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Hunting Turkey in the Snow

The wind was blowing the snow completely horizontal as my friend Les and I put on our hip boots. That April afternoon we were in the midst of a full fledged blizzard, getting ready to cross the river to set up near a turkey roost. I carried a Double Bull blind and my seat, Les had his gun and seat. As we started our mile long trek Les said “I bet we are the only dedicated turkey hunters on the river right now.” I said “Les…I don’t think dedicated is the best word to describe us.”

The roost was in an old river channel and we found the slight drop in elevation protected us from the wind. In the blind it was really quite pleasant as we watched big flakes of snow float softly to the ground. We called periodically, and a little before sunset I looked out my side of the blind. Just 25 feet away there was some movement at the top of some weeds that I couldn’t figure out. Finally I realized I was looking at the head and neck of a hen turkey. I didn’t recognize what I saw at first, because she was covered with a half inch of snow from the base of her neck to her tail. Her body just blended in with the white background. The hen fed around the blind for a while and eventually shook off all the snow that had accumulated on her. Les commented how cold, wet, and miserable she looked. The hen soon moved off and flew up to roost about 70 yards away. We managed to slip out of the area without flushing her. Les and I never saw or heard a gobbler that evening, but I will never forget that hunt. Hunting turkeys in the snow can produce some special memories.

I do most of my turkey hunting out west and spring snowstorms are not uncommon during the turkey season. I have experienced spring snows as late as the third week in May. Our spring snows usually come with a good dose of wind, and many fall into the blizzard category. It seems I hunt turkeys in the snow at least once every other spring, and two or three times in some of the more volatile springs. I have put together some observations on how a spring snow affects turkeys and hunting them. However, my experience with hunting turkeys in snow is limited to the Rio Grande and Merriam’s turkey. I have yet to hunt Easterns in the snow. If you are hunting out west for a Rio or Merriam’s and find yourself hunting in snow, then perhaps you may find some of the following information useful.


Both Rios and Merriam’s tend to gather in pretty large flocks in the winter. In cold late springs these flocks don’t break up until just before the spring hunting season opens. An early spring snowstorm can delay flock break up.  Once breakup occurs, a snowstorm may cause the birds to regroup into flocks of 10-25 birds. For Rios this means the flocks may be fewer and farther in between, but more birds in each flock. In the case of Merriam’s in the mountains, the birds may migrate vertically downhill in a spring snow after flocking back together. If you are hunting public lands, which are usually at higher elevations, the birds may just move to lower elevations which are usually private lands. Since these spring snows are not uncommon, some turkeys do take them in stride and stay up high.  When hunting higher elevation public lands during a storm, I have managed to find a few birds still weathering the storm.

Turkeys may just choose to hole up in sheltered areas during the intense part of a storm.  The birds are out there 24/7 and will have to feed and move about sooner or later. When a storm finally does break the toms are pretty anxious to get back to the task of breeding. If the snow quits and the wind dies down some gobblers may start sounding off even in the middle of the day. And if the temps are rising with some snow melting, things will be getting back to normal relatively quickly. However, if the snow is very deep (close to a foot or more) it may take several days for the turkeys to resume their normal routine.

Prolonged cold and several storms during the spring may delay nesting in hens for a week or more. This could affect how the breeding flock structure progresses later in the season. The hens may not be leaving the gobblers as readily to lay their eggs.


There are really not many advantages of hunting in snow. The competition of other hunters certainly is reduced. About the only other hunters out there are ones that pre-planned a hunt for that particular time and ended up hunting in the snow by chance, or the few turkey hunting nuts, like me, that think its fun to chase gobblers in the snow. Local hunters normally just wait for the weather to improve.

Turkey hunting in the snow

Here   Tracks will certainly be more easily revealed wherever turkeys roam. In snow it is easy to tell fresh tracks from those even a few hours old. You may be able to track a flock and anticipate the direction they are going and have an opportunity to head them off. Tracks that end suddenly or start from nowhere indicate the location where turkeys have flown up or down from a tree. Find this subtle clue and you have probably just found a roost site.

Turkeys are much easier to see in the snow. Out west where the country is open, it is very likely that you could spot a flock from a good distance just by doing some glassing with binoculars. Spotting turkeys is also simpler because the size of the area to search may be reduced if some portions of it are clear of snow. Wind can blow areas clear or the sun will melt the south facing slopes sooner, so check those spots first. Even though turkeys could easily scratch through shallow snow, they seem to prefer clear ground or where the snow is almost gone.


The biggest disadvantage of a spring snowstorm may be the inability to get to the hunting area. Backcountry roads can be difficult to navigate at best. Many are just not plowed. Even when the storm is over and the snow is melting the roads can be very slippery. However if you happen to be camping in your hunting area when the storm hits, those same difficult roads could keep others from getting in, this turns a disadvantage into an advantage. Just make sure you are always prepared for the unexpected and have plenty of food, water and warmth.

Crunchy snow can be another major problem. Spring snows are almost always a wet snow. The daytime temperature may be close to, or above the freezing mark, but nighttime temps usually go below freezing. This means that slushy wet snow becomes hard and results in a very noisy, crunchy snow by morning. Consequently, it can be extremely difficult if not impossible to move in on a roosted gobbler. Not only can turkeys hear you moving from a great distance, they can see shadows against the snow in very low light. You lose the cover of darkness.

Although, you can see turkeys better in the snow, they can also see you better. For a turkey, their eyes are its greatest asset. It is especially challenging for a hunter to try to remain hidden on a carpet of white. A white sheet over your legs and partially up your waist can help you blend in while sitting up against a dark tree. The sheet can easily be carried in the back pouch of a turkey vest when moving.

As I mentioned previously, turkeys may flock up a bit and that means more areas without turkeys. This can mean a lot of leg work before you make any contact with birds. For Merriam’s this is especially the case because their density is less concentrated.  The inclement weather may also tone down the frequency of gobbling.

The cold and wet can make for some uncomfortable hunting. Waterproof outerwear is a must. Since I travel for most of my turkey hunting, I always pack extra clothes and even an old turkey vest as a spare. This allows me to hunt in very wet weather and not have to worry too much if something ends up totally soaked. I can go back out hunting with a spare item while the soaked one is drying. I like to wear Lacrosse rubber knee high boots in wet weather. Even in mountains the ankle fit boots will allow me to maneuver around without any problems and still keep my feet dry. I have an insulated pair I use if it is very cold. With the Lacrosse felt insoles, the boots are very comfortable and I can walk all day in them. A good seat or pad that keeps you dry can mean the difference between a pleasant hunt and a miserable one. Calls and other gear should also be protected or waterproof.

During snowfall, gun sights may become clogged or covered with snow. Even after it has stopped snowing this may occur as you move about and inadvertently brush snow off branches. This becomes a greater concern if you hunt with a scope or dot-type sight on your gun. I always check my sight frequently to be sure it is clear. A scope or dot sight can also fog up in cold wet weather.

Turkey hunting in the snow

Here If you find yourself in turkey country that is carpeted in white, get after them if you can. There are some added challenges, but some special memories can be made…and you might even end up with a “snowbird.”

Gary Meinke

Grand Slam Network.com    

Evolution of Turkey Hunters

What do automobiles, country music, and turkey hunters from 1980 have in common with today’s versions of the same? In my opinion, all three have experienced the same dramatic changes and evolved along similar paths over the past 34 year period. Today’s cars are sleeker, trucks ride better than cars, all have high tech features and sensors, and some even have televisions in them. Country music has evolved beyond Conway Twitty and Porter Wagner and now has rock and roll drummers and guitar players, and an entirely different sound with lots of young people involved. Today’s turkey hunters have evolved in much the same fashion in very similar aspects when it comes to transitional changes, styles, product option alternatives, and the younger generation.


The idea to compare “todays” turkey hunter with “yesterdays” and discuss the “evolution” as I view it was inspired by a couple of occurrences.  The first was from spending a day with a few older generation veteran turkey hunters that I served with as a judge at an Alabama State Turkey Calling Contest. The stories they told about earlier days including some about Ben Lee were fascinating.  They had been involved in some of the very first turkey calling contest and ran in the same circles that most would consider pioneers of turkey hunting.

The second was a result of sharing camp in Texas in 2004 with an older gentleman named John. I don’t remember Johns’ last name but he was from Tennessee and shared the ranch with our group of six guys that year. He was 72 years old, in good shape, and drove to Texas to hunt turkeys and back to Tennessee each year by himself.  He had alot of personality and I liked the guy right off and grew to respect him as I got to know him. My conversations with him were interesting.

Mr. John started hunting back in the 1960s and hunted everything that walked the woods including turkeys. He told me you were lucky to even hear a bird gobble more than a couple times a season when he first started hunting. He used to just sit on a ridge saddle all morning with a piece of slate and a handmade striker, and would only cluck or purr once an hour and occasionally kill turkeys. As I listened to him talk it was easy to understand times were different and so was turkey hunting. He even talked about roost shooting and said that was one of the ways he did it because it was one of the few times you knew where they were and turkey hunting was not the sport it is today. His season didn’t necessarily run exactly with the DNR’s as he considered the season to start when turkeys started gobbling and ended when they stopped. But, he said, “that was back in the day and it was an accepted way to do it”. Now he hunted them differently. He had changed and evolved with the times as had his hunting tactics.       

 Changed But Different

But he still didn’t do it like we did it. He didn’t own a vest, a decoy, or any of the modern day products many of us buy into. In fact, while the six of us were messing around prepping all our turkey hunting gear for the next morning, he just sat on a stool in his one piece long johns with the built in rear flap, having a drink of whiskey watching us. When we got up in the morning and “loaded up our stuff”  and  drove off in trucks or golf carts, with packed turkey vest, turkey loungers, decoys, GPS, radios, and a half dozen calls in our vest, he just stood there drinking coffee grinning and wishing us good luck. I got the feeling he found all of us amusing and that he knew something we didn’t. When he left you weren’t sure if he was going hunting or to the store because it looked like he had forgotten his gear and didn’t have what was needed to get the job done. But in reality, all he wanted or needed was a mouth call and a shotgun.

