Contributors to this thread:
Late season decoy setup???
OK guys, we are approaching the end of the season in most cases across the US. Hens have and are being breed and are/will be nesting as we see a lot of single hens wandering from the nest. Some toms are starting to look around for more looking for hens to breed.
What decoy set up will you use now? How are you calling?
1. Full strut tom with hens?
2. Non aggressive jake with hen
3. a few hens only?
4. a single hen?
MY best, Paul
Paul, as you know, I've had to sit out this year and change diapers instead of turkey hunt :) but I've had great success in heavily pressured NE public land this time of year with no decoys and very subtle calling. I've seen them put at decoys from 60 yds too many times late season public land. Now I set up similar to an elk calling setup; in a place they have to come in to see where the calling is coming from and once I get a definite response, I shut up. I've killed a bunch from close range with these tactics late season.
In VT I have never had good luck with a stutter in the late season. I have called in a number of late season birds and as soon as they see the stutter they head the other direction. I have come to believe that the fighters have been shot. The Toms that are left have likely had their butts kicked at some point and shy away from the strutters. I typically use a non dominant Jake and single hen.
Once you get a definite response and shut up, how long do you wait before the tom shows up? I've been working a smart ole boy all season, have not even got close to getting a shot at him.
PECO- for me, once I get a response from a "smart ole boy" like you're chasing, I shut up too. Typically from there I wait until the sun sets, then head home empty handed. :)
Paul I was thinking about this last night. I saw some good strutting activity last night on my way to the range. It looked like a big tom, a few hens and some jakes hanging by the side. The last few birds that I had come in were silent. There wasn't much for gobbling on the roost either. Had I not seen birds I would have sworn none were around.
Tomorrow I will be going with a single hen.
Peco I got busted by an old tom last weekend. It was a midday setup and I gave it two hours. Wouldn't you know as soon as I was packed up and headed back to the truck I ran right into a big tom. He was sneaking in silent on me. It wasn't 100 yards from where I had the blind set up. I think he thought I was a bear because I had all black on and a pack full on my back. He didn't spook. He kind of just looked at me and gave me some room.
I still use a couple dave smith hens and the jake decoy. I’ve had some of the best hunts late season that included some major beat downs on the jake decoy. And re calling it all depends on the birds temperatures.. rt now birds are death gobbling like crazy so I will be calling aggressively... it fires them up then when they come in they’re already in the mood for a scrap. Another reason why I don’t prefer just hen decoys in late season too is toms by then get a little Leary getting too close to a hen not knowing if she’s been bred or not and doesn’t want to get chased off or heat up by her so they will just stay 20-30 yards from her and strut. So if this happens and you have a hen decoy at 10-20 yards out that bird will be 30-40 yards away and may not close in. But sometimes they do that’s why they’re turkeys you just never know what they’ll do.. :-)
I have had a lot of birds late in the season hang up on my DSD jake set-up that typically charge-in earlier in the season. I'm going to try just my upright hen and my feeding hen tomorrow. My reasoning is that the old boys are tired of fighting by this point in the action. They know that if they stop and strut and do their thing that old hen will come to them rather than a scrawny jake so why take the chance in yet another fight? Now turkeys being turkeys I'm sure there are 100 scenarios where this wasn't the case but it has been something I've experienced enough times over the past few years to lend some merit to it. Hopefully I see a more positive response on just the hen set-up.
The last two posts are interesting given how discrepant they are and the fact that they come from two guys who know an awful lot about killing turkeys! Just goes to show there's more than one way to skin a cat...
Chris, Joe and their crew have certainly killed far more turkeys than we have! I do think the situation though on late season birds is very dependent upon location and the behavior of the turkeys you are personally hunting. That's what makes turkey hunting so much fun for me, the variables from location to location and even from bird to bird that you have to try to noodle through! You wouldn't think a bird with a pea sized brain would drive a guy crazy like that! :)
Late morning is golden. Sleep in and head out around 10. Good luck
To add to the last few comments, I think it also depends on if the birds your hunting have seen decoys or not.... birds that have been played with, pressures by a hunter many times and seen decoys will get Leary fast where birds that haven’t seen the old DSD Jake will beat him up on the spot spring summer fall and winter from my own experiences.
