ichigan turkey hunters are lucky because they can go afield when weather is ideal, warm, and sunny and the gobblers are still active. Choose hunt number 0234 to take advantage of warm weather turkey hunting. This year you can buy the tag online at www.michigan.gov/huntingdrawings or from a license agent over the counter and the hunt begins May 4 and runs until May 31, 2015. More importantly, hunting pressure is very low and birds are relaxed, active, strutting, fanning and eager to respond to turkey calls.
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 with the green Michigan environment you need to use green camo. Perhaps one of the hottest camo patterns going is the U.S. 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.
May turkey hunting is a blast. Song birds are singing, plants are growing, the smell of fresh grasses and flowers fill the air and you can be outdoors from dawn until dusk without wearing thermal underwear.
However, you still need to be covered with camo clothing from head to toe. Fish net style gloves and face mask will conceal your skin and allow ideal air circulation when the sun is high and temperatures rise. Sometimes you can use tennis shoes while hunting during warm weather but I prefer a lightweight uninsulated rubber boot spray painted green. Rubber boots allow you to cross creeks, ditches, small ponds or standing spring runoff and still keep your feet dry and warm. Check out Boggs, Muck