In less than a week another spring gobbler season will begin. This time of the year the morning starts with waking up well before daylight and heading to a high ridgetop to listen for the first gobbler to sound off revealing his location. The bare woods of winter are starting to come back to life as the leaves start to bust out of there buds.
Sometimes it can be tough to crawl out of a warm bed well before daybreak, but when that ole gobbler roars out and shakes the woods it’s all worth it just to hear that unique sound. Add the thrill and challenge of trying to imitate a hen with various calls and having a gobbler answer back is why I and countless others enjoy hunting this majestic bird.
Turkeys are hard animals to hunt. Ask very many die hard turkey hunters this and they’ll tell you that patience is everything. It’s easy to get carried away with calling too much when that gobbler keeps answering back. A lot of times when this happens first thing in the morning the ole’ tom is struttin’ his stuff for his lady friends who can be hard to compete with. Especially if he keeps gobbling but stays in one spot. He wants you, or the hen to come to him.
Whenever I know a gobbler is henned up I either back off and go search for another bird, or try to head them off. Several times the hens that are already with the gobbling turkey will lead him away from you. It’s really hard to compete with the real thing and the best thing to do is either back off or determine the direction they’re traveling and try to get in front of them and cut them off. This is where it’s very important to know the lay of the land where you’re hunting.
This style of hunting is referred to as the “run and gun” method. If you’re unable to get in front of the turkeys or you don’t hear any more gobbling activity alls not lost. Return to the area where you heard all of the gobbling earlier that morning. Around 9:30 am or so a lot of the hens go to their nests and the gobblers are alone for awhile.
By returning to the gobblers strutting grounds and a familiar area to the bird many times the ole’ toms won’t be too far away to hear your sweet sounding hen purrs and clucks. If the gobbler doesn’t show you’ll at least learn more about where they’re hanging out for the next hunt.
The best scenario is when you can find a gobbling bird on the roost, especially one that’s gobbling on its own. Once you determine its exact location, slip in slow and try and get as close as you can. I like to try to get within 100 yards or so if possible. With the birds roosted in the trees and a still dark woods, getting close is a lot easier than when they fly down to the ground as the first rays of light peak through.
As long as the gobbler keeps sounding off revealing his location I remain silent and don’t call at all until I’m in position. Once I feel I’ve gotten as close as I possibly can is when I set up and get my calls ready. I like to start off with a couple soft clucks to let the gobbler know I’m there. If he answers I know he heard my call and I’ll wait before calling again. When I’m close to a gobbling turkey I mainly use clucks and purrs instead of yelping much.
I found that over the years less is more when calling turkeys. During my rookie years of turkey hunting I would call a lot more than I do now. If the gobbler would answer, I’d just keep right on calling, mainly with a loud yelp. Sometimes you have to get aggressive with your calling, but when the gobbler gets close just a few soft clucks and purrs is what really brings them into shotgun range.
I think the key to a successful gobbler season is being persistent while remaining patient. It’s all about finding the right gobbler in the right mood. Regardless of how good of a caller you are or not it’s all about being in the right place at the right time with a cooperative gobbler.
Since no blaze orange is required during spring gobbler season it is critical that you always be safe out there. We’re all dressed in camouflage calling like turkeys so always be 110% sure it’s a bearded turkey you’re shooting at. If you even have the slightest doubt, don’t shoot! It’s not worth taking a human life over plain and simple!
Good luck to all the fellow turkey hunters venturing out this season. Spring gobbler season runs from April 16 to May 12 this year and hunters must be out of the woods by 1:00 pm. There is a one day youth season on April 14 which would be the perfect time to introduce a young hunter to the thrill of chasing turkeys around in our beautiful West Virginia spring woods.