The last 2 weekends I had multiple toms turn and actually kick up dust the other way after they saw the DSD jake decoy with a hen...Crazy stuff!! Pulled the jake and went with 3 hens alone last Saturday and had 2 toms walk right in, they did however follow 2 hens though so I don't know what made the ultimate difference, however, 1 earlier tom hung up at about 40 yards BUT did not turn and run. It was a very odd season here. I f I was going again, I think Id stick with hens by themselves from here on out....
This has been a super quiet year for turkey calls and calling in all of the areas I have hunted (Colo, S Dak, and Nebr). In fact, I've been super depressed because I've hardly heard ANY gobbling from mid season to now! When they were in their winter flocks I heard a lot more. I really think the predator population (especially coyotes) is booming. Coyotes are recovered well from the mange they had in years past. I've heard a few gobbles on the roost and that's pretty much it during daylight. The turkeys also have been on super high alert and spooky.
With that said, I've watched gobs of lone hens and small groups of hens the past few weeks that haven't let out a peep and seem super spooky. I've heard a few super soft "putting" and that's it! The toms have pretty much silent. One of the few toms I watched and heard gobble...I found what was left of him the following morning (a pile of feathers). I also watched a coyote stalk my tom decoy...until he winded me at 50 yards from the decoy! You would expect toms to be gobbling trying to locate mating hens...but I've been hearing nothing!
I'm not sure if calling of any kind is going to work very well when they are in super spooky-quiet mode? The turkeys are pretty well dispersed over large areas which makes finding them when they are quiet very difficult....especially in trees/brush. I usually run and gun/spot and stalk hunt so spend an incredible amount of time behind glass and covering miles of country in a day. It would be super frustrating sitting in 1 spot with decoys all day with so few turkeys scattered over literally miles of country. I've been pretty successful so far (7 toms) but it's been a heck of a lot more work than "normal"...especially with turkey numbers are around 1/3 of what they were a few years ago! I've lost count of how many coyotes I've seen...I hope many of you take up coyote hunting...there are gobs of them available!
Believe me, the turkeys that are surviving the booming coyote population are a new breed of turkey! The turkeys that live are quiet and run for the hills once off the roost! Possibly keep that in mind if you have lots of coyotes in your area!
To wrap this up, I'd say watch closely to the reaction of turkeys in your particular area to decoys and different calls (lack of calls/intensity of calls). I've found that the more flexible and observant I am of turkey behavior the better chance I have for success. If something doesn't work...be willing to change! Persistence almost always pays...so stick with it!
A buddy and I set out 2 jake and 3 hen decoys last weekend and called in 3 toms together right into the spread. Every tom we saw that morning was by themselves from sunup till we called the 3 in around 10:30 am. It was pretty funny watching them strut around in the spread, I wish I would of taken a picture of it. As far as calling goes, we threw the book at them and did everything from soft clucks and purs to fast and excited cutting. It seemed to work well.
Gonna try 1 hen for awhile?
I very rarely get the chance to hunt private ground, therefore it is usually only hens for decoys. Public ground in the Northeast? NO WAY would I have anything near me that resembled a Gobbler! Not even a jake.
Lone hen and in the timber. I like huntin the ridges late season in away from the field edges. Call sparingly, soft yelps and mostly just peeps and clucks . Toms do a lot of cruising through the timber mid day just like bucks looking for hot does. Often they won't talk but come in silent so ya gotta have your eyes turned on. If I can get one to talk back I can usually get him close. I've killed more Tom's hunting deep in the timber than on fields and most of them have been mid morning to early afternoon. Some see the decoy and some get killed before they do . I don't think the decoy is totally necessary but when the Tom sees it he immediately drops his wings and puffs up which slows him down and takes his attention away from my location where he's heard the calling come from.
Great post and great responses. This morning, got a tom gobbling in the roost....all by himself. Perfect set up I thought. Was able to get decoys down and set up about 100 yards away. He came off the roost and went away from me, did a huge circle and never gobbled once he hit the ground. Came in from a different direction I was expecting, he never fanned or strutted. Held up at 60 then went on his way. I had a DSD jake, upright hen and bedded hen set up. I think I was too aggressive with the calling and he was an old bird that has only to make a few more days to get through this season. Much difference reaction then last weekend when we caught a group in the trees and pulled two Toms right in off the roost, the boys killed em both. I was kind of wondering the same thing the OP stated. This has been good. Thanks guys.