According to him, his day to day approach was to ease through the woods, call, move some more, and stand against a tree when he was working a turkey. He never sat down unless he was tired. He did wear camo although his gun wasn’t camoed and it looked like Willie Nelson’s guitar. I believe the man had fallen down while carrying it a few times or dragged his gun behind his truck. I don’t really know but if gouges and scratches give something character, his gun was loaded with it.

He got his birds quickly the year we shared camp, packed his truck up with one Rubbermaid container, and drove back to Tennessee. I was told by the outfitter it was the same each year he hunted there. I remember thinking about the contrast between him and our group and realizing that with time, ways, and means really do change.

22 Years Ago

I entered the turkey hunting arena in 1992 and felt fortunate to be coming in at a point in time where many of the pioneers of the sport had produced cassette tapes and videos that had an influence on how I perceived and approached turkey hunting. I wore out an old Ben Lee cassette listening to it over and over my first spring season. I really didn’t know beyond a point how others had gone about it but I did try to understand what turkey hunting was perceived to be at the time. We all learn from our teachers and are influenced by who or what we’re exposed to. Mine happened in the early 1990’s but from influences that originated in the 70’s and 80’s, while those coming in today are being taught by a whole new group of teachers and influences.

I can’t say for sure how it was in 1980 because I wasn’t involved. But what I remember from 1992 was that the “accepted” gun range was 25-30 yards with #6s and 35-40 yards with copper plated #4s. The videos produced were mostly by the pros and every gobbler killed (at least according to the video) was called to 20 times. Hen decoys were on the market and I didn’t believe I could kill a bird without one, so I carried two around thinking that was twice as good. I remember camo gun socks were always on the shelf at Walmart and later seeing my first camoed turkey gun up at the old Bargain Barn in Jasper. Lynch box calls were part of every turkey hunter’s vocabulary and most owned at least one. I owned two. I had never heard of a hunting forum but there were turkey articles to read in various magazines. The 3700 acre river swamp lease I hunted was shared with three other turkey hunters because only 4 of out of 14 members had any interest in turkeys. Two of the three were always out of the woods by 9:30 and only two of us hunted afternoons.  A 200 acre lease in Jones County near Cedar Creek WMA that only cost me $300 was my back up property in case the Flint River Swamp flooded. In fact, leasing turkey rights from deer hunters was easy to do because no one seemed to turkey hunt back then compared to now. Old fashioned scouting was the only way to know what you were hunting and trail cams were a futuristic concept. Bug Tamer Suits showed up a few years later with Thermal cells still on the horizon.


Now feeders and trail cams are everywhere and do much of the scouting for us saving countless hours in the field. And to avoid snakes and chiggers, we can be view them remotely from the comfort of our homes or office. Gobbler decoys, blinds, and fanning, have become more and more popular. Videos are common and we have three “Outdoor Channels”. Camoed guns, tightly choked barrels, and super loads have created a lot of 50 plus yard shooters which means what used to be considered “hung up birds” are now dying. Over 40,000 people attend the NWTF Convention each year and there’s an abundance of options when it comes to products that fill up the cart compared to 1980 at which time almost all the options on the market if you owned them, could be carried in your two cargo pants pockets.

Today’s turkey hunters include a wide range and a great blend of individuals that includes a crossover of three generations of turkey hunters that blends old and new school mentalities. In my view this has created three general profiles of hunter groups and the framework for the evolution.

Earlier Generation Hunters

I can’t really describe what the true earlier generation of hunters would be because I didn’t have enough exposure to them. So what I mention here applies more to some I was exposed to when I first started and how I believe many still operate today.

Many in this group originate from the early days or they’re molded after and strongly influenced by those that hunted prior to the real product expansion period. Many are younger and entered later but adopted their predecessor’s philosophy.  Some might consider them “hardcore” as they hold strong in their beliefs. They all have a history of success and have a passionate perception of what turkey hunting is supposed to be based on their entry into the sport and their influences of the time. Most believe the only shootable turkey is one that comes to the call or a very limited list of encounter type scenarios. What many believe to be useful accessory products, they consider props. They don’t own a blind or decoy and a bird has to be inside a tight circle of range they’ve adopted as a standard because it’s where they believe a bird should be brought into before he’s taken. They may equip themselves with guns, loads, and chokes capable of longer shots but still limit themselves to a specified perimeter. They put an emphasis on the three main elements of turkey hunting which include calling, woodsmanship, and turkey knowledge. This group is successful with less in their bag and is made up of experienced veterans with more of an old school type mindset and the fundamental basics being their keys. Because of the strong influence by the earlier mentors and influences, if they were not originals to this group, they’ve strived to progress with goals of evolving into this OGH membership after gaining years of experience and gradual skill improvements. As their personal bars rise with success, they drop off most of the accessories if they ever used them, and over time hunt with a shotgun and calls.  They are believers in doing the job with less with more limitations placed on how they shoot turkeys and they know how to work turkeys from 100 yards in with by choosing good setups, calling, and strategy.

 Mixed Generation Hunter

Many here are somewhat of a hybrid with a mix of “old school” and progressive mindsets. Hunters in this group were also affected by earlier older style influences but have adjusted ways and means as time progressed with a wider acceptance of accessories and a “softer core” than the “Earlier Generation Hunters”. They’ve enjoyed a good turkey population to hunt with early learning and development resulting more from field experience and old school traditions while recent years include modern day influences.  Their horizons have expanded and they utilize the loads and chokes available and accept that extended ranges handled responsibly are a part of their personal practice standards. They will reach out and touch birds at longer ranges extending their capabilities and bird counts. Use of decoys and blinds may or may not be included and they capitalize as turkey hunters taking birds beyond just the “called in” ones and are more opportunistic. Like EGH many personal style adjustments have come in increments as confidence in abilities progressed. The progression of experience alters their ways and means. They hunt with a blended style that incorporates and appreciates earlier approaches while enjoying many of the benefits of the modern day hunter. They are generally more open minded and to an extent many serve as crossovers and mix well with both EGH and newer generation hunters.                                            

Newer Generation Hunter

This is the newer generation that includes both young people but also those older in age but newer to turkey hunting. They enter in to a highly marketed, organized sport, enjoying a healthy turkey population to hunt and in an era that is televised 24 hours a day, and in the video and You-Tube period. Outdoor channels, internet access, community forums, I-Phones, GPS, trail cams, feeders, and numerous other accessories are at their fingertips and have become second nature. Blinds and decoys are mostly standard procedure with all options on the table because they’re accepted as a part of the modern day turkey hunting sport and have no reason not use them.  They are generally successful quicker with a wider range of methods and utilized means to kill turkeys. Where earlier generations took longer to become successful, the learning curve at least to the point it takes to kill turkeys is cut in half. “Kill methods” ways and means are increased as are harvest numbers compared to old school approaches. This combined with numerous encounters from a healthy gobbler population, more information, increased travel hunts with added bag limits, and more time in the field provides newer generation hunters opportunities to hit numbers in a few years that may have taken decades in the past. This new generation of hunters often provides video of varied styles of hunting considered exciting my many and bring new enthusiasm and a growth in participation to the sport.

We All Enjoy Turkey Hunting Our Own Way

To be very clear, I realize all of the aforementioned groups are blanket generalizations and there’s much more involved here. It’s impossible and unfair to try and fit everyone into any category. I describe what I have not as a judgment on any ones style of hunting nor do I believe there’s a right or wrong way for others to go about it. In fact I’ve held this piece for over two years reluctant to share it not wanting to risk stirring the pot. I mean no offense to anyone. It’s a simple observation, opinion, expressed perception, and views on the “evolution” as I see it.

I do admire the ones that adhere to more of an earlier generation style of hunting. Its hard not to because their standards, requirements, and in a way a self inflicted handicap, means that when they kill a turkey they’ve likely done it the most challenging way possible by doing  it with less. When it comes to pure skill and killing turkeys and someone is armed with only a call and a gun, it’s what’s’ in their head that matters and separates them from the rest. But that style and challenge may be considered too limited or not fun or enjoyable for everyone.

I believe there are definite differences in hunter styles and what’s considered turkey hunting today. There are differences in how and why birds are brought into range. For example:  Picking good setups, controlling movement,  and calling without use of any other accessories means a bird has to be methodically worked to be brought in from a 100 yards out and in to range. It’s that last 50-60 yards that is the most challenging for most of us. Calling and getting him in to 80-100 is often not that difficult, but breaking him loose from there and into shooting range can be.

By comparison if you call a gobbler into 100 yards and he sees a decoy, especially a gobbler decoy he may run in on his own being deked in instead of called and worked in. Either way the gobbler dies and both ways work, but there’s a definite difference in the type of hunt and the method in which the bird was taken. Both methods are considered turkey hunting and both are accepted ways and means that come down to a personal preference.

 An Example of Influence

I’d probably fit best into the “Mixed Generation” group and here’s a good example of one of my influences that helped shape me. Someone loaned me an old Ben Lee cassette tape that I played over and over. On it Mr. Lee and friends are riding down the road stopping and calling trying to strike a gobbler up. When they hear one, they take off running through the woods and set up on the bird. Mr. Lee narrates the hunt like a football game and calls out the yardage as the gobbler approaches. “The turkeys coming in…he’s 35 yards away…still coming and now just 30 yards…… we’re getting ready to shoot the bird…25 yards and BOOM! I remember the tape well because the gun shot was loud compared to the voices and it made you jump.

Understand that I did not know or hang around other turkey hunters aside from one person I shared the woods with occasionally, so this tape made me want to try to kill turkeys like they did. Although I really don’t know how Mr. Lee and others hunted all the time, this tape made me believe this is how it’s done. But the reality is, if I tried to kill turkeys exactly as I perceived they did, at 25-30 yards, I wouldn’t kill nearly as many. So even though I try to get birds in that close, I don’t limit myself to that and try not to let birds walk back out of a 45 yard circle.

But as far as early influences go, that one hunt stuck with me. Since then I’ve wondered just how many true old timers if hunting today, might be plastering birds and utilizing today’s chokes and guns. A lot may have had to do with the gun capabilities of the day. Where we may think that close range was a standard and a certainty for them, they may say “Are you kidding, do you know how many turkeys I could have killed if I had the chokes and loads you have today”?

