Spring weather equals fronts, and fronts mean wind. This is the reality of turkey hunting, no matter how much we wish for calm days with blue bird skies. While it may be tempting to skip windy days, don’t. There’s still a good chance of filling your label even in less than ideal conditions.
To do this, you need to understand what the turkeys will be doing at the time in the neck of the woods and how strong winds will influence their actions. It’s a weakness you can exploit, but first you need to understand why turkeys are averse to strong winds.
Find out what turkeys hate
I shouldn’t be speaking for the turkeys, but I will. They hate being outdoors where the wind just blows. But they also hate being in dense cover when it’s windy, probably because it’s much harder to spot approaching predators. This leaves them on the hunt for semi-protected areas.
Whether he’s staying home or traveling to other windy states like Nebraska, Colorado turkey hunter and outdoor writer Jace Bauserman spends a lot of time looking for these places. “You can expect strong winds where I hunt,” Bauserman said. “The birds I target seem to respond to this by heading to semi-open areas where they can feed and lounge.”
Finding areas where birds can do their thing but still spot danger around them before they get too close is key to this strategy. That, Bauserman noted, is how he and his hunting partner tagged each other on a bow hunt in Nebraska earlier in the season this spring.
“We observed a large flock that was routinely visiting a farm field suddenly drop into a 150-yard-long clearing that was sheltered from the wind,” Bauserman said. “They wanted to be at the food, but the wind had them nervous so they opted for safety. We used that knowledge to slide in and put up the blinds, which led us to call a row of longbeards in that clearing.”
Location of quiet areas
It doesn’t take much wind reduction to place turkeys in specific locations. A low area in a field will cut the wind by 20-30%, which might be enough. At least it was for my twin daughters when I took them out for their first two afternoons of our Minnesota season this year.
After several days of exploring, I knew we would be dealing with flocked birds. He also knew that they would congregate in a low spot in a cornfield when they left the chicken coop and when they headed back to bed at night. It took my daughters two short shifts to fill out their labels, even though we battled winds that blew up to 35 mph.
Take note of where you see (and hear) birds when the wind is blowing, as well as areas you are in that appear calm during windy conditions. Those places are vital for finding birds when the forecast calls for more wind.
Windy Gear Realities
For the run and gun crowd, the worst thing the wind will do is spin lures if they are not set up correctly. I tend to reduce the size of my spread for windy conditions and always stake them low to the ground with sticks on either side of the tail to keep them from spinning. This allows for a little movement, but not the helicopter that scares birds of a loose lure on its axis.
If you plan to dodge the bursts blindly, you need to think about your decoys and your temporary hiding place. According to Bauserman, this starts with an unconventional move.
“Take the stakes that came with your blind and throw them in the trash. Take real stakes, like the ones that are screwed into the ground or even real trampoline stakes, and then pin the inside corners and outside ties of your shutter with pins.”
High winds can easily collapse a center or uproot a poorly staked shutter and send it like a tumbleweed across the landscape.
You must also consider your vocation. Make sure you call loud enough. Soft purrs and clucks on a pot call won’t cut it. Turkeys may not be able to hear you if you are not using a box or mouth call during high winds. The louder you can go with your howls and slashes, the more likely you are to rise above the wind and be heard by nearby gobblers.
Turkey hunting in high winds sucks, but not as bad as turkey hunting.
Consider where birds will choose to spend their time during these conditions and plan your hunts around them. Pay attention to bird behavior during headwinds, and then use that information to plan future hunts. Lastly, make sure your gear and calls are up to scratch when you go out.
Once you do, you’ll realize how callable and killable turkeys can be in high winds.
Featured image via John Hafner.