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Late Season Tactics?
We have until the end of May to hunt.
What are your late season hunting tactics to bag a gobbler?
The turkeys have been extremely spooked here in Michigan after about a month of hunting pressure. But after the cold front that came last weekend, they have been getting back to normal. They have been gobbling every morning this week, and I've been seeing them strutting again out in the fields. I believe people pressure is down, and the hens are nesting, so Toms are out looking. I had 2 around me Monday morning that gobbled every time I called, but could see they were with a hen, and wouldn't come in. Monday afternoon they came right in to my hen, and jake decoys and I shot one.
DK, I started out the season, April 5th in Nebraska, using the stick bow and a ghillie suit (missed one), then the stick and blind and then on May 19th, used the leafy camo suit, compound bow and a Headsup tom decoy.
Went from being stationary to active and mobile and separated a mature tom from his hens in a cut corn field. Hiding behind the bow attached decoy, he came from 150 yards to 15 yards. Killed him defending his hens and trying to chase away the intruder. This tactic will work all season long but it surely worked well for me, late season.
Fun hunt. Paul
If the gobbler has some hens with him, try to challenge the hen to come down to your decoy. Loud, fast, aggressive clucks and purring. The gobbler should follow the hen to you. The end of the season is my second favorite time to hunt other than the first week because many of the hens are done breeding and it can be easier to find an unattached tom, which is the best situation to have. Good luck!
I wish I knew the answer! We were in NE this past weekend and it was tough. For starters you can't see due to the leaves and tall grass. Very few gobbles and no hens talking. On the roost they never made a peep. We killed one, it was tough hunting. I much prefer a month and half ago!
It does get tougher and then you run out of season. I was thinking there weren't many turkeys hung on the meat pole this last week, but Paul and Razorhead made it happen with entirely different tactics. It can be done! Congrats to both of you!
Late season tactic. Get in their face, up close and personal. He came from 150 yards away (corn stubble field) and I shot him at 15 yards.
My best, Paul
Paul, 150 yards in not "in their face," that's using a great decoy to get them in YOUR face.
That had to be exciting. I'm guessing that's not the last time you'll hunt like that.
Michael, considering that a turkey has 3x 20/20 eye sight and can see 360 degrees just by turning their head a few degrees, at any range--even 150 yards, I consider that to be face to face, up close and very personal.
Correct, it will not be my last time using the Headsup Decoy. Yes, very exciting as I never knew if the tom would fully commit.
Actually I am going to use the Headsup doe mule deer decoy on my high country deer hunt here in Colorado, in early September.
thanks for the comments.
PS, how is retirement???? Paul
It seems to me many of the birds I shoot in late season are older age class birds. This makes sense because of their status in the flock and if there are no willing hens available, they (boss toms) still hold the dominance card. With that said they are not usually easy to get with in a killable range with any consistency. So your tactics should usually start with "less is more". Until I get a good indication that they will not be call shy or decoy shy, I will always start out very softly and proceed with caution. There is an old saying about taking a turkeys temperature and it is no more pertinent than in the late season
These are some examples from the past couple of years of what can be had if you take the correct approach in the late season. All were shot the last week of the season!
Rich, here are the spurs (1 3/8) from the tom I decoyed in, pic above. I figure he was 3-4 years old. Sort of follows your thinking. good info.
Great pic! Yes I agree on the age estimate.
Geesh, those are some daggers! We've gotten our butts kicked over the past few weeks. For about 10 days we had high winds and cold temps- couldn't find birds to save our lives! Since then the weather has been better and we've been on birds. However, to describe them as uncooperative and goofy would be an understatement. One came in from 1000 yards away only to strut and gobble like crazy from 50-100 yards for three hours! We saw him the next day and he literally ran like crazy when he saw our deeks. The last day he came to about 80 yards and again wouldn't come in. Frustrating! My son has shot two birds late in the year the past two seasons, but I think we have wrapped up for the year this year with no punched tag for him. He shot a dandy bird with Chris and Joe in NorCal, so I don't feel too badly for him... Not punching a tag can teach a lesson too!
Scoot at that distance for a hang up, I have recently used a jake fan and have had great success. Nothing fancy just a fan on a stick. Seems like they can't resist it and I think it would have given you positive results in the situation you described!
Longbeard- how have you used it? Sneaked it out the bottom of the blind when he was hung up?
I have a feeling there is night and day difference in late season success depending upon what area you are hunting. Some of the posts above say it's a slam dunk late in the season and others say it is completely opposite. My guess is that even though toms may be alone late in the season their reaction to fans, decoys, calls, etc may be different depending upon whether you are hunting high pressured birds that have survived "the gauntlet" so to speak on public land or whether you are hunting lightly pressured private land.
My guess is that those that have toms hold up at 75 yards are toms that have been decoyed several times during the season and know what's up! Toms that come running are more times than not lightly hunted birds?
With that said, if you hunt hard and happen to find a tom in the right mood he may come running on public or private...but my guess is that public land birds are mighty educated by the end of the season?
Some of the guys above that had success late in the season may want to elaborate what kind of pressure was in the area they were hunting?
Paul, if that bird is 3, I'm 17. Big accomplishment, especially on public ground...and 150 yards is not "in their face" just because they have good eyes.