I normally do well every year in TN. I’ll longbow them and run-n-gun with the Benelli some, doing some hub and natural blind stuff with the bow.
I don’t think anybody really has turkey hunting nailed down to a science. Just like ducks; nobody really knows as much as they want to think.
I kill turkeys because I hunt as much as possible. I’ll sleep in the woods with my dekes out, just to be there. I’ve killed many after being awaken by a bird at bow range. It ain’t nothing to brag about, but I just hunt as much as possible.
That’s the point - hunt as much as you can, and be flexible. Observe when you can, and call the play afterward. Study all the gurus’ stuff out there so you have plays added to be playbook. Don’t take any of it as hard-fast rules.
The amount of dekes and types I carry depends on what I want on my back that day. That’s it.
If what I'm doing is not working I try something different. That and just don't give up.
Hen dusting, tom in background
Hen dusting, tom in background
Turkeys gobbling about 30-45 minutes before sun up.
About 6 AM a hen shows up in range and preens herself, takes a dirt bath. Another one shows up and checks out the decoys.
After 1/2 hour of answering various calls, the tom finally gets off his roost and shows up outside of range. Trying to coax the dusting hen and her sister who is not dusting. The second hen decides to dust too. Chases the first one of the spot them they both sit down and dust. At the same time the tom is strutting back and forth, back and forth to try and get their attention.
The hens finally walk off, but tom doesn't leave, actually starts coming closer to the decoys (75-100 yards same as earlier in the week). Then three other toms show up, again outside of range and make a beeline for the small knoll where the first tom is strutting and the ladies disappeared. By then he has dropped out of sight. They strut fan for about 15-20 minutes then they disappear into the pines, same place as all the others. I do have a blind on that side of the field but it again would be out of range. Arrrgh..
The three toms, strutting out of range.
Patience. Call soft and seldom. With a little luck they’ll be back in a few hrs
Tony, get a fan and move in on those gobblers.
"The three toms, strutting out of range. Any suggestions?? "
12 ga/2 oz's of 5's ... ;)
Usually adding some sort of movement to decoys helps a lot (where legal)! Also, leave the blind at the truck. Smart toms and hens often know exactly what decoys and a blind are. As mentioned above, call as softly and as little as you can get by with! Sometimes 0 calling is more effective....especially if toms know you are in the area. Patience, persistence, and wiliness to change things up are key!
Been hunting turkeys since 1978. Happens every year. I think no decoys. Once they decoys they usually just struck and gobble. If they can see the decoys they’ll keep looking fir them. I also go silence . Once they quit gobbling they may be moving in. Laughed at “ go home empty handed “! Maybe even ditch the blind.
It was a tough year, but I heard more birds than ever this season(over now) ..... I hunt State/F&W areas, so pressure is heavy and some idiots go out and precall before season and educate the birds ..... all are draw hunts ... usually a 3 day hunt ... if your drawn for a later hunt, those birds by then have heard and seen it all by then .... I had Toms numerous times hang up in the woods, and not come to the decoys while the hens came right on thru or the Toms flew down and went the other direction ... I'm a shotgun guy on these places, hard to use a blind (which I have a nice DB) .... I set up either on the field edge or woods/clearings .... I tried soft calling, calling sparingly, aggressive calling and just shutting up once it sounded like the Tom was getting closer... they still hung up ... I'm a pretty good caller too .... here is some of my decoy set ups... a Strutter Jake using a real jake fan and a single hen.... what matters is that I had fun and saw and heard birds...
that last pic was my last day on that particular property ^^^.... not soon after that pic I had a nice tom and two jakes come in to the left of the Jake Decoy on a small ridge, the Tom fluffed and fanned, but wouldnt come in (55-60 yds out).. the two Jakes milled around, after about ten minutes all three walked off to the east up the lane(my left) then 10 minutes later 5 hens walked right thru unconcerned going the same direction ...... the hens never knew I was there .... go figure ....
