Here are a few simple things to remember as we begin another season in the turkey woods:
- Don’t move. I can’t stress this enough. Even experienced deer hunters who think they’re sitting still spook approaching gobblers with amazing regularity, believing they were “not moving.” Be a statue, and don’t ever try to “draw” on a gobbler to take your shot. It doesn’t work. Your best bet is to wait for the gobbler to strut facing away, shielding its vision with its own full fan. If that doesn’t work, inch your gun slowly into position. But be ready to shoot before the gobbler comes into view.
- Trust your setup. If you’ve done your scouting homework and know birds are in the area, keep in mind that just because they’re not gobbling doesn’t mean they’re not there. They are. Many times, a gobbler doesn’t have to gobble to communicate with a hen. If it’s strutting, that’s a form of communication. Believe in your hunting area and be patient and chances are a longbeard will magically appear.
- Full camo means full camo. Facemask. Gloves. Pay close attention to your neckline. Make sure it’s covered.
- Always bring toilet paper. ‘Nuff said.
- Know when to shut up. A lot of this is again a product of experience, but if a tom is closing the distance, there’s usually no need to crank up your calling anymore. Get ready for the shot and that magical moment when the longbeard shows himself.
- Know when to crank it up. Windy days may mean a box call that offers up a lot of volume. And sometimes, when the gobbler just won’t commit to your calling, an aggressive fighting purr sequence may trigger a rush into the fray.
- Never make a call without knowing where you’re going to set up if you get a response. Before making any call, choose a potential setup location in the event a gobbler sounds off close by. Take it from me, it will save you faceplanting in the mud and trying to get into shooting position as you spit oak leaves.
- Keep at it. I’ve killed a lot of gobblers over the years, but it’s been more a product of relentlessness than ability. So many times I’ve tagged a longbeard because I was the hunter who dragged his carcass out of bed in late May and was out there on that morning when he was ready to play. Don’t convince yourself that “it’s over,” and the birds are no longer looking for hens. Or the weather isn’t right. Or you have too much work to do. Or you’re just plain tired. Get out there. If you don’t, you’ll kick yourself in June when the season is over.