Hunted pretty hard this last weekend and had a few things happen that I can't explain. We were hunting Merriams in steep country in Montana. Near as we know tell though there are people around they don't get hunted there at all. In four days Friday to Monday did not see another hunter. The bottoms had water and meadows. Ridges up above were very steep and covered with mostly ponderosa pine. Weather was generally sunny with one really foggy mid morning and some very scattered rain. Saw at least one turkey every day but never in the open -- always up on a ridge in the timber. Saw them at various times through the day but nothing early in the morning.
I'm not a good caller and don't use anything but a push button call, but I've in the past at least been able to get turkeys to gobble back to it. This trip not so much. Over 4 days got 3 birds to answer. Killed the first one but mostly through luck -- walked towards the sound and was about to call again when I saw it feeding 30 yards ahead of me. Like I said, luck.
The other two didn't act like anything I've seen before. The first one gobbled twice to our calls and then never again. We gradually moved in to where it had called from and never saw a bird or heard another answer. I can't figure out what was going on there. Later that morning the fog rolled in very heavy, not sure if that was a factor or not. When we were calling to it it was clear and right after daylight.
The second time we got an answer very close -- 75 yards or less -- and got an answer every time we called. Problem was the turkey was getting farther every time it answered until finally it didn't answer at all. It didn't see us but I'm guessing it had heard us and knew something was not right. It went right over the top of a mountain to get away from us.
We got so gun shy with not getting answers that we pretty much quit calling wondering if the sound was so bad we were running turkeys away from us.
Before that our general strategy was to wander through likely looking turkey country calling about every 100 to 200 yards. If and when we got an answer we would decide how to proceed. Problem was we rarely got an answer.
Other thing that may be a factor was every gobbler we saw was a jake. I'm not sure how they respond to a call -- maybe they were afraid to answer? But also don't know why all we saw were jake's.
So I guess my long winded question can be boiled down to three parts.
One, could it be that my calling was so bad I was scaring birds away? I can see where it might not be good enough to call one in but I've never had a problem getting at least a shock gobble back.
Second, what does fog do to them calling wise?
And third, it seemed odd that we never saw a bird out in the grass. There were times we could see for a long ways right at daylight and then throughout the day. Never saw a bird out in the open.
Any and all advice welcomed. Thank you.
1. toms answer but then move off. They might be with hens and not interested in coming to you. 2. no unusual during the day that they only answer once.
3. I use a loud goose call here in Colorado, to make a loud "shock" noise to induce a tom to gobble but most of the time they only gobble back once so make sure to listen. Do not call when a jet is flying over or when the wind is blowing hard as you might miss the return gobble..
4. Never saw them in the grass! Maybe the grass was too wet or maybe there was a lack of insects or good feed to eat. Lots of bug, grubs, berries, buds, etc in the timber.
Once you spend time around turkeys you'll notice they make a variety of calls. Where I hunt they don't make much noise so that's how I am. It's obviously tougher locating them if they are quiet but I look for fresh sign and spend time in those areas. I hear crows and owls calling all the time here in Colo and can't say I've ever heard a shock gobble. ...but it may be worth a try?
This season I only used my call a couple times the entire season...and harvested 5 toms. If toms aren't making noise there usually is a reason. The area I hunt in Colo is loaded with coyotes, bobcats, mtn lions, and bears...turkeys die if they make noise once they fly down out of the roost. The same thing is true where I hunt in Nebraska... there are gobs of coyotes. In fog and wind, predators definitely have an advantage Turkeys have incredible eye-sight and in the fog their eyesight is limited. I've noticed in wind and fog turkeys are generally quiet.
Turkeys are often much like elk. If a bull hears another tom, he may take his group of hens and leave! Spike and raghorn satellite bulls usually spend quite a bit of time following around cows and herd bulls....jakes are fairly similar to satellite bulls and are often more vocal and often are more prone to respond to calls...following groups of hens with mature toms.
With that said, every different area I have turkey hunted is a little different. What's challenging as a hunter...especially when hunting a new species or area is to think like a turkey (or other game you are hunting) and figure out strategies that may work in that particular area. Consider weather conditions, hunting pressure, elevatjon, food sources, predators, time of the strutting/nesting, topography, vegetation, roosting areas, strutting areas, nesting hens, fresh vs old tracks, etc. When ever I see turkeys I keep a tight eye on them and watch their reaction to calls, decoys, and keep track of what exactly they are doing. A lot of hunters spin their wheels because they aren't willing to look at what's going on and figure out strategies that may work! The more time you spend watching videos or actually spend time around turkeys the more you'll learn about their calling and habits. I really think calling is a little over-rated. There are other things that are more important. One thing to remember is if you call to loud and often you will likely spook turkeys!
Unpressured river bottom rios may have set daily routines and patterns..,however; mountain merriams may be different. Merriams may be tougher because they sometimes have a wider range and often live in vast ponderosa/scrub oak country where they are notorious wanderers. With that said, I've harvested mtn merriam toms within the same 1 mile area the past 4 seasons. The trick is to locate those comfort zones Paul mentioned above and learn their daily routines/behavior.