Turkey tips for hunting in bad weather
This winter has been one of the most brutal winters in Michigan history. Record colds and snowfall have been harsh on everyone and everything, including our flocks of wild turkeys.
The winter days will start to fade and the cold will break. Spring will arrive and with it the beginning of turkey season.
Battling a variety of weather conditions is nothing new for spring turkey hunters. For anyone that has hunted or lived in Michigan, weather change is common and expected.
Pursuing spring turkeys is hard enough without nasty weather; hunters need to use every advantage possible to fill their spring turkey tag. While weather conditions do play a major role in hunting success, there are some tactics hunters can use to put the odds in their favor even in the worst weather Mother Nature can throw at us.
A wild turkey in Michigan is both smart and adaptive when it comes to the weather. The most important factor for spring turkey hunters is to be prepared and realize how the weather affects turkey movement.
Weather can slow some of the aggressive toms during the spring, but breeding and feeding is always on their mind.
Don’t be afraid to adjust your usual tactics when bad weather hits. Michigan’s weather is unpredictable; hunters could have a snowstorm or be flooded out of their hunting area.
While controlling the weather is impossible, spring turkey hunters can control their hunting tactics. Here are three weather variables that Mother Nature could release this year.
Snow in April? It could happen. In fact, many hunters have hunted Michigan turkeys in the snow. Keep in mind, we live in Michigan.
Snow and cold temperatures will definitely change turkey patterns and leave hunters wondering where all the birds have gone. Turkeys tend to communicate less when cold weather arrives. Gobblers tend to gobble less, making it harder to call a tom into a decoy setup. Don’t be surprised to have a tom come into your set-up without any gobbling. Unlike the rain, snow will also cause both hens and gobblers to stay on the roost longer. A good strategy for hunting in the snow is to hunt mid-day. Mid-day temperatures are more appealing for movement compared to the frigid morning temperatures. Look for areas where the sun will warm the fastest. If the area is hilly or there are slopes, sit up on the southern side of the hills. These areas will heat faster and be the warmest areas. Also look for areas that will lose snow the fastest. Turkeys will tend to scratch and look for food in these open areas. Finding food is a lot harder in the snow but turkeys will look for easiest way to find a food source. Several years ago I remember getting eight inches of snow during the spring turkey season. Local schools where cancelled and all the previous scouting I had done was thrown out the window. I had to go back to the drawing board and focus more on feeding patterns rather than breeding behavior.
Snow is a real possibility, especially for hunters who draw permits for the first season.
Gone with the Wind
I love to hunt, but personally no other weather condition affects me more than windy conditions. In the spring, a hunter’s main advantage is the ability to call to aggressive gobblers. High winds make this task a lot harder. High winds also make hearing a gobbler’s response difficult. Unable to hear a tom calling back, puts even a higher premium on patience. Be prepared to sit longer without hearing many responses. A hunter needs to change his calling strategies to accommodate the wind. Using friction/slate and box calls are ideal during windy weather. These calls produce a high pitch and have a higher volume. This extends a hunters calling range. Mouth calls can still be effective; the active range will be shortened.
Windy weather changes a turkey’s daily pattern. When it’s windy, turkeys must depend on their eyes more and they tend to be a lot spookier in poor weather conditions. A good strategy is to try sitting up on near hidden open areas that are protected by timber. Turkeys feel more comfortable in these areas and are less apt to feed in wide open fields.. For hunters that like action, try running and gunning after birds. Don’t be afraid to move often and check fields for activity. Moving on windy days can prove to pay off. A turkey will still depend on their amazing eyesight, so try to move in thick concealed areas surround these open areas.
Hunters can use the high winds to eliminate sound and conceal some of their movement. Turkeys have a harder time seeing the slightest movement when most of their surroundings are blowing in the wind. It might give a hunter just enough movement to move their gun or draw their bow.
When It Rains It Pours!
Hunter Specialties Pro Staffer Phillip Vanderpool travels all over the world hunting turkeys. He has some simple but powerful advice about hunting in the rain. “You can’t control the weather, but you can control how wet you get and how successful you are on the hunt. Each day you hunt, your chances of taking a turkey are 200% better when you’re out in the field trying to take a turkey than when you’re sitting in back at camp dodging the rain,” said Vanderpool. The biggest secret to turkey hunting in the rain is simple, get out and hunt. There are only so many days available during the spring, don’t let a little rain slow you down.
All spring hunters will face rainy weather during their hunt. In the spring, rain is a constant problem that hunters must learn to deal with. One major advantage of hunting in the rain is that it limits a turkey’s visibility and diminishes the noise level in the woods. When it rains hard, hunters need to stick to open fields and use high-volume calls. Don’t give up on the fields to early. Keep in mind that the rain will change turkeys roosting patterns causing a lot of hunters to move before they turkeys have
started to feed. The rain makes
hunters think that turkeys aren’t
moving, which isn’t the case.
Turkeys are moving they just
tend to move later and are more
reluctant to leave the safety of the roost. Rain causes turkeys to stay closer to the safety of the roost
and feed later. Eventually the birds will get down and head to a field
for feeding. Since hens are more
apt to stay on roost longer, your chances of enticing a gobbler actually increase. Toms are actively looking for breeding hens and since most hens are still on the roost, a hunter has a better chance of calling in a wandering tom. Another good strategy is to hunt near a fly down zone or a staging area. Hunters can sneak into these areas quieter and more effectively in the rain. Turkeys tend to stay longer in these areas before heading out to feed. They are also uncomfortable foraging through thick, wet wooded areas. Turkeys feel uncomfortable having wet feathers and the water adds a lot of weight to their feathers. Having wet feathers makes it harder for turkeys to take flight when spooked. Turkeys will tend to run if pushed or look for a bigger runway for take-off. If your hunting with someone else, try to set up to cut of the fleeing birds, than at least one of the hunters will get a shot.
Don’t let the elements beat you this turkey season. Make sure you are wearing the proper cloths, allowing you to stay dry and comfortable. Make sure your calls are stored in a plastic bag, moisture can ruin your turkey calls.
Mother Nature may be fierce and unpredictable, but this year don’t let the weather dictate the success of your spring turkey season.