This was May 12th, 2nd to the last day of the season on a smaller State property I was drawn for but never hunted nor stepped foot on till that early Am .... I looked at the maps on HuntStand, noticed a finger of woods and said, thats where I'm heading to... a good call so to speak... by the time I got there it was just breaking light and a Tom was gobbling in the finger of woods in the pic... got the decoys set out.. waited and did some soft tree yelps and he gobbled... a storm was slowly coming in so I figured I'd have about an hour and a half before the strong winds and lightening hit ..
He gobbled his head off, I saw him fly down, he landed within the woods... I shut up by then....next he gobbled, he was on the other side of those woods heading to a 200+ acre private field that was freshly plowed, I yelped, he gobbled but he continued to that big field going west away from me...... never did he come my way ... as the storm came in I bailed and got back to the truck after a 1 mile walk just as all hell broke loose with the storm... I packed up and went home, thus ending my season empty handed ...... Oh, one other thing..... on these properties, you have to STOP hunting at noon time, no afternoon turkey hunting (????) ... so, when the hens head to the nests, and Toms are off by themselves, your SOL ........ I still give the whole season a 8 out of 10 ....
“Smart ol’ boy” is often a two-year-old that’s had us butt whipped too many times. I still get far better response to jake decoys on January hunts, and the first few days of a spring season. Wish we could hunt in mid-March when the toms are still flocked up, but the testosterone is flowing. Kansas and Texas have some of the highest predator (coyote) numbers in the nation — birds gobble their snoods off much of the time.
Better to be on the travel routes with no decoy than to try to make em go where the have no desire to be by using a decoy. Hunt turkeys more like you would hunt a November buck and get off those field edges. That's even more important when hunting public land and having a limitation on hunt hours. Adult toms will travel alone in between areas where groups of turkeys tend to hang out . As birds get picked off by guys the adult toms get quiet once they hit the ground and will more likely start traveling alone. Thats what I have observed with my local turkey population anyway. Not saying that's how it works where others hunt cause I have only hunted turkeys close to home. Over the years I have come to like the late hunt . The weather is more stable and the birds behavior tends to suit my style of hunting . I can only shoot one Tom a year so I have to pick my hunt time well and make it count.
Do you use a "gobbler" call late season with much success?
If so, when? After you hear a gobble?
Ive never used one, but then again I'm on state land and dont want to call in another hunter ... dont know how effective they even are
Haha super easy decision if you are hunting the heavily pressured Wisconsin public land I do. 1-No, 2-No, 3-No, 4-No. And as for any kind of calling.............Hell no. My memory sucks but even I can remember these answers.
The only exception would be if you had a need to steer a tom away from an area so he would take a route nearer to your setup. Because guaranteed by me he will change his travel route so as not to come closer than 40 yards to any decoy. Usually more like 70-80 if he has the space. This goes even if it's windy and giving your deke good movement.
I select good observation setup when my hunt begins so I can have the best view of an entire field. I glass a lot and closely observe frequented spots for Toms. Then I move my setup to the hot spot and put the dekes & calls away. Such a place is where I’ll be Tuesday for the last day of my WI hunt.
I love hunting meriams, but they do not compare, to pressured Wis eastern gobblers, tough birds to hunt,,,,,,, at this time of year, we now have our latest season ever, and I got another tag, for this Wed..........
Been watching a nice big one across the road from me, in one of our fields, he usually comes out around noon,,,,,, my plan is what we used last week, with good results,,,,
spot bird in field and make approach,,,,, my decoy, is simply my small black umbrella, which I open and move in,,,, sometimes push it in and out a few times, and stay behind it,,,,,, it is that simple,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, does it always work, no, but it has been doing well so far.......................................
other than that, sitting on evening roost areas, but they are not always consistent,,,,,,
3 weeks ago, I was in the hill country of SW Wis,,,, those are the toughest birds I ever hunted, they are constantly being hunted by coyotes, and are extremely wary, and stay on the high ridges, and have learned to stay put, so you need your boot leather on them.......
I was down in SE MN over the weekend, heard 2 gobbles.
Had an opportunity to hunt night before close to home prior to the trip but we had 1/2 hour of hail.
After coming home from an extremely hot camping trip with family (trout fishing was hot!!), had an opportunity to get out again last night, again 15-20 minutes of hail.
I guess I need a fiberglass blind and metal turkeys...