When talking turkey to my deer hunting friends, I always like to compare early season turkey hunting tactics to that of deer hunting. Deer hunters know that if you find a buck on his summer feeding pattern, and get to him before he makes that switch — then you have a solid chance of killing that buck. But, the longer you wait, the more you risk him changing that pattern.
Early season turkey hunting is very similar. You’ll tend to find a lot of birds flocked together, and the gobblers are content with the hens they have — they have no reason to come and investigate your lonely calling. It’s possible you’ll locate that lonely gobbler by himself, and if that is the case — game on!
If you know where the birds are, or where they are going off the roost, the solution is simple: Have patience.
There is nothing more tempting than making a turkey gobble, but if that bird has gobbled 100 times, and you know he is coming — just be quiet. This is the perfect time to sit back, watch, and let that flock follow their normally routine.
This is my favorite time of year to bring a ground blind and video camera, while I watch these amazing creatures put on a show.
When things go wrong
You will have to consider that a turkey is a turkey, and he will do what he wants to do. Their brains aren’t very big, but they know how to survive!
Many times, the flock will not take the route you expected. If you miss their path of travel by 30 yards, then you’re left eating your tag that day. One of the mistakes you could make in your scouting (as I did this weekend) is not finding the path of least resistance for those birds.
One tactic is finding, or making funnels — make them come through your desired path. One of the easiest ways to do this is with a gate. If you have a flock that is crossing a fence to go about their normal routine, find the gate. If you can open that gate — do it. If not, be near that gate as the turkey will generally make that their crossing location.
If the gate doesn’t play out, and you’re left watching as the birds are making a move in a different direction — consider picking a fight.
This past Saturday morning, I chose a ground blind location near the fly-down area where I knew the turkeys would go. Sure enough, the birds went over the gate, and in an opposite direction, they went the day before. I’m sitting there with my oldest son, who by now is losing his mind over the action and the fact these birds are going a different direction, and I have to make a decision. “Do I pick a fight with the hens, or not?”
I decided to let this flock go, and not educate them to my presence. As we sat there discussing the intensity that played out for the last two hours, I see three hens and a jake making their way in a different direction. Seeing this as an opportunity to get my son his first bird, and to finally do a little calling, I let out some soft yelps. Sure enough, the hens get cranked up and start yelping and cackling at me.
This is where you pick a fight — mock that hen and tick her off. Do what she does, and watch as she comes running. In the case of this jake, and his lady friends, he came running first.
Unfortunately, he got too close and my son got his first case of turkey fever. As you can see in the video below — this bird got off with just a wad to the head and will go on to see another day.
This isn’t the only tactic you can use. There are tons of great strategies you can use this time of year, but for me, this has been the most effective, and least intrusive to the birds we hunt.
I’m always curious about others tactics, and how they got it done. Leave a comment below and help other turkey hunters by contributing to the conversation.