Late May’s Gobblers
Michigan turkey hunters are lucky because the biggest advantages of hunting the late (hunt 234) season is the weather is warm, birds are active and the season lasts almost an entire month. Too often the weather ruins the early hunt. Last year the weather was freezing, and then high winds and thunderstorms highlighted by pouring rain storms put a damper on turkey activity. More importantly, hunting pressure is very low and birds are relaxed, active, strutting, fanning and eager to respond to a turkey call.
Camo Must Be Right
You will need to make a few alterations to your hunting clothing if you want to fool wary toms during the late season. In order to match your hunting clothing to the green Michigan environment you will need to use green camo.
Perhaps one of the hottest camo patterns going is he US Forces forest green or tiger stripe. Advantage has a green timber that will work but you can forget traditional brown camo patterns used for deer hunting or early spring turkey outings.
When the grass grows tall and spring leaves bud out the landscape is a green color and hunters wearing brown camo tip off the wary eyes of adult gobblers. One trick is to use green spray paint on pants, shirt, boots, gloves, hat and face mask. My favorite paint colors are Rust-Oleum army green and American Accents leafy green. Oh yes, I use the same leafy green paint on my Benelli shotgun, even on my telephoto camera when I’m chasing late season toms.
As spring progresses and grass or ferns grow tall, openings in the forest disappear. That’s when you want to concentrate your efforts along the edges of open fields. The key to harvesting wise old gobblers found in fields depends on several important factors.
First, you have to find them, which can take plenty of scouting. Once you locate the tom you want, try to determine his travel route. One strategy is to set up along his route with decoys and calls. Figure out a tom’s pattern, set up close and you can have almost instant success. Other gobblers will usually follow routes taken by hens. In this case, you try to get within shotgun range of hens as they leave the field. Love sick toms will follow.
Truth is. Big old, wary toms that look precarious in open fields are very difficult to harvest. They use their keen eyesight to catch predators or hunters sneaking toward them. They stay cautiously behind hens and use them as guards to protect their travel route and detect hunters. If a hen detects danger she gives an alarm putt, scoots for safety and the big tom immediately knows there is danger. Trying to call a tom to thick brush or woods is somewhat difficult, smart birds that that have breeding experience expect hens to come running. Smart turkeys are always looking for an ambush from coyote or hunters.
Hunt The Roost
One strategy is to catch the old bird off guard and coax him from a roost at daylight. This requires you are set up long before the faintest light of dawn will give away your position to watchful turkeys. Which means you must arrive and set up in total darkness. Set up about 30 yards from the field which gives you enough cover to hide you from birds coming from the open and hides your human outline from birds traveling toward you from the woods.
Another trick is to place decoys in secondary openings a few yards from the open field. Use a few wake up calls to get the toms attention, and then break into soft purrs to coax the love sick tom toward you. Most novice hunters make the common mistake of overcalling gobblers and send them flying the opposite direction.
Try A Stalk
My deadliest tactic is to drive country roads, spot trophy gobblers and stalk the big birds. My goal is to sneak into the woods and catch birds as they leave the field. This strategy works best in the afternoon on birds that gather in fields for an evening snack. Come sundown they leave the field to roost in the woods nearby. By spotting birds, scouting, learning travel routes, I can cut them off with ease. I’m not calling to attract birds, but intercepting them and sneaking into shotgun range. Plus it is much easier to get hunting permission from landowners in the afternoon, rather than waking them at the crack of dawn.
Moving on adult turkeys is a tough task. It takes advanced woodsmanship to allow subordinate turkeys to walk past and you must have excellent camouflage on your gun, face, hands and total body. There is no room for error in this sport. Leave your white hands exposed, show your fingers or shinning gun barrel and turkeys will scram, pronto.
More Hunting Means More Chances
Most turkey callers scale back in the late season. When the timing is right and gobblers are searching for a mate, big boys will come running to the slightest sound of a hot hen. But when the leaves are out and May birds move to open fields, try to pick up your pace and use tactics like spot-stalk gobblers.
Late season turkey hunts can be run-n-gun adventures where you do plenty of scouting and then the hunt begins. Keep in mind that ambushing a wild turkey is a difficult task, but it is a strategy to add to your hunting arsenal.
There are several tactics we use to fill our tag. Fact is the more time you spend outdoors hunting, the more encounters you will have with wild turkeys, and the better hunter you become and the better you will appreciate the blessings of the late season.