5 Essential Tips for Hunting Turkey in the Afternoon
1. Mr. Lonely
Experienced turkey hunters know about the dreaded dead zone in mid- to late morning, when gobblers won’t leave their willing hens to investigate a hunter’s call. That all changes in the afternoon. By then the hens have been bred and they’re feeding quietly or retiring to their nests to lay an egg or rest. Suddenly, old long beard is Mr. Lonely with no playmates and your call may start to sound pretty good to him. He may amble toward the location he heard you calling from in the morning, or he may search out your fresh set-up if you just entered the woods and started calling.
2. Toms stop gobbling
A tom can gobble whenever he pleases, and some toms gobble all day, but generally gobbling falls off in the afternoon. Just because you don’t hear a gobble in answer to your call, though, it doesn’t mean there’s no tom turkey coming your way. Afternoon toms are still interested but tend to show up unannounced. If you know there are gobblers in the area you’re hunting, don’t try to get them to gobble with a shock call or loud yelping. Instead, just sneak in quietly, set up safely, call softly and get your gun or bow up and ready for a silent entrance. Late in the season, meanwhile, toms are as interested in exerting dominance over other toms as they are in breeding. A boss tom, therefore, may come in to fighting purrs or the slower, raspier yelps of toms. Master those calls for afternoon hunting.
3. Hens feed heavily
During the first two weeks of the season, turkeys feed heavily on harvested fields, picking through leftover crops. In Ontario, for example, they favour corn and soybeans. Later in May, when things start to green up, they like the tender shoots of new crops and natural plants. When insects begin to emerge, turkeys forage along the forest floor, scratching and pecking for them. Hens in particular feed heavily on insect protein to sustain reproduction. If you can set up early in the afternoon along their daily feeding routes, they may bring a gobbler your way, as toms follow foraging hens.
4. Persistence can pay
Choose an area that you know holds turkeys, and don’t give up when you don’t get any answers to your calls. Moving set-ups increases the risk of bumping birds that are coming in quietly. You can also disturb feeding flocks and educate them about your calls and methods. If you can see or hear a flock that may include a tom, but the birds won’t come within range, you may, as a last resort, try to incite the boss hen to come in. A bit of loud, bossy cutting and yelping might trigger her dominant instinct. If she answers, match her calls note for note with all the bossiness you can muster. She may stride right over to kick your butt, bringing the tom in tow.
5. Toms keep strutting
Another good place to set up is near a strut zone, which is usually a small, elevated clearing. You’ll know you’ve found one if there are a few feathers lying around and the ground is quite scratched up. Unattached gobblers will keep returning to these areas hoping to meet up with a willing hen. And if there’s a sandy patch in your hunting area, watch for turkeys treating themselves to a dust bath during dry weather. If nothing is happening in the feeding areas, both the strut zone and the dust bath are good backup locations for afternoon set-ups and quiet calling.
There are 5 more hot tips for afternoon toms in the chapter on afternoon hunting in the new e-book “How to Hunt the Wild Turkey’.
This article was originally published on May 1, 2006 by Outdoor Canada