If a tom has been decoyed several times, he's probably dead.
Heavily pressured is a relative term.
What you think of "heavy" in Nebraska would be light in a lot of states from Missouri and Arkansas eastward.
My best-ever Merriams came off public land, hunted regularly, the final couple of days of a six week season.
My best eastern came off an Ozark farm that had been hunted daily, through 3/4 of the season.
Don't over-think things,...just go hunt them. Geez. They're not mature whitetails, back east, they're birds with balls ten times bigger than their brains.
My son's best-ever Kansas bird was one we'd tried to kill for three years with nothing even close to a kill..and then one mid-May morning he was hornier than a two-peckered billy goat, without hens, and ran to the jake decoy.
Writer, Happy 17th Birthday.
You need to go back to work! :)
Yes Jims there is a big difference between hunting pressure in different regions. Most of the birds I hunt are hunted hard almost every day of the week for the whole month of May. Others maybe only hunted a couple of times a season, but none are on non-hunted, unpressured private land. As I stated above, "less is more" with these old and wary late season birds. Most any other time of the season old toms don't come running in, but if they do I would be willing to bet it would be late season when there are no more hens left and they are in search mode. Doesn't happen every year but when it does make sure you take advantage of it because you can get some dandy spurs for a prize.
Scoot, I don't use a blind at all or very seldom. I have used the fan in many situations from crawling toward the gobbler to just flashing it at a hung up bird. It doesn't always work but more often than not it helps in some way. I think their thought process when they see it ranges from comfort and security of another bird to rage and I will kick your ass as soon as I get over there. Once they have been hooked its amazing the amount of movement you can get away with, as long as the fan is still visible. Very seldom is there a negative reaction
Late season gets much tougher in my area not only because of more interest in turkey hunting and more pressure, but when the weather starts getting nice everyone is getting out for walks, mushroom hunting, etc. my last evening of hunting was interrupted by a bunch of guys running their four wheelers. Everyone is getting out and enjoying the outdoors when the temps warm up. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, its just the way it is and need to take it into consideration. Early morning hunts are the least likely to be interrupted.
Lol at writer.. I agree here in these Cali woods that (Paul's) birds minimum 4 year old more likely 5 year old. Heck of a bird and hooks.
It's seems like there aren't too many things turkey hunters can actually agree on? So is it a consensus that tom's without hens are likely easier to decoy, call, reap, etc than toms hanging out with hens?
I am going to reflect back to last year and this year.
Tom without hens easier to call in? Generally speaking and over all, I would say yes.
1. tom with two hens, left them and came 30 yards to decoy.
2. single tom
3. two toms with one hen, Hen passed by decoys, toms followed
1. single tom
2. tom with hens. Tom came 150 to Heads up decoy.
Later season I'll hunt them the same way added with trying to get more into their kitchen than normal. If possible I'll try get as close as possible then setup. Later season here if I'm say 100 yards or more from a bird and call he'll gobble his head off but not budge much. Once in a while I'll still find a hot bird that will come in from a far distance but deff not like early season. If I can get within 60 yards of a bird and setup my chances are increased ... With the foothill and mountain terrain I hunt that's possible. And late season I still prefer most times to throw a jake out there with some hen Deeks. Later season jake attacks vs submissive hen deek hump action from the bird that comes in is about 50/50.
I got my last late season tom similar to the way trkyslr mentioned in his last post. There were 2 toms in a group of around 10 hens. The toms were with the group of hens all day long and didn't want to budge from the hens. I tried to coax the lead hen into range but she wasn't willing. They would call back and forth with me but that's about it. I finally decided to cut the distance and got within 50 yards of the group (which often is a tough chore with that many birds!). Especially tough with mtn merriams that often move so much all day long! I waited until a tom was on my edge of the group and did some chirping....he came to investigate and I got him.
If I sat next to decoys for days and days there may have been a chance they strolled by but just as easily would have kept on going! Depending upon the situation sometimes it's worth getting a little more aggressive. It may or may not be worth the risk of spooking them.
Ryan and I used longbeards suggestion this morning and it almost came together fort us. Almost!
As we all know turkeys have fantastic eyes. They'll often stand 100 to several hundred yards from a decoy spread just watching. If they don't see any movement they often move on....especially birds that have been pressured late in the season. Anything that creates movement can either spook or attract them..depending upon the situation.
Obviously turkeys are constantly on guard for predators (including humans) so will likely flush if something doesn't appear natural or are spooked. A realistic fan, movement of a decoy, etc is likely to seal the deal...especially if toms are alone or you are in close enough to entice them! Most of the turkeys I've watched from a distance have a social bond, pecking order, and curiosity that can be used to your advantage if you are willing to think outside the box!
I know we discussed this before on another thread, but using just a few, 1,2,3, hen decoys, without a jake or strutter, just might be the key to keep that mature tom coming in during the late season..
I had two hen decoys out this morning and the tom came to 12 yards before the Bullhead just about took his head off. Our season closes here in MN tomorrow. The brush is really thick so I could not see him till he got to 15 yards from me.
My Wisc. tom was late season also but I used no decoys with him. I had a live hen that hung out in the corner of the field I was hunting so I let her draw the tom in.