Most turkey hunters imagine punching their tag shortly after a tom’s feet touch the ground coming out of the roost. Unfortunately, sunrise disappointment is all too common in the turkey woods.
Many morning hunts end with the tom following a flock of hens off into the distance, straight away from your setup. While I get as excited as anyone hearing toms gobble at daybreak, I’ve come to learn that mid-morning and midday provide better opportunities for fooling longbeards. Here’s how to do it.
Why Hunt Midday
Generally speaking, when roosted with the flock, toms will follow their hens after fly down. If you can’t coax the hens in your direction, the toms won’t walk over either. After a few hours of mingling with their ladies, however, toms will often wander off in search of new hens to breed.
In my experience, this generally occurs around 10:00 a.m. During the period from about 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., toms are more likely to be separated from the flock. A lonely, midday tom is more willing to investigate calls and decoys, so use this chance to capitalize.
Locating Mid-Day Turkeys
After fly down, hen chatter and tom gobbles tends to decrease. This can make it difficult to locate turkeys and is often why hunters throw in the towel early. Many take to the field with locator calls, such as an owl hooter or crow call, hoping to get a shock gobble response. While this is a great tactic when it works, it’s far from a guarantee.
In my opinion, preparation and understanding the flock’s core area is the best way to ensure midday action. If prior scouting and experience reveals food sources, strut zones, security cover, or fresh sign, you’re likely in their core area—which is right where you want to be. For example, if you know the flock’s preferred noon feeding area, pitching a ground blind mid-morning and testing your patience often yields success.
If you are still having issues locating birds, using still-hunting tactics can pay big dividends. Ditch the blind and cover ground. Cold calling as you seek fresh sign can be extremely productive. When blind calling, I impose a personal rule of staying put for at least 30 minutes at each calling location. This allows enough time for a silent gobbler to reveal himself.
Midday turkey strategies are not all that different from early morning tactics. Foster Bartholow, turkey guide and fanatic of all things avian, warns hunters to be conscious of talking too much and too loudly, regardless of time of day. Ultimately, realistic yelps and purrs are what get toms.
“If you get a bird to sound off midday, you can kill that bird,” Bartholow said. “Keep your calls subtle. During midday hunts, birds are more likely to come in silently. Be patient and give birds ample time to commit to your location. If a gobbler is hung up and out of sight, consider adding movement to your calls. Call while walking away from the bird to give the impression that you are leaving the area.”
Like Janis Putelis does with breaking branches and rolling rocks while calling to elk, you should try to set a similar scene when talking to turkeys. Some rustling leaves, scratching at the ground, and flaps of your hat to imitate wings can help convince a tom that he’s hearing the real thing.
If you’re using decoys, match whatever is happening in the woods at that time. If you have visual confirmation that you’re hunting a lone, midday gobbler, often a single hen decoy is most effective. If he happens to be a subordinate tom, he might be intimidated by a male in your spread. On the flipside, a bachelor group of longbeards won’t be interested in pursuing a lone hen. Add a jake or fanned-out tom to the spread and you’ll elicit an aggressive response from traveling groups of gobblers. To keep it simple, use more decoys early in the season, and less as the days get longer.
Place your decoys in a location that forces the tom to come find them. Decoys in the wide open are usually ignored by wise toms if they get a good long look. By placing your deke in thick cover, below a rise, or in a tight clearing, you can surprise the tom and his excitement might get the best of him. As Will Primos preaches, use the terrain to your advantage.
Don’t throw in the towel after an unproductive morning. Don’t let silent birds discourage you. Don’t sneak out of the woods at noon for lunch and a nap. Sticking it out when everyone else heads home is a great way to fool a gobbler. Midday longbeards are lonely and ripe for the taking.
Feature image via Captured Creative.