At the end of each turkey season, I like to reflect on what went right, what went wrong, and what I’d like to try differently next year. The most impactful lessons I learn are usually the ones that come the hard way. The lightbulb moments seem to come after screwing up multiple setups, including some that should have been cheats, and walking away empty handed.
Nothing is sweeter than when it finally comes together and you reflect on what went perfectly to make the quest go well. Erase past frustrations and reinforce lessons learned at the same time. While failure is part of the experience, here are a few things to help shorten the learning curve.
Even if it doesn’t scare away the birds in the shelter, it’s a high-risk setup and often the hardest time convincing birds to come over. The birds are together and have a plan, which makes it more difficult to convince a bird to come over. However, if you make the mistake of hitting the roost, all hope is not lost. Keep watching and relocate birds for a mid-morning hunt.
The problem is that after the turkeys fly down from the coop, they tend to become less vocal as the day goes on. So unless you know where turkeys frequent, it’s hard not to get discouraged and feed your growling stomach. Instead, hang in there, listen for any lone gobbles, go to a glass point, and keep hunting through the wood. Just hang in there, take your time and locate the bird that is receptive and willing to play.
In an attempt to combat this issue, I’ve implemented a personal 45-minute rule. If the venue was good enough to warrant a setup in the first place, it’s good enough to invest at least 45 minutes. Just this spring I was at the 40 minute mark and really wanted to move on to a new area. He hadn’t seen or heard a bird all morning. But luckily, I got my tag down before the 45-minute bell. Many other hunts come to mind where the birds no doubt saw my lure scatter and heard my call, but it took several hours to commit. Like a whitetail rutting hunt in November, patience, trust, and time in the field will often kill the bird.
Therefore, the closer we get to a tom before calling, the easier it is for us to make his decision. If the terrain is favorable, investigating your calls is not a heavy use of the devourer’s time and the chances of it coming are increased. If you manage to get close to a tom before calling, it is likely that it will be surprised by the presence of this mysterious chicken and more likely to react emotionally. You also have less time to think about it or get distracted and get out on bail.
Easier said than done, and I find myself in this dilemma every spring. I have a plan before every hunt and I stick to that plan perfectly. I often head to a predetermined location with the expectation of doing a cold calling setup. Upon entering, it seems to never fail; I see a sign for fresh turkey and start to slow down. I then decide to push “just a little more”, in an attempt to get to my location. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I bump into the herd on the way to that predetermined hotspot. Looking back, you should have heard the fresh turkey sign.
On the contrary, sometimes you find a gobbler who is itching to jog and you know his almost exact location. This is when you need to ditch the plan and commit to that bird with total determination. In this scenario, the devourer seeks company and time is running out. Ditch your plan and take what the terrain and cover give you.