I look up through the tree branches to see bulbous bodies silhouetted against the forest scenery. The chilly air bites at my cheeks. Slowly the sky lightens, and the figures begin to take shape. Then hen those figures begin to move. A shiver of excitement runs through my body as I see one puff and fan its tail. I know it’s a gobbler.
Before long the cuts and cackles of the hens fill the air. They start off a bit slow with a cluck here and there and then become a bit more boisterous. The big guy, strutting back and forth silences them all, with an echoing gobble.
Also see: 8 Tips to Outsmarting a Gobbler
One by one, they fly down from their roost, and I know it’s on.
If you’ve ever been turkey hunting, you know the feeling as you await the morning action. You’ve set up and prepared for this moment. After their fly-down, things become a bit more interesting when the birds turn and go the other way. It’s time to spot and stalk.
I’ve had many a hunt where I’ve run, snuck, crawled and slithered after big thunder chickens. I’ve also had several not so heroic instances, which reminded me to pay attention to more than that mesmerizing, strutting gobbler. Hopefully, my recounting of a few instances may aid in your turkey hunting success.
As you find a good location behind a brush pile, look before you park your bum. Inevitably, when you feel the thunder of a drumming Tom, you forget to look and park your knee, or even worse, you seat right on top of a cactus. Although the ones in the knees are easy to retrieve, the ones in the backside may become a bit embarrassing as you request the assistance of a friend.
I recall one fun hunt with my daughter. We spied three toms meandering up the valley. The little gal and I spied a good hiding spot beside a large pine tree. We settled ourselves and began to call. She began to wiggle. “Be still.” I whispered. Again I called, and again she wiggled. I gave her “The Look” and she wiggled more. That’s when I saw it. She had ants all over her. We both jumped from out locations, swatting and smacking and running about. Needless to say, those Toms were long gone before we could even begin to think of being settling back down.
Speaking of being discrete, there is nothing less sneaky than having noisy hunting clothes. Even worse? Having clothes that are too large. It’s amazing how the oak brush enjoys feeling fabrics. Better yet is the thought of how a mighty Tom must laugh as he busts you, mid-stride, attempting to get the claws of the brush to let go. Properly fitting gear is a must.
Turkeys have keen eyes, so camouflage is a must. Masks or paints come in handy to conceal our faces. Here’s a not so pretty picture. Try remaining still and silent as your allergies kick in. Sneezes are one thing to suppress, but the downpour from the nose is another. Things can get pretty messy, pretty quick. Be sure to take allergy medicine before you head for the hills.
Something we never count on is a complete, all-out downpour, gully washer, flash flood. If you’ve ever been caught in one during a hunt, you know what I’m referring to. It’s one of those gorgeous, sunshiney days that suddenly turns gray. It’s always handy to have rain gear, of course. Take care in where you park yourself. Out West, a nice little trench makes a good hiding spot to await a Tom. It also makes a great channel for water to come gushing.
I nearly forgot to mention the lightning before the storm. When a putting hen suddenly darts past you, and then another, and another, and you see gray looming above, get ready. A rumbling sky leads to lighting cracking. The turkeys high tail it, and you had better too. There’s no sense in being out in the open with your lightening rod over your shoulder.
A little bit of situational awareness goes a long way during a hunt. Pay attention to your surroundings and you're more likely to have a successful result.