We are over the half way mark and winding down on Nebraska’s 2019 spring turkey season. Turkeys, particularly the gobblers, have seen just about everything by now…especially on public hunting areas. Gobblers have become suspicious of anything that looks out of place in their environment and the hunting is getting tougher. Gobblers have been pressured and are becoming more wary.
Turkeys adapt to hunting pressure just like they would adapt their daily routines to deal with predators. That’s how they survive. Turkeys are smarter than most hunters think. Think about it for a moment…the dumb/easy ones are already in the freezer. Late season gobblers can be a real challenge, but here are a few tips you can try…
1. Hunt light: Don’t rely on your usual set ups. Leave your big blinds and most of your decoys at home. Adapt your tactics to be flexible and ready to move quickly. You will need to find traveling gobblers and set up out in front of them.
2. Use a hen decoy: As long as there are hens to breed, gobblers will still on the prowl, a hunter with a decoy has a chance to fool him. As soon as you get an idea that you have a gobbler on the prowl, stay as concealed and quickly set out a hen decoy.
3. Hunt later in the day: By this time in the season, most of the hens have been bred and are actively nesting. I believe gobblers stay closer to their roosts and try to breed the hens have been on the roost with him all night. Let that gobbler deal with these younger hens before you make your move! Unless I hear a gobbler close, I often wait until late morning before I hunt.
4. Hunt specific/high probability areas: Roost trees and strut zones my highest priority at this point in the season. I want to find a spot that is along the path a gobbler follows from roost to strut zone. Until pressured, he’ll follow this path about the same time every day. Find a good spot that provides plenty of cover and ambush the bird when he walks past. I like to find a spot that keeps the gobbler from seeing me until the last second, like tucked into a row of hay bales or under maybe prone on the ground under a small cedar tree. The downside of this tactic is that I can’t see the gobbler well either. This is a necessary tactical gamble because if you can see the tom coming from a mile away, he can see you too.
5. Call, but not much: Once you set up your decoy, move off to some cover about 25-30 yards away and make a few kee-kee-run calls. A tom may come to the call silently, but as soon as he sees the hen decoy thins tend to happen fast. Too much calling can make the tom suspicious and he will drift off.
6. Hunt high: Where possible, get on the highest piece of ground you can find and look and listen! Search the countryside with a good pair of binoculars. Be methodical in your search. Learn the ground you are looking at and know the features. Turkeys can be hidden from view by a simple shallow trough in the ground. Listen…toms will still gobble, but not as often as earlier in the season.
7. Buddy hunt: Grab a buddy who is a good caller and head into the timber in the afternoon. Find and open spot where a decoy can be seen, set up the decoy, then plant you calling buddy near it. His job is to call and NOT MOVE. This way the sounds come from where the decoy is located. You, the shooter, need to move off about 20-30 yards and wait for the gobbler to come in. His attention will be on the sound and decoy, and that just may give you the edge you need to get a shot.
Good luck on your hunts for the remainder of the season!