Enjoy the Mix

Personally, I enjoy seeing all the newer hunters mixing in with others that have varied years of experience and influences that have created different make ups. I hunt with both young and old gun types. I’m somewhat of an opportunistic turkey hunter that likes to hunt and take turkeys in varying ways. I don’t use decoys but I used to. I don’t use blinds because I like to feel the air. As mentioned I try to avoid shooting over 45 yards because I have a pre set perception and self standard that was influenced from older days, and more importantly, I’ve missed too many birds already. I hunt the way I enjoy and not necessarily the way someone else enjoys or believes is the right way. I hunt like I believe all others should, for me and not someone else.

Modern Day

Cars and country music of the earlier days are great and should always be appreciated and respected for what they are. Todays cars and country music are also great in a different and evolved way. But no one forces us to do anything and we can still drive or listen to whatever we want. In my view the same comparison fits with the varying styles and preferred approaches of turkey hunters. We should all be thankful and respectful of those that walked before us and that set the table for this evolution to occur. And we should be thankful and respectful for those that are continuing to evolve even if it’s in a different way or doesn’t fit a personal perception.

It seems to me that just like country music, turkey hunting needs to be appealing to the newer generation of hunters and young people so that the sport is assured of growth and continuation. Look at all the videos that we share with each other each season from both older and younger hunters, both friends and family,  and how many are “high fiving” after a successful hunt. In a way we fire up and feed off each other at the same time. Videos and the camaraderie seen when hunts come together goes a long ways in helping draw others into the sport and fueling the drive for those already in it. The faster paced, wider range, of ways, and the enthusiastic young guns we have here draws more into the sport that one day will be tomorrows old timers.

I feel very fortunate to have entered into turkey hunting at the time I did. I was able to read about and listen to some of the earlier players and yet I now enjoy the benefits of progression that allows me to select the pieces I want incorporate into my turkey hunting approach.  The world is a different place today than 34 years ago and so is turkey hunting. It’s great that this sport continues to grow and watching this “Turkey Hunter’s Evolution” has been a fun and interesting experience.

So to be clear I’m not saying that yesterday or today’s turkey hunters, or anyone’s style is better or worse, or right or wrong when compared. What I am saying is that we all have varied perceptions and views based on our influences and exposures, all of which have varied through the years. What’s important is that it’s fun, rewarding, and healthy for the sport.

I’m sure that my old friend Mr. John from Tennessee would find all of us amusing.  But there’s no doubt in my mind, even if he was standing at the door grinning and shaking his head, he would be glad and happy that we were enjoying turkey hunting in our own way and wish us the best of luck as we climbed into our truck.

Bobby Parks
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol Tom Field Expert

Chasing Montana Merriams Chapter Two

Ridge Assault

As I sat watching the sun disappear and darkness setting in, I could hear a Merriams gobbler hammering out several distant gobbles 200’ above me but a good quarter to half mile away. It sounded like he was up on the high ground, out on a ridge finger coming off the back of the alfalfa fields. I had a good idea which ridge he was on and mentally marked him as the bird Grant Carmichael and I would go after the following morning. We were now at the end of our second day which for the most part had been uneventful.  Although Grant had taken a bird the previous afternoon (See: Chasing Montana Merriams Part One) and we’d heard another bird that morning, I was starting to be concerned because, I’d only seen a few birds throughout the rest of the day, none of which were gobblers.  From my elevated position, I could glass for a half mile in one direction and close to a mile in the other and where I’d seen groups of birds in the past, I only saw a couple sets of hens. I knew the prairie area in Montana that I’d hunted for the past 10 years had experienced a die off and now it appeared it had caught up with the river birds as well. It just wasn’t like it used to be and I knew we had our work cut out for us. We should be hearing more birds than just the one above me.

High Ground Morning Hunt

The next morning we arrived well before first light and parked up on the high ground instead of dropping down to the river. We worked our way along the rear of an alfalfa field turning out onto the prairie and off onto the ridge base, where I thought the gobbler from the evening before was roosted. This area is mostly open with prairie sage and dotted with Ponderosa pines. The ground is a mix of sand with millions of varying sized stones and rocks which makes for interesting terrain. There are numerous ridges and brush filled coulees (“draws” if you’re from the south) that finger off the high ground out towards the lower agricultural flats that run along the river. Mule deer trails follow along the edge of the high ground where the ridges and coulees start to break off and run up and down from the river area through the coulees as well. Birds often walk the ridges and fly over into the timber in the adjacent draws to roost, and fly back off the limb, and over to the same ridge at day break. From there they may stay high and move out into the upper fields or follow the trails and drop down to the river area.

Even though it was dark, the moon was bright enough for us to cast a shadow so we were concerned that we might be serving notice.  I didn’t know exactly where the gobbler was because I’d heard him from a distance, so we worked our way out 100 yards onto the main base of the ridge, and stopped under the overhanging limbs of a pine tree trying not to crunch any of the 5,000 pine-cones that lay at its base.

Merriam’s often gobble much earlier than Easterns and we began to hear what sounded like two birds at a distance while it was still dark. They were a longs ways off and several draws over so we just held tight hoping our intended target would sound off. After a few minutes we began to believe we’d been spotted in the moon light knowing we should have heard something out of our targeted bird by now. We were both getting worked up from the feint but constant gobbling from the other birds, and agreed we should take off after the gobblers and try to set up on them before they flew down.

The Ridge Assault

We jumped up and took off at a fast jog mixed with periods of fast walking.  We were following the edge of the tree line dropping up and down out of coulees as we worked our way towards the birds.  We covered a long distance quickly and were both winded by the time we got close enough to pin point where they were. Day had already begun to break so we knew the birds would be on the ground soon. We began our final approach by dropping down into the timber of the next to last coulee working our way down the draw and then climbing out and up to the top of the next ridge finger. The birds were loud now and it sounded like 3 gobblers as they continued to hammer away. They were off in the draw just beyond the next ridge across from us in trees 100 yards away.

As close as they sounded they would be at least 50 yards from where we were if they landed on the adjacent ridge so we’d have to push and get over and be in range when they hit the ground. We eased across the narrow ridge top we were on using a clump of short pine trees for blocking cover from the roosted birds in case they were roosted higher than the far ridge crest. We dropped down into the last wooded draw and slipped out of our vest and quietly crawled up our side of the targeted ridge. Grant was 20’ to my left as I eased my head up slowly to take a peek. They gobbled again as my eyes searched allowing me to lock in on them only 50 yards away. I believed we were on the ridge they had pitched off of and should pitch back onto but just in case we planned to encourage them to come our way by calling to them and making them think hens were roosted in the draw just across from them.

The adrenalin was pumping and our nerves were on edge as I made a soft yelp on my crystal. All three gobblers gobbled right back so we knew this was about to get interesting. I made another call a little louder this time which caused them to hammer right back. There was no doubt they knew where we were so I carefully laid my call down making sure it wouldn’t roll down the slope (it’s happened before) and got my gun partially up. Getting positioned was awkward because of the steepness but Grant and I both got as ready as we could careful to stay below the crest of the ridge.  When they flew down they could be right on us and we didn’t want to blow it before they got down by being seen above the ridgeline.

I was peeking over the crest trying to keep my head sucked down inside my neck which is not easy to do, when I heard wings flap and saw first one gobbler and then the two others fly down our way. They didn’t fly onto the top of the ridge but instead just dropped out of the trees onto the lower opposite side of our hill, just out of site. My adrenalin regulator was really being tested now as it was nerve racking because I didn’t know where they’d pop up on the ridge. I could see down the ridge fine but if they showed up right across from me they’d be in bayonet range 6’ away. I turned and signaled to Grant that three birds were on the ground, but he had watched them as well and knew what was unfolding with his gun ready.

My heart was pounding as I saw movement as one bird topped the rise 25 yards away. A few seconds later a second bird came into view. Because of the low light, distance perception was tricky but there was no doubt they were in range.  I could only see heads and necks of two birds looking our way. Based on our team plan my bird was on the right so I counted to 3 just loud enough for Grant to hear and we both fired. Both birds disappeared and we both jumped up. I saw a head still looking at us and fired again not knowing if I’d missed or if it was the third bird. As Grant and I both charged over we realized we had all three birds laying or flopping on the ground.

When it All Comes Together

I’ve hunted Montana many times and taken many birds there before the sun came up. I can tell you that watching the sun rise with the scenic view Montana provides while sitting with your bird is a wonderful feeling. Grant and I took the time to take in the moment and just sat with the birds taking it all in. It was as pretty a day as you’ll see out there with no wind but cool dry air. The elevated views and big sky sunrise is second to none I’ve ever seen. The heavy feathered beautiful Merriams don’t hurt the occasion either.  I’ve shared this same glorious moment with others and alone many times.

Hunting Montana Merriams
Photo: Grant sits on the ridge where the birds were taken
Hunting Montana Merriams
Photo: View from high ground showing lower river area

Hunting Merriams

As I mentioned, Merriams in Montana have the beautiful white tips and heavy feathering that Wyoming and South Dakota Merriams carry and what most look for when they go after this bird. I know a few l other states do as well. Where ever you hunt them out west it’s likely to be a great experience.

Merriams like to gobble, cover ground, and will respond well to a call. Like any birds, a lot depends on the pressure aspect. Prairie birds especially are fun to hunt and can provide for some great action. I don’t hunt them because I consider them easy. I love to hunt Merriams because they are beautiful birds that occupy beautiful country, and I enjoy the adventure that comes from chasing them on the western ground they occupy.

The Grand Slam Network
Photo: Grants awesome photo with the birds hanging from a cottonwood tree

As mentioned earlier, my experience has been that birds out west often approach and leave a roost area by the same path. This is often true with any birds but with Merriams it has been almost like clockwork. So the basic take away being if you see where birds walk in and fly up from to roost, you’ll want to be waiting for them in the same place or on the same route when they come down.

