Mathews Inc.
big woods turkey run and gun
Contributors to this thread:
LaughingWater 04-May-23
JohnMC 04-May-23
MA-PAdeerslayer 04-May-23
Mad Trapper 04-May-23
wisconsinteacher 04-May-23
WV Mountaineer 04-May-23
KSBOW 04-May-23
Carolina Counsel 04-May-23
Whocares 04-May-23
WV Mountaineer 04-May-23
Thornton 04-May-23
LaughingWater 05-May-23
LaughingWater 05-May-23
greg simon 05-May-23
KY EyeBow 05-May-23
Bake 05-May-23
WV Mountaineer 05-May-23
I'm new to turkey hunting, and don't have access to any ag land etc. Instead I am running and gunning in eastern hardwood mountainous forests. I don't have a mentor, but have been inspired by Steve Rinella and others who have put shows out with this strategy. I am looking for feedback on my approach.

First, I am not typically able to roost a bird the night before and wait for fly down. I usually start out around day break with a plan to hike a 6-8 mile loop through a state park that i know has birds. i carry a fold up hen decoy and a jake decoy in a backpack. I hit a crow call about every quarter or mile or so, and listen for a gobble. In 7 trips, i have heard gobbles 6 times. I have not called any birds into range though.

So hear are my questions.

For guys that are hunting like this, are you mostly staying on trail? Or are you getting off trail to hardwood ridgetops etc?

I feel like ridgetops will get me closer to where birds are more likely to be, but once i'm off trail, i feel like i'm making a ton of noise because of all the dry leaves on the ground. I figure if i can hear a turkey shock gobble, that turkey can hear me crunching leaves, and i feel like he's probably already on his way out of there before he gobbles.

If you're hunting like this and you hear a gobble, how close do you try to get to the bird before setting up? Again, i feel like i'd be making a ton of noise with all the leaves on the ground, so i am basically setting up right when I hear a gobble (unless it is super far off). Its hard to know how far away the birds are, but i think i am often a few hundred yards away, which i think is a pretty far distance to call in a gobbler?

Any thoughts on calling? Again, i am new so i am thinking less is better than more. I'm basically using a friction call to cut, yelp and purr.

thanks for any thoughts

From: JohnMC
I would start a little earlier than day break. Get to an area where you think turkeys are likely to be early. Close to an hour before sunrise. Try to get them gobbling on roost. You should be able to get them to shock gobble early. When you find a roost get in as close as you can. Do a little soft calling and hope you are in direction they want to go. In the dark you can often get closer than you think.

If that doesn't work and you hear gobbles you need to get closer than a few hundred yards if you can. If you know where they are likely heading try to get in front of them. It is a lot easy to call a turkey to where they want to go instead of away from.

I hunt more ag type ground. So big hardwoods might be different. With that said turkeys usually feed in the same general area each day. If you can figure out where they like to go be there waiting.

Don't give turkeys too much credit. They are not smart but can be scared of anything. But stepping on few leaves a long ways from them not the end of the world. Turkey make plenty of noise scratching around.

I hunt big woods and John hit it on the head.

From: Mad Trapper
Good advice above. I have been running and gunning in Pennsylvania for over 40 years. In my section of Pa, the birds are pressured. Good luck trying to get them to shock gobble. The owls and hawks are thick , not to mention the coyotes and fishers. They simply don’t gobble much on the roost like they did 10 years ago. When you hear one you need to get as close as possible to them before they pitch down. The terrain and level of vegetation will play a great role here. As the season progresses, and the vegetation increases, you can get a lot closer. You need to make it as easy as possible for him and possibly his hens to come to you. You may have to spend a few days learning where he likes to roost and where he likes to go. I always try to be in front of him where he wants to go. The farther that you set up from him, the more likely that he will be taken away by some hens or pushed by a predator or other hunter before he gets to you. Good luck.

I like to stay above the birds when I set up. I think walking ridges would be better than just walking trails. I would also use a turkey call to try striking a bird. I use a crow call to keep tabs on birds but that doesn't always make one gobble. Also, try a coyote howl or an owl call during the day to get one to gobble.

You are in my wheel house. This is how I hunt them here in WV. Turkey hunting was meant for roaming.

Mornings be high. Get high on the mountain. If it’s steep country, you can hear them a very long ways off. That’s important. It’ll dictate where you loop that day.

In the hardwoods, look for north or eastern aspect. Turkeys will go to the first green like bees will go to honey. And, it always greens up around the creeks and on those slopes first.

Aside from that, it’s a miles game. Cover ground until you find one. I’d put the locator calls up and do hen calls go get a gobble. If he’s close setup and get ready. Call often trying to take his temperature and to fire him up. If he plays, get him coming Then tone down after he breaks and starts your way. Give him just enough to let him know you are still there and get ready.

If he’s hung up, make him gobble a lot then shut up. He’ll go quiet for a while. We are talking 5-10 minutes. Don’t call. If ges killable he will gobble on his own after not hearing you for 10 minutes or so.

When he does start gobbling on his own, stay quiet. He will gobble a bit then get quiet. He’s coming 9 out of 10 times. Set still and watch and listen.

If he’s a pressured bird and you aren’t on the high ground, you should have set up there. Because 99 out of 100 times he’s going to sneak to that place above you and hang up. If this happens, move as soon as you can once he gobbled above you.

Don’t waste an hour trying to call him down to you. He isn’t coming. Move. Even if if it’s away from him. Get far enough away that he has to leave his new high ground in order to find his hen. If you don’t, he’s not going to move. This bird is going to be hard to kill. And forcing him to leave that high ground is the only chance you have to kill him. And, that works about 50% of the time.

I could go on for days. But, the basics for big woods Turkey hunting in steep terrain is to understand the birds usually roost higher on the hill than lower. They want the high ground when looking for the hen. So, if you surrender it, and you will, he’s going to burn you, unless you can set up in a way to intercept him headed for that high ground.

The steelier the terrain, the better the odds are in his favor. Look for setups that steer him into view when he’s coming. And, be prepared to cover distance until you find one that will play. If you do this, you’ll get the gist of it and your gut will start guiding you. Good luck.

Check out the hunting public guys on youtube on their turkey tour they go to multiple states with situations like yours.

Southeastern states public land turkeys are in my opinion, the cagiest birds in the US.

I’ve hunted big tracts of government land down there. And when you tangle with a mature bird. You have a challenging hunt. It’s also my favorite way to hunt them.

Hunting them here on my place is no where near the challenge that those southern birds pose.

Great points above. Lose the crow call and stick to yelping and cutting to get a bird to gobble after fly down, particularly later in the morning. Be aggressive in closing distance. Don't just sit down as soon as you hear the bird gobble unless he is obviously close. Remember, woodsmanship kills a lot more birds than crafty calling. Use terrain and cover to close to where you think the bird wants to be, not necessarily where he is at the time. Also, be mindful of shadows and use them. Direct sunlight can be your enemy in the open woods. Finally, I don't like decoys in general and I really don't like them in the woods.

From: Whocares

Whocares's embedded Photo
Me Tuesday evening.
Whocares's embedded Photo
Me Tuesday evening.
WV, I often tell guys turkey hunting and elk hunting are so much alike. The calling strategy you mention is similar to some elk situations. You start calling then the turkey or elk is hunting you. Then the fun begins deciding how, when, and if to call. Turkey is somewhat easier to pack out though.

The last three posts are my thoughts exactly. But, put much better than I did.

From: Thornton
That's a lot of work. My last 3 turkey hunts lasted an hour.

thank you for all the replies. A few people said "figure out where he wants to go."

What is the right way to think of that in an area where there is food everywhere, he isn't bedding for another 8-10 hours, and there is a lot of water around, especially after a recent rain?

Do you mean terrain features like benches and saddles?

sorry - another question - like i said, i have been concerned about sounds from the leaves when off trail. It seems like i am too worried based on what others said above.

So if you are off trail and you hear a gobble, how are you closing the distance? just quickly without regard for sound? or are you going slow, trying to sound like a turkey scratching its way through the woods?

thanks again

From: greg simon
Definitely go slow and as quiet as possible. It's common for a gobbler to hear you walking and come your way.

From: KY EyeBow
Turkeys make lots of noise in the woods so they're not too scared of a human walking. As far as how close to get, the closer the better but your terrain and vegetation will tell you how close you can. At the end of the day, you've got to get out there and learn the old fashioned way,,,, from your mistakes. The way you are trying to kill them is not easy and much different than shooting farmland birds from an enclosed blind. I cut my teeth turkey hunting like you are doing and it is still my favorite way. The other thing I would suggest is to try and find a mentor locally that will show you the ropes. It can springboard your knowledge base and kill success. Good advise above too.

From: Bake
You need to get out there earlier. It's fine to close on roosted birds, but I don't like doing it anymore. I used to get out there at daylight, hear one gobbling and then move in. I busted more hens, jakes and other toms off roosts than I care to think about.

Now, my favorite tactic is to get into the woods super early. At least half an hour (usually longer) before any light. Don't use a light. Set up. I have sat underneath roosted toms on multiple occasions as long as I got there early enough when it was still dark dark. Of course, I have a good idea where toms will roost, even when I didn't roost them the night before.

Ideally I want to be well within 100 yards by the time they can see. It takes a while to figure out and learn where birds are apt to roost.

You want to be on the high ground. Most birds here will pitch off the roost to the ridge top. Not always, but they prefer it I believe.

If this doesn't work, then it's run and gun time. I like really excited cuts and cackles on a high pitched slate call to get birds to gobble. Lose the crow call. That's an old gimick in my opinion, at least it's never worked for me in Missouri. A roosted bird might gobble at a crow cawing right above him, but that's about it.

If a bird gobbles, you quickly need to assess the distance he is at. This just takes experience. Then I like to get as close as possible, calling along the way until that tom is super excited. I get as close as I dare, then I sit down and shut up. It doesn't always work, and sometimes I spook birds. But it's fun when it happens

Good luck

Leaf noise will help you. Not hurt you. Where he wants to go is above you. If there’s a bench, that’s what it’s going to be.

In steep He isn’t going to strut around on a steep. He’s looking for the first flat area above you.

There are no definite s. Everything is relative. You gotta get out there and start gaining knowledge.

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