Bobby Parks Turkey Hunting Montana
Photo shows Bobby following the same path I believe the birds would have taken

The sad news is that the immediate area I’ve hunted has seen a significant decline of birds, which from the best I can gather is at least partly due to avian pox. How wide spread this is I’m not sure but the prairie area I’ve hunted has been decimated. The river area, at least where I’ve hunted in this region now appears to have been affected.  What the future holds for this area is a question mark in my opinion.

Even though the latter hunt was more of a run and gun effort similar to what we undertake on the open prairie, I wished Grant could have experienced more of it along with the constant trolling that comes with it.  In the past we’ve had to cover miles of ground to find birds. We did ride around in the hills and checked out several areas that used to hold birds. None were found and at this point even if they were I believe it would be best to leave them alone and hope they’ll reproduce.

The 2013 Montana hunt was a memorable and enjoyable hunt complete with good weather which is not always the case.  We both tagged out early and made a quick dip into Yellowstone Park. Hunting with Grant Carmichael was a pleasure and created memories that we’ll both carry with us for a long time to come.

Bobby Parks
Mossy Oak
Ol Tom

Hunting Montana Merriams
Photo: Yellowstone buffalo that was looking like he might want a piece of me.

Reverse Engineering the Hunt

How to Use Google Earth to Scout

There was a time when my brother and I called one of our public land hot spots “The Killing Hole.”  The reason was simple – you could setup in this area most mornings and hear birds sounding off in all directions.  Even on the quiet mornings, if you sat tight, birds were going to work through the area at some point.  We had stumbled on this spot scouting the good ole fashioned way – covering as much ground as possible looking for signs that turkey were in the area.  In about a three year transition, however, the dynamics of the killing hole changed.  The hole went from a near guaranteed opportunity to work a bird, to a spot where birds were, but you were likely to get walked over by other hunters, and in its present day it feels like birds avoid the area after the first week of season.  It didn’t take long before we knew we had better pick up some new hunting spots close to home in a hurry.

As you will read in this article, I was able to reverse engineer the hunting experiences we had in the killing hole by applying firsthand knowledge of the area’s terrain to what was shown in an aerial view on Google Earth.  In doing so, Google Earth was used to quickly identify areas that should hold turkeys based on similar terrain, and boy did it pay off with a fine eastern to tote back to the truck!


The Killing Hole’s Terrain

The killing hole is nestled in the foothills of northwest Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest on public hunting land.  Cuts in the mountains above produce gently flowing creeks that work their way into the flatlands.  Loggers didn’t cut the timber in close proximity to the creeks, which created wooded buffers between roads, clear-cuts and the creeks.  In the mornings, birds would be roosted in the trees near the creeks.  Sometimes they pitched down into the clear cut and others they seemed to vanish into thin air.  In the evenings, turkeys would work their way through the clear cuts, visit the creek for a drink of water before scratching around a bit and flying up into their roosting trees.

Using Google Earth to Scout New Turkey Hunting Areas

After realizing the killing hole had become the hotspot for many other hunters, recovery efforts were needed in order to locate new spots that were likely to hold turkey.  The quickest way for me to do this was to use Google Earth and scout virtually using my computer.

I launched Google Earth, and after a search and some scrolling, the screen was zero’d in on the killing hole.  Zooming out a bit, the formation in the hills that created the small creeks down below in the flatland stood out, and after assessing the general area, similar terrain down the ridge a ways looked promising so I locked the coordinates into my GPS to use in the morning.  With double the distance to walk (maybe 1.5 miles) to the new listening post in the morning, I left a little earlier than usual.

I apparently misjudged the time it would take to walk to the new post, as I arrived later than anticipated breathing heavily (I had be covering the 1.5 miles as fast as I could to beat daylight). I began the process of softening my steps and calming my breathing as the remaining distance to the listening post closed.  Since the sky was starting to lighten up, I decided to draw my crow call and delivered two sharp blasts just short of the post for the sake of time.  A surge of adrenaline rushed through my body as a tom exploded 80 yards to my left, which was just over the property line.  Seconds later, a group of birds near the creek to my right answered.  Talk about a mad scramble, the morning sky was turning to daylight, birds were sounding off, and because I didn’t know the area well, I wasn’t sure where to setup.  Unfortunately, this particular morning the birds hit the ground and vanished.  Patience is not a virtue of mine, so after the lull I eased around the area and took inventory.  It looked promising with all the turkey tracks in the mud and scratching along the creek.  I smiled to myself as I realized the virtual scouting experience might actually pan out.

Success 24 Hours Later

The next morning, the departure time was adjusted and I arrived to the post plenty early.  Going in stealthy that morning, I eased in and sat down and waited.  Time passed and the bob white quail started their morning routine.  I should have heard a bird or two by now, so I pulled out a box call and yelped 3 times.  A bird gobbled, but because of his distance, it was chalked it up to coincidence.  It seemed as if he were miles away.  Just to be sure, I checked him with two sharp cuts and four yelps, and he answered promptly.  After 10 to 15 minutes of waiting the process was repeated.  This time he had cut the distance in half, but was still a ways out – the hunt had every indication of being one of those quick morning hunts that you’re back at your truck with a bird while some of the other guys are pulling in late.

My back and legs were starting to cramp when he gobbled off to my left, still out of sight, but close.  The setup wasn’t great but there wasn’t much to choose from in this particular area.  Based on his distance, I only had a few seconds to ease my barrel to the left and hold tight.  Moments later the fan eased up to the road about 30 yards to my left.  When he hit the road, he raised his head up as if something was out of sorts, and with the fastfire on him, I eased the trigger and rolled him back on the clay road.

I rushed over to him as he was doing the death flop.  My hand felt the business end of the spurs before my eyes saw them – at that time I knew I had a trophy on my hands.


Why you should use Google Earth to scout virtually

In turkey hunting on public land, there aren’t many shortcuts to harvesting a mature eastern turkey.  It helps to know the land you’re hunting and how the birds use the area during the spring (which can be different than how they use it in the fall).  There are tools, like Google Earth, that you can use to your advantage by scouting virtually and identifying areas to hunt without seeing the property beforehand.

Using Google Earth in the Field

If at all possible, install Google Earth on your home computer and do your scouting before the hunt.  In doing so, you’ll be able to identify areas you may want to visit or even print maps to carry on the hunt (this is easy to do and works well).  In some instances, printing maps in advance may not be possible and having Google Earth on your smart phone will pay huge dividends.  In their Idaho hunt, Bobby and Wesley installed Google Earth on their smartphones because they were on an adventure hunt covering lots of ground in unfamiliar territory.  Having Google Earth on their devices allowed them to see fields and other types of terrain [while on the hunt] that might hold birds that they would have otherwise missed.


When technology is not available

Cell phones and GPS batteries die and cell service is not available everywhere, which is why learning the terrain turkey use for a given area is important.  In the big country out west, there is lots of ground to cover, and if you aren’t careful, you can spend days trying to locate birds.  Take note of the terrain when you find birds.  Outside of your typical agricultural planting and food plots, you will discover certain types of terrain hold birds for various reasons.  By knowing the terrain attributes that hold birds, you can shave hours and even days off your scouting efforts.

In the end, technology doesn’t replace the need to understand turkey habitat and behavior, but leveraging technology with that knowledge of the wild turkey will produce killer results!

Grant Carmichael
Grand Slam Network
Mossy Oak Pro Staff

Chasing Montana Merriams

Chasing Montana Merriams – Part 1

Over the Tracks

As Grant Carmichael and I eased down the right side of the raised rail road tracks staying in what was the equivalent of a wide ditch, we hoped to avoid detection from any turkeys on the lower ground to our left or from the quick rising coulees and high ground on our right. The area on the left of the tracks was a long flat strip of ground covered with Cottonwood trees and Russian olive bushes that ran for over a mile, with the river running parallel of the tracks forming the back edge. The strip was 100-150 yards deep and was 30’ lower than the track elevation. There was a long narrow lake bed that ran for 250 yards, although at the moment I didn’t know just where we were in relation to it or if it was wet or dry. We avoided standing or walking up on the tracks to look as we risked being busted if birds were around. In years past this strip was an area that turkeys occupied and roosted in. We were working our way down to a spot that birds traveled back and forth from the strip to the high ground, with plans of setting up and beginning our 2013 Montana Merriams turkey hunt. Although I have hunted Montana for the past 10 years, this would be the first time that my friend and Grand Slam Network.com partner had teamed up for this hunt. It was Grant’s first trip to this beautiful state and his first crack at these gorgeous white tipped birds.

It was mid afternoon as we walked and whispered back and forth discussing our plan when we were interrupted by a gobbler that gobbled on his own 80 yards away to our left. It sounded like he was just across the lake and as glad as we were to hear him, we were not in a position to call to him or get over on his side without being seen. Crossing over and going straight at him seemed like a bad gamble as we could be spotted or heard crunching gravel as we ran across the tracks. Our only option appeared to be moving down the tracks, crossing over, and trying to move back towards him. But if the lake had water in it we’d have a problem getting over on his side. I was trying to remember just where the dam was and finalize a decision when I heard the train off in the distance. This was a timely blessing as these trains run fast and it would be on us in a few minutes. This provided us another option that we’d not have otherwise.

I’m a believer in working with what you have and capitalizing on opportunities when you can and ours was speeding towards us. As unorthodox as it may sound, we decided to use the train for cover. We would wait and use it and the disturbance it caused as a diversion and cross over to the other side. We would then try and call the bird to the opposite bank which should only be 25 yards away. This would allow us to go straight at him without giving up ground but we had to be really quick with our move.

Chasing Montana Merriams
Trains in Montana are often three quarters of a mile long and travel fast.

Once the train got to us we hopped up near the tracks and stood only a few feet from the train holding our hats so they wouldn’t blow off. We were like wide receivers waiting for the ball to snap and the instant the train cleared us we darted around, jumped off the tracks, and initiated somewhat of controlled slide feet first under the barbed wire fence, and down the bank hoping that all the noise and commotion of the train would mask our move. The birds were used to the train and in a worse case its passing might push them back a ways but not spook them. I hoped this provided us a chance to get directly across from the gobbler without a long walk down the tracks and trying to circle back on him.

As we crossed I saw that the dam was 50 yards to our left and that the lake bed was dry. We slid two thirds the way down the bank and stopped, but quickly realized it was too thick to set up so we dropped on down the last 10’ to the dry bed.  With our backs against the bank, Grant got his gun up and began searching the far edge for any sign of movement. We spotted three birds 150 yards to our right down the long narrow lake bed right out in the open. This confused me at first because I didn’t think the birds were that far away or in that direction. As soon as the sound of the train faded, I yelped on a glass call thinking we might hear a gobble from their way. Nothing came from that direction but two gobblers hammered at us from our 11:00 position only 80-90 yards away.

Grant Carmichael Turkey Hunting Montana
Grant Carmichael Turkey Hunting Montana

I called again 30 seconds later and could tell the two gobblers were already moving in our direction. We were lower than the adjoining bank so we wouldn’t see them until they walked up to the far edge which was good as far as I was concerned. They’d have to come looking for us and once they got there they’d be in range.  The dam to our left began to worry us though because the next time they gobbled, we realized they had angled left and it sounded like they might come in from behind it or walk out on it. The dam splits the lake bed and I knew there was a low area beyond it just like we were sitting in. If they topped the dam they would be looking down on us just out of range. As close as they were and as risky as a move seemed at this point, we had to get closer. There was plenty of brush between the birds and us so we jumped up and sprinted 20 yards towards the dam and dropped back down now within easy range.

I called again to “gobble track” them so we’d have our guns pointing in the right direction with hopes of doubling up. They answered so we knew we had gotten away with our move. Within a minute I heard Grant whisper “I see em and I have a shot.” The bird Grant was on came up from behind the dam and walked right up on it, but the second bird stopped short with only the top of his red head visible over the crest. He only needed to take another step or two up and I could be on him but he appeared to be frozen to the earth. The first bird had his head stretched up staring down at us while Grant was fighting off pulling the trigger, trying to give me a chance at the second bird. If his bird moved left or right he would have obstacles in the way. Grant reminded me a couple more times that he had a shot and afraid to delay any longer, he plastered the bird dropping him in his tracks.

Grant now had a beautiful Merriams gobbler and we had both heard a good dose of afternoon gobbling. “Bird One” was down and in the books. Things had gotten off to a great start and although it had happened fast, it had been a fun and exciting hunt. Using the train for cover as we did made the hunt different and it was tense but exciting making the move around it and across the tracks. The decision to make the secondary sprint 20 yards to the dam had added to the drama and paid off.

As we walked back down the tracks with the gobbler over Grant’s shoulder, we looked forward to our next few days of Chasing Montana Merriams.

When Fighting Purrs Really Work

Georgia Opening Morning 2010

As I sat against a tree listening to the hens still on the limb 60 yards away, I strained to hear that first gobble. I was hearing lots of tree talk from the hens but so far not the gobbler music I was hoping for.  It was opening day of the 2010 Georgia season and I was hunting an 80 acre property bordered by the Etowah River in North Georgia. I had watched this flock of hens the evening before and knew where they were roosted.  I didn’t believe a gobbler was in the group but I hoped maybe one was nearby that I hadn’t seen.

Georgia gobbler that responded to fighting purrs
Georgia gobbler that responded to fighting purrs

The truth is, I had not heard a gobble on the property leading up to the start of the season and didn’t know for sure if any gobblers were even around. I knew that opening weekend would be my best chance on this tract if birds were there because another person would be hunting this same property later and someone hunted across the river. Although I had planned a few travel hunts,  I had not secured any other property in my home state so not only was this my only hunting option for opening weekend, but possibly for the season in Georgia.

After fifteen minutes of listening to the hens, I heard wings flapping and caught glimpses of birds coming down out of the trees. It appeared to be 10 or so hens most of which were landing on the end of the ridge I was on. I could see some of them but mostly just caught movement. Moments after the last bird landed I thought I heard a distant gobble. The hens were making such a fuss it was difficult to hear, but I finally heard gobbles again. It came from a long ways off but there was no mistaking the sound. I had already concluded that no gobblers were with the birds near me so I was anxious to get up and go after him. But, I didn’t want to spook the birds in front of me, so I stayed put until they dropped down over the edge and out of sight.

As soon as the last head disappeared I rolled left, crawled back a few yards, dropped over the ridge, and started “fast walking” to skirt the birds. Once I hit an old logging road and knew I had cleared the hens I took off at a run towards the river. A couple hundred yards later I worked my way up over a rise and stopped to listen. I was out of breath couldn’t hear anything over my own gasping at first but then heard the gobbles again. It was closer now and it sounded like more than one bird.

I hurried across the hill but as I topped it, I could see the river and realized the birds were on the other side and off my tract of land. My heart sank for a few seconds knowing I couldn’t get to them although I was glad to know there were at least gobblers around. I decided to work my way down the hill and then try and figure out what to do. They were 200 yards away from my hill top position but the hill I was on was steep with open hardwoods so I was worried they might spot my movement. I kept trees lined up between them and me as best I could and five minutes later I had worked my way down to the logging road that ran along my side of the river.

 Across the River

The river was 50 yards wide and I could see the birds 80 yards away from the far bank, out in an open field. There were 2 gobblers, a jake, and a few hens. The jake was pestering the gobblers and they kept chasing him off from the hens. He must not have known the hierarchy rules because he was a persistent rascal and would turn around and walk right back to them only to be chased again.

I watched them through binoculars and then yelped on a box call. They were hot and gobbled right back at me. I hit the call a couple more times getting the same response. One of the gobblers started moving towards me but the hens kept slowly easing forward maintaining the 80 yard buffer from the bank and he hooked back to them.  I continued to ease down the road trying to come up with an idea but not seeing a way to break the stalemate.  This went on for another  100 yards before I saw an opening from the river on my side and remembered seeing turkey tracks there indicating it might be a spot they flew across. It was a 30’ wide slot clear of trees and foliage and there was a clearing on the opposite bank as well. I moved down within 20 yards of it and let them work down their side a little further.

I knew yelping wasn’t going to be effective so I pulled out a slate call and began to aggressively do the fighting purrs call. This turkey calling tactic has worked well in the past in various scenarios and it seemed like my only shot at the moment. As soon as I started calling the birds went ballistic and the jake turned and starting walking towards the river. I continued working the striker hard and fast over the slate as the jake continued my way now 30 yards from the group. One of the gobblers broke and started following the jake and a few seconds later the second gobbler broke loose as well. My new buddy Jake kept coming with his gobbling entourage in tow. In fact, the gobblers seemed to speed up which caused my “Hope Meter” to start rising. Once the jake got within 15 yards of the bank he ran a few steps and lifted off heading straight for my opening only 20 yards away from me. God bless fighting purrs and stupid jakes!

Once the leading gobbler saw the jake take to the air, he lifted off still 30 yards out in the field headed across the river! I dropped the call and snatched my shotgun up and faced the opening down the logging road. The jake landed 20 yards away and ran a few steps after touch down with the first gobbler landing in his footsteps. The gobbler ran a few steps off to the right of the road and stopped at which point my gun went off and he dropped. I didn’t know what the other gobbler had done but that answer came a few seconds later when he touched down in their established landing path. At first I wasn’t going to shoot him because I normally just take one bird if more than one comes in. But, my mind was racing, and he just kept standing there. I decided this might be my only other chance if others hunted the property so I talked myself into taking him.

The event was surreal and I could not believe what had just transpired. As I watched one of the birds flopping I noticed there wasn’t a choke tube in my gun and realized I’d forgotten to put it back in after taking the modified out after my last dove shoot. That was a first and I guess it’s a good thing they were close because who knows what kind of pattern I was spraying out. I was elated and felt bad at the same time for taking the other bird and hoped that the threads inside my barrel weren’t messed up. But as I walked out carrying one bird in my vest and the other over my shoulder thinking about what just happened, I began to feel fine with it because I knew that they may be the only two Eastern birds I’d have  a chance at that season. And the unexpected adventure that brought them into range would be one I’d never forget.

Fighting Purrs Work

I have used fighting purrs with mixed results prior to that day and since. In this case it worked really well and the jakes response was the key. I don’t know if the gobblers would have come if not for him but my guess is they couldn’t stand to let him come over to see me and it cost them.  On most days I can’t get them over a ditch or across a fence so I would never have expected to coax birds across a river that wide. But once you see something like this happen, you realize anything’s possible.

Fighting purrs have helped me get birds to come into range when nothing else would with many hunts that stand out in my mind. I used it the first time successfully in Texas 11 years ago when I had three gobblers and several hens that started walking away from me. When I turned loose with fighting purrs all three gobblers turned and came 120 yards down a power line straight to me. In Jones County I had two gobblers and a group of hens at the far end of a pasture that wouldn’t budge for 30 minutes but as soon as I hit the fighting purrs, the entire group came running right to me.  My dad and I got a gobbler to come to us one morning on a hunt when nothing else we tried would separate him from his hens.  Wesley Phelps and I did the fighting purrs in New Mexico when there was no doubt the group was leaving us and it turned a couple of gobblers around bringing them in at which point Wesley greeted one with a load of Hevi Shot. In South Georgia I coaxed a gobbler with a 12” beard far enough in my direction from across a field to get him in range. The call has worked on other occasions as well. It’s even worked for short tugs to coax a gobbler over 20 yards when he would not otherwise move at all. But those 20 yards have made the difference more than once when it comes to getting the gobbler in range.

Fighting purrs is still more of a last resort call for me but an option I have confidence in. It absolutely can work and on those occasions that nothing else does, you have little to lose by trying it. For me it seems to work better earlier in the season than later. Mixing wing flaps into the mix as well or having two hunters perform the sequence together can be effective. But it is definitely something you can do by yourself successfully.

The 2 gobblers that flew the river
The 2 gobblers that flew the river

On that morning in 2010 on the Etowah River, when my chance of success seemed slim, it turned out to be a day when fighting purrs worked really well.

By Bobby Parks
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol Tom Field Staff

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Finding a Way

A Turkey Hunters Motto for Consistently Taking Turkeys

My turkey chasing days began in 1992 in a Flint River swamp in Georgia. Although I learned as much as I could by listening to cassettes, watching videos, and reading magazines, most of my lessons came through trial and error and time spent in the woods alone. Since I lived two and a half hours away from where I hunted, and had to spend the night, I chose to hunt until noon, eat lunch, and go back in for afternoon hunts. I believed it was a matter of putting your hours in and as long as I was in the woods there was a chance of killing a bird. Due to this committed effort and a good bird population, I was lucky enough to kill my share of gobblers.  In fact, aside from my first season I was somehow getting my limits every spring. Much had to do with luck and many were flukes, but somehow each season it came together and I kept taking birds.

Because of the flat and mostly open terrain that existed in the swamp, especially early in the season before it greened up, approaching and moving on birds was challenging. I’d be aggressive when I could but I often played it safe by limiting my charges towards a gobbler and setting up and staying with an area instead of moving. Part of the “playing it safe” part was due to the openness but some was due to a lack of confidence in just how to go about it and what I could get away with. And it worked often enough to keep me satisfied.

After hunting for a few years, I met and started sharing the woods with someone that had turkey hunted for much longer than I had. He was the first person I knew that could sound good on a mouth call and was a pure run and gun guy. When he put on his vest he turned into a Tasmanian devil turkey hunter and his game plan each and every day was one of pure aggression. He’d methodically move and cover lots of ground and on days birds gobbled, he would kill one or get close, but on days they didn’t, he became human and came back empty handed. We didn’t actually hunt together but shared the woods numerous times going our separate ways. But I listened to him when he talked about what he did especially on the “run and gun” stuff.  Even he admitted the swamp offered challenges compared to the hilly terrain he’d hunted previously when it came to flanking or moving on birds, but he killed his share with his style of hunting. Surprisingly, as aggressive as he was, he’d often be back at the truck by 9:30 a.m. or out eating breakfast, while I’d hunt until lunch. Prior to us hunting together, he didn’t hunt afternoons.

Grant Carmichael found a way to take a gobbler in NM while everyone else was eating lunch.
Grant Carmichael found a way to take a gobbler in NM while everyone else was eating lunch.

Three years after we met, he went to Texas with me and after I’d taken my third Rio Grande gobbler, he was still hunting hard for his second bird.  He seemed to be struggling and putting pressure on himself so to make him feel better and because I believed it was true, I commented that he was a better caller and hunter than me and that I just kept getting lucky, and must have been in better spots.

He turned around and said. “You can say what you want but no matter where we hunt or what the conditions are, you have an uncanny knack for finding a way to kill birds”.  Of course this was gratifying and made me feel good causing the rear snap to blow off my hat as my head swelled because these words coming from him meant something.

It made me stop and think about what I was doing and how I was killing birds. The truth was, I believed many of my birds came from the “Blind Squirrel Rule “because of the hours I put in, and often I really was lucky with a few fluke birds thrown in. But, when I stopped and thought about it, I realized I did put a lot of thought and effort into how I approached turkey hunting and was not set in my ways in terms of how to hunt them on any particular day. I wasn’t fixed in either camp when it came to “run and gun” or “deer hunting” them and was constantly racking my brain trying to figure out how to get a bird each time I was in the field.  If they gobbled I moved more. If they were quiet I slowed down and hung with a spot. More importantly, I didn’t give up easily and made myself hang with a hunt longer even when I was hungry and started thinking about how good lunch was going to be. Coming out for breakfast wasn’t even a consideration. I wanted and needed that next fix badly which drove me to hunt hard and to dig deep to figure out how to make it happen on each hunting session. I concluded that what I lacked in knowledge, I made up in with effort.

 A New Motto

His compliment helped my confidence and I decided to incorporate his “Finding a Way “comment as my new hunting motto. This would be a simple but driving clause that I’d insert into my turkey hunting psyche and repeat to myself on the days things were tough and I needed a push.

The reality is that at the end of the day, the pay off of actually killing a gobbler, or coming back empty handed, is the result and outcome of a combination of decisions that we make during our hunts.  How well we adapt to the hand we’re dealt on any given outing will be the determining factor. The “Decision Combination” aspect (See: “Good Decision Combinations Kill Turkeys) is a constant that applies to any hunting or fishing outing, but applying the “Find a Way” attitude in my view is a magnifier of the drive. The focused effort of being patient, persistent to the point of being relentless , and constantly trying to find a way that will pay off enough times during a season to result in birds over the shoulder that might not have happened otherwise is the pay off.

For example: My thought process used to be that once I approached the end of deer or turkey season in the past, I would really push hard on that last weekend trying to make something happen knowing I was running out of time. A sense of desperation crept in causing me to try something different and really fast forward my thinking to be successful or the clock would run out on me. It’s the same way on travel hunts when you hit that last day and you still need a bird. The difference now is; I think and operate to a large degree like this all the time. I’m trying to push and find a way right now, today, to come up with a way to put myself or someone else in front of a bird. When you read things like “Texas Stampede” or “Chasing Montana Merriams” you get a sampling of outside the box efforts that are a result of the “find a way” thought process.

In reality we are always trying to “find a way” but for me this means digging deeper and avoiding giving up easily. It’s being stubborn when it comes to throwing in the towel. And as with many things in life it comes down to how bad you want it and how hard you’ll push to get it.

It’s aggressive thinking although sometimes the selected approach may seem passive, but there’s always a built in sense of urgency.

For the most part I’m sure my approaches to turkey hunting are the same as most others in that I start out taking the traditional approaches to typical situations. Like any turkey hunter I am always paying attention to any turkey sign I see and compiling it with any other historical information associated with a particular spot. If I hear birds I go after them. If it’s new territory and I don’t hear them, I keep moving until I find birds or such good sign that I believe setting up and calling may be worthwhile. If its familiar ground that normally has birds, I may troll for a while trying to strike up a willing bird or I may decide that they’re just quiet and may implement a non aggressive fall back plan to deal with silent birds and go to the “area plan”.   

Aggressive patience was the key to finding a way for this Alabama gobbler in 2012
Aggressive patience was the key to finding a way for this Alabama gobbler in 2012

Learning from Others

As mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I was killing turkeys and getting my limits with what I had learned on my own.  But my aggressive “run and gun” approach game was improved from being around and listening to my friend who had years of experience doing it. This was especially useful  once  I started hunting areas outside the swamp with terrain that was more condusive to moving and flanking.

But he also benefitted in that he learned to slow down when birds were quiet, hunt an area, and to hunt later in the day and afternoons. It rounded us both out in a way that allowed us handle and kill more turkeys, and we killed them under a wider range of conditions and not just on days they gobbled.

A few of us found a way in South Georgia
A few of us found a way in South Georgia

We all have our own styles and preferences but any time you can spend with another hunter who has been successful, you’ll gain a new insight and learn new tricks to add to your existing arsenal and ways to kill turkeys. The key in my view is to vary your approach not be one dimensional. If you’ve got unlimited time to hunt, then you may have the luxury of hunting in a particular style and way that becomes a numbers game in that you’ll hunt enough days in which your approach will eventually cross with the conditions that allow it to work. In other words if you’re a run and gun guy and stay with it, even though you may be bumping birds left and right on quiet days, you’ll eventually get your birds on the gobbling days and it’s hard to argue with success. It goes the same for just setting up and hunting areas.  If you set anywhere long enough you’ll probably have a chance to kill a turkey. But, if you have a limited number of days to hunt, the more adaptable you can become, the better your chances will be if you can find the right way to attack that specific day.

Find a Way Mentality

There are many turkey hunters here at GSN that I believe think and operate this way. Several have impressive seasons year after year consistently taking their gobbler limits and helping others get birds as well. They appear gifted which they are, but I suspect if you look deeper you’ll find they’re turkey hunting mind is mounted on a one ton frame and they’re fueled with drive that causes them to constantly rotate thoughts and options through their minds, trying to find a way to take that next gobbler.

To operate under the “Find a Waymentality requires stronger than average drive that includes, determination and persistence topped off with managed patience. It requires being relentless and putting your hours in. It means thinking outside the box when other approaches aren’t working. Adopting the motto may mean that you have to go over one more ridge, hunt one more hour, try one more flanking movement, or check out one more field before you leave to go home. It requires self discipline and pushing yourself harder and longer. It means you’ve really got to want it and be willing to put in that “driven mentality” effort and hunt smart to get it. But each time you bring a bird out over your shoulder that you know came from pushing yourself beyond what you may have done in the past or many other hunters are willing to do, you’ll know you worked hard and “Found the Way” on that particular day.

Bobby Parks
Grand Slam Network.com
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol Tom

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A few facts about modern turkey loads

Forward by Grant Carmichael

Every Spring, turkey hunters breakout their best turkey hunting shotgun to check the pattern and make sure things are in working order.  Patterning a shotgun for turkey hunting is as much necessary as it is fun – you need to be confident in your gun and its effective range.  As Jamey explains, modern turkey loads like the new heavier-than-lead (HTL) turkey shotgun loads are more expensive than their lead counterparts.  However, do your homework, and the results will show the best turkey shotgun patterns are found in the HTL loads due to the higher shot count and thier resistance to flyers.  For these reasons, I shoot HTL turkey loads out of my shotgun! – Grant

Indian Creek Chokes
In recent years many turkey hunters have decided to make the switch from shooting lead shot to one of the heavier-than-lead alternatives in their best turkey hunting shotgun. Others are wondering “what’s the big deal and why would anyone want to quit shooting turkeys with good old lead 5’s?” Well at some point everyone who made the switch has asked that question as well so it seems that this would be a good topic to look at a little deeper.

The decision to switch has been easy for some and difficult for others, myself included, and it could do us all some good to take a look at some factors that could contribute us to making that decision.

Let’s look at shot history

Lead shot has been around for a long time and has been the standard shot used for most small game hunting for everything from doves, quail, rabbits and squirrels and even larger game such as geese and turkeys. Lead shot is reasonably inexpensive and readily available in most sporting goods outlets and with its heavy weight it has proven to be an excellent shot material…it does however have some problems. Several years ago lead shot was outlawed for waterfowl hunting when it was discovered that the excess shot was being ingested by waterfowl while they were feeding and ultimately was causing damage to the breeding success of waterfowl. Its standard non-toxic replacement has been steel shot which is harder and considerably lighter than lead which therefore means it can’t be shot safely through some older shotguns and has a lesser killing range.

Ever since steel shot came on the market, there has been an effort to develop better alternatives which would perform as good as or better than lead and still be non-toxic to waterfowl and over time we have seen shot such as Bismuth, Hevi-Shot, Federal Heavy Weight, and Tungsten (commonly called TSS) come onto the market. Several of these have proven to be deadly in turkey hunting loads as well.

turkey shotguns for hunting

Material properties

Steel shot weighs about 7.5 grams per cubic centimeter (g/cc) and is harder than lead.

Lead shot weighs about 10.6 g/cc and is a relatively soft metal, deforms easily and is reasonably gentle on a gun barrel.

Hevi-Shot weighs about 12 g/cc and is a mixture of tungsten, nickel and steel and is a much harder metal than lead. It can damage the inside of the barrel of a shotgun and therefore must be loaded with thicker shot wads for more barrel protection.

Hevi-13 weighs about 13g/cc but is otherwise similar to regular Hevi-Shot.

Federal Heavy Weight weighs about 15.2 g/cc and has a higher percentage of tungsten in the metal which makes it heavier than the previously mentioned materials.

TSS weighs about 18 g/cc and has the highest percentage of tungsten of any shot available today and is therefore the heaviest shot currently available. It is an extremely hard material and requires even more precautions than the others to protect the shotgun from damage.

Loaded properly, any of these materials can be used for many years of turkey hunting without causing any shotgun damage.

Performance Comparisons

It is generally accepted that steel shot should not be used for turkey hunting.

Lead shot has proven to be a good turkey load and the most common shot size is probably #5. This shot size has enough energy and penetration to kill a turkey cleanly out beyond 30 yards as long as the pattern density is adequate.

Hevi-Shot #6 performs a little better than a lead # 5 and since the pellets are smaller it is possible to have more of them in the shell which makes the pattern denser as well.

Hevi-13 #7 performs about the same as lead #5 and Hevi-Shot #6. Smaller shot again allows it to have a denser pattern than the previously mentioned loads.

Federal HW #7 pellets perform even better still and if it were available in #8 shot it would actually be similar to those mentioned above. The Federal shell however uses an unusual shot wad that many shotguns do not shoot well. This shell/wad requires a more open choke and works best with non-ported chokes. Some shotguns will shoot this shell wonderfully while others never seem to work well with it.

TSS #9 performs similar or better than all of the previous shells mentioned and with the extremely small shot size it is possible to shoot extremely dense patterns out to 40 yds and beyond.

Hevi Shot Turkey Loads

Killing Power

Let’s face it, to kill a turkey with a shotgun two things are necessary; a dense enough pattern to place shot pellets in the “kill zone” of the head and neck, and pellets that carry enough energy to penetrate bone and into the vitals once they arrive on target.

With all other factors being equal, hard shot pellets will pattern more evenly than softer pellets due to the soft material being more easily deformed under the intense pressure it undergoes when the shot is fired. This is caused both by the initial compression on combustion and also by the shot being squeezed as it passes through the choke. When a pellet deforms it tends to fly erratically rather than straight and this can cause “flyers” and also cause the pattern to “open up” quickly as it travels downrange. Harder shot patterns open up also but at a lesser rate.

Pellet energy can be determined by formulas but it boils down to a combination of pellet weight and speed.

Penetration is based on energy but also takes into consideration pellet diameter. As an example, if you were to take a pencil and “stab” yourself with the eraser end and then do the same thing using the same force with the pointed end, which end do you think would penetrate deeper? It is not too difficult to see that a small pellet will penetrate better than a larger one even if they both have the exact same amount of energy.

Since speed plays an important factor in energy it should also be pointed out that a large lead pellet and a small tungsten pellet that may have equal energy as they leave the shotgun will not still have equal energy at 40 yds due to the fact that the larger pellet has more wind resistance and slows down more quickly than the smaller pellet. This can be demonstrated by throwing a BB and a ping-pong ball together and see which one slows down the quickest as they travel.


It is no surprise that once we go higher up the ladder than lead shot, we also go up in cost. I recently priced some 12ga turkey loads in lead, Hevi-shot, Hevi-13, Federal HW and TSS and here are the results with the prices averaged from several retailers.

  • Lead #5 1-3/4oz shot – $1.70 per shell – 296 pellets
  • Hevi #6 2oz shot – $5.00 per shell – 414 pellets
  • Hevi-13 #7 2oz shot – $5.60 per shell – 508 pellets
  • Fed HW #7 1-5/8oz shot – $5.00 per shell – 353 pellets
  • TSS #9 2oz shot – 7.19 per shell – 717 pellets
  • 20ga TSS #9 1-7/16oz shot – $5.18 per shell – 515 pellets

The last two are my actual costs for loading my TSS shells with no labor cost applied.

As you can see, other than with the lead shot, the cost per turkey shell really is pretty equal overall and I am spending about the same to kill a turkey with my little 20ga as others would to kill him with a big 12ga shotgun.


I have heard folks often state that the reason they keep shooting lead at turkeys is because of the cost. I submit to you that although I spend more money than I care to admit hunting the wild turkey, the amount I spend on my ammo doesn’t even scratch the surface of the overall expense. In fact my shell cost is likely one of my lowest expenses in turkey hunting and I can’t see any reason shell cost alone should cause someone to continue shooting lead.

Each of the pellets discussed, from lead to TSS, will kill turkeys within their limits and it is not my intention to convince anyone to switch loads but rather to better understand the differences between pellets so you can make an educated decision when choosing your turkey ammunition.

Ultimately I believe we as turkey hunters have an obligation to do everything in our power to cleanly kill every turkey we shoot at without wounding him and letting him get away to die later. No matter which type of load you choose I encourage you to practice shooting and pattern your gun so that you know exactly what it is capable of and then hunt within that capability.

Remember, a good rule to follow is to not shoot at a turkey further than your gun can reliably put 100 pellets inside a 10″ circle. That may be 30 yards for some and 45 for others but you won’t know unless you pattern your gun.
For reference, my 20ga consistently places 170 pellets in a 10″ circle at 40 yards using Federal HW #7 shells and 300+ using my TSS #9 hand loads. I get well fewer than 100 using lead #5 and my acceptable range using lead would be only around 25 yards but that is why I don’t hunt with lead.

Please note that some states have outdated laws that are based on lead shot and restrict turkey hunting to size 7 shot or even larger so you should consider that before heading out to hunt with TSS 9 shells.

By Jamey Rex for Grand Slam network

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Afternoon Turkey Hunting Tactics

I believe it’s safe to say that most turkey hunters live for the morning hunt. The gobbling at the break of day removes any question marks as to whether a gobbler is around. Excitement, enthusiasm, and adrenalin are at peak readings. The decision making process begins and an approach is applied to a given situation. This usually involves the typical form of closing in on the bird, setting, up, calling, and pointing your gun in the direction of the gobbling. You have an idea of where to be, where the bird is, and that its time to work the bird. Aggressive tactics such as trolling around trying to strike a bird and covering lots of ground often yields a positive outcome and puts you in a similar set up situation. Birds gobble and their location is known. It takes some of the guess work out of it.  Again, mornings generally provide faster and hotter action making it the preferred time to turkey hunt.

The problem with mornings is they fade away and turn into afternoon and afternoon turkey hunting doesn’t always provide the same scenarios. In fact gobbling, success of aggressive tactics, and even our energy levels, fades with it. The pace of the activity dial turns down for a few hours and then tweaks back up later in the day.

I started turkey hunting afternoons 20 years ago not because I wanted to but because I was two hours away from home hunting on the Flint River and had nothing else to do once the morning hunt was over. The others that hunted our lease at that time were out of the woods by mid morning at the latest but I decided it was better to spend the afternoon in the woods even if I were napping where at least there was a chance of killing a bird. I did not know how to go about it but learned. What I soon realized was that I averaged an afternoon bird almost every year and in some cases would not have gotten a limit without that

Afternoon Turkey Hunts can be Productive

Turkey can be taken at any time of the day as long as you’re in the field and vary your approaches. Self discipline and a larger dose of patience comes into play and just what the approach entails depends on the time of day, terrain features, hunting pressure, and to an extent what part of the country you’re in. For example out west in Montana we may stay on the move most of the day looking for Merriams. In Texas when hunting Rios it’s more of a blended style of hunting involving trolling and staying with a set up for longer periods of time along with sequential calling. It’s the same in New Mexico partly because it’s physically demanding but also because staying with a set up in the right location can be very productive, especially late in the day.

afternoon turkey hunt south Georgia
South Georgia mid afternoon turkey hunt on April 10, 2012

Generally speaking, afternoon turkey hunting tactics for Easterns requires a more passive and patient mindset especially during the mid afternoon. For me it’s required a toned down approach and picking good set up locations based on scouting and knowledge of the property.

Mid Afternoon Trolling

No two turkey hunters are the same and many prefer to stay aggressive. The slower paced “sit and wait” style of hunting doesn’t work for everyone. I’ll respect anyone’s approach but I’m willing to do whatever it takes on any given day when it comes to putting a turkey on the ground as long as it’s rewarding and works for me personally. My program is to always adjust to conditions at hand and plan an approach based on conclusions drawn on a particular day. If birds are vocal I’ll stay more aggressive. If they appear to have gone quiet I turn the dial down.

I have not had a lot of luck moving and calling during the middle of the day when hunting turkey in the Southeast and as a result I slow down and move less. In fact I’ve concluded that I do more damage and probably bump birds that I‘m not even aware of when doing this. I believe you can easily contribute to the “pressure factor” if you don’t recognize that a particular style of aggressive hunting is not working at certain times or on a given day. You can wear a good property out in a hurry if you don’t at least make an effort to put thought in the pressure you’re applying.

If I do troll it’s more of a slow motion advance. I will move from location to location stopping for short periods of time and cutting as hard and loud as I can to try and shock a bird into gobbling. I may cut on a glass call, wait a
couple minutes and then do the same thing on a box call. I will use a crow call at times as well as pay attention to real crows if they appear to be harassing something. I’ll then continue moving forward. I may spend 15-30 minutes in an area that I have reason to feel good about before continuing. This assumes you have a large enough tract to keep moving on. Smaller tracts may require that you set up for a long motionless afternoon.

Successful afternoon hunting requires good scouting.

Having the right set up in my view is as important as good calling and is one of the keys to bringing a gobbler into range any time of day. Knowing the right
ground to commit time to and what bird habits are on afternoon hunts are crucial for many reasons. First of all you’ve got to be confident in a spot to have the patience to hang with it. Also the gobbler is less likely to gobble and announce his location during the middle of the afternoon so being in the right location with proper concealment and minimal movement is a must. It comes down to previous scouting, bird encounters, and your ability to read the sign and land you’re on. Even how you approach the location comes into play.

When I set up on morning hunts or on gobbling birds in the woods, I may set up in thicker terrain or just over a rise with the idea of making the gobbler have
reason to keep looking for me. I’ll rarely set up in wide open places because my experience is a gobbler that can see a long ways will just stand and gobble and not come in. Many so called hang ups are due to bad set ups. I compromise visibility distance because I have an idea of which way he’ll come in from and my guns pointed in the right direction.

On afternoon hunts, especially if I’m in the woods and not a field I’ll try to find a happy medium. I want to see further because I’m expecting the bird to come in quiet and show up unannounced. I still want him to have reason to come looking but I want to have a better view as well.

Logging roads that have turkey sign such as drag marks, dusting bowls, droppings, or tracks all add up to define a potential kill zone.

afternoon turkey hunt Idaho
Late afternoon Idaho Merriam taken by Wesley Phelps on May 21, 2012

I’ll try and find the right tree, shade, and pile up anything that will help me blend in and hide movement. Trimming and stacking limbs, piling logs, and sometimes pulling a piece of camo netting from Abature Outpost I carry in my vest works well. When I hunted in the river swamp, palmettos were great to cut and stick in the ground around me. I brush in my back sides so if he shows up behind me I’m not busted before I have a clue he’s around. Psyching out butt pain from sitting so you don’t move is important. I wear a vest because it offers padding both underneath and behind me which allows me to sit motionless for longer periods at a time.

Field Hunting

Open areas such as pastures and fields are great places to find birds and can be especially good on rainy days. When approaching fields I use cover and terrain to slip up to view the field. I may not cut or call with a turkey call as I approach but will blast them with a crow call in an effort to shock one into sounding off. I’m not counting on this as a for sure way of knowing they’re there as gobblers sometime seem to have gone deaf for periods of time and don’t gobble at anything. But it is a way to attempt to find him without worrying about him starting towards me quietly while continuing to move towards the field. The last thing I won’t is to call and cause the bird to focus in my direction or start approaching me quietly or bump into him when I’m out of position. My preference is to sneak up close enough to glass the field with a plan of maneuvering around and setting up if I see birds.

If none are there but I know it’s a good spot and it’s just a matter of time, I’ll dig in by making a “make shift” blind, try to stay in shadows, and commit to a position for varying periods of time. If visibility and cover provides I like to back off a field 10-15 yards so that a bird has reason to search for me. It also helps with getting hens by un-spooked and if a gobbler approaches tight down the edge, I can move and get away with it compared to actually sitting right on the field.

If you’re using decoys set them up 10-15 yards out into the field (20-25 yards away from you) and often times if you snooze that’s where the gobbler will be when you wake up.

Anyone that’s hunted field birds knows how tough and stubborn they can be. You can spend hours just watching a bird that feeds and shows little interest. Once a gobblers in the field I call soft and very little unless he was responding to other calling I was doing which I would then continue. It depends on how he reacts. If he’s feeding and not interested I play it “safe” although I have had luck pulling birds across fields with fighting purrs as well.

I also start looking for a way to move around on him if he shows patterns of moving back and forth and hanging on one side of the field. If I see a way to move around and re position I’ll go for it. Just calling from a different location sometimes makes a difference. So even if I can’t make a big move, a short move of 20-50 yards towards him can make a difference. Just know that often on a field that is known to be used by birds you can bump others by trying this. It’s a judgment call and often based on hunches. Sometimes it’s due to impatience.

Calling Sequence

Generally, I’ll usually go through a calling sequence every 10-15 minutes starting soft and easy with clucks and soft yelps. I’ll then work up to more aggressive calls. Opinions vary on this and I agree that you’re probably safer
by keeping it soft and easy and calling every 15-20 minutes but it’s not always about being safe for me and I like to call. I want any bird within 250 yards to know I’m there. I’ve had good luck though the years by not being afraid to crank and let birds know some odd ball loudmouth hen is in the woods while all the other self respecting hens are just purring and minding their own business. The exception is if I really believe birds are imminent or close in which case I’ll control my tempo and exercise more patience.

I can remember many days where I sat for 2-3 hours going through 10-12 calling sequences, hearing nothing and thinking it’s just not going to happen today only to be startled by a gobbler cutting me off when I called. If this happens, he’s most likely coming in. On other hunts I’ve had gobblers gobble and announce their arrival 10-15 minutes after calling. He heard me and locked in on my position when I called earlier and is letting me know he is close to where he thought the hen should be. Consider this a lucky break but it happens often enough.

On the opposite side I have called from a spot for an hour or so, got up and walked off only to hear a bird gobble from the spot I just left 10 minutes later. Not a good feeling.

Once a bird is in sight it really does vary and it comes down to watching and reading the bird. Taking the gobbler’s temperature factors in to an extent but soft and easy once he’s in tight is the way to go if you have to call again at all. If he’s come because of your previous calling he may continue to wander into your lap. Just watch him and see what he’s going to do on his own. Even scratching on the leaves can coax him on over into range. Often a gobbler during the early to mid afternoon periods seem to have a “take it or leave it” attitude. This gets progressively better as the afternoon goes on and towards late afternoon to evening they can be as hot as in the mornings.

There are other options to consider as well. For example if I hear a bird sound off at longer distances while I’ve been in a set up for a while, I may jump and run towards him but often I give him a few minutes and call again to see if he will gobble again and to see if he was gobbling at me. If it sounds like he’s closed the distance I may stay or move forward depending on terrain and my hunch. He may very well come all the way in but if I can cut some distance off by charging forward and sitting down again and calling it can only help as long as you don’t get busted. It will appear to him as if the hen is coming towards him and may fire him up more.

If I happen to know there’s a distant obstacle such as a creek or fence in the direction he gobbled from then I’m going to make an aggressive move to get to that spot before he does.

Late Afternoons

My experience in afternoons, at least where I’ve hunted Easterns is almost no gobbling occurs until after 5:00. My attitude and enthusiasm picks up accordingly as the day wears on. I may have set up in a particular area for specific reasons for mid day hunts and re locate to put myself in a general roosting area or travel route for late day set ups. I want to be within hearing range of any known roosting locations but not pushing the limit to the point I change their habits if a bird bust me. That’s said; I am not beyond getting in tight on a roost if I’m traveling and I’m running out of time. It depends on how badly I won’t a bird. Many argue against this and I believe it depends on circumstances and properties.

For example in Texas there are places that many birds will roost night after night. To get in tight and cause a scene would change their habits and make them harder to hunt on following days or for future hunters. I avoid pushing too hard there. If there are such placesthat are known on your hunting properties to be consistently holding roosted birds it is a good idea to give them somewhat of a berth so that you’ll know where to get after them on morning hunts at least early in the season.

For public land birds, limited hunting opportunities, or if you are running out of time, I would push in tight on roost areas. Let me put it this way. Most hunters will get as close to a roosted bird in the morning in the dark as they can. So I’m not sure what the real difference in hunting tight in the evening is compared to mornings. You risk busting the bird either way or disturbing a possible pattern. If there’s an argument here I’d say its more in regards to an individual believe about bushwhacking but that’s not what I’m suggesting. I still call and try and pull a bird over. Most Eastern birds I’ve hunted roost in a general area and not in the same tree.
The bottom line is I want to set up where birds have reason to be at certain times of day. Being within ear shot of a roost area or knowing travel routes back to them make sense in terms of trying to kill a bird. This can be done without pushing them out of an area.

For What its worth

Last year I killed all three of my Georgia Easterns and at least one of my two New Mexico birds in the afternoon. Grant killed a mid afternoon NM Merriams at 1:00 while a large group of us were sitting around eating lunch. Wesley killed the Idaho gobbler late in the day and may have killed others in the afternoon, I can’t remember. Jim Bates who has a technique I’ll describe as a “really long morning hunt”. The past two years he has hunted with us in Georgia and Alabama and he goes in before light and we don’t see him again until dark. He knows that you can’t kill em in camp and he always finds a way to put himself in a position to be successful all day long.
Afternoons can be long, hot, buggy, and boring. But they can provide opportunities.

Varied Approaches

It should be noted that the afternoon approaches I’ve discussed here work on morning hunts as well if birds are “quiet”.

I realize no two turkey hunters are alike, we all have our own style, and we all swear by what has worked in the past. Some of us are more fortunate than others when it comes to having the time to hunt and good turkey woods to hunt in. My time is somewhat limited but I have been pretty lucky when it comes to places to hunt.

For me it has been all about being open minded, flexible, and adopting blended tactics. As much as I want to hunt gobbling birds aggressively, I’ve learned to adjust and incorporate approaches that yielded results under many different circumstances in many different parts of the country when birds are quiet or during afternoons. I’m a turkey hunter that respects wildlife, enjoys the woods, and the camaraderie. But I do like to kill turkeys. I will run to a gobbling morning bird but I am willing to sit still for hours in a spot if I believe that’s what it takes on those quiet days or long afternoons.

The key is to learn how to identify through scouting the right locations to commit to, have the confidence and patience to stay with the plan, and be satisfied with a varied style of hunting.

Bobby Parks
Grand Slam Network
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol Tom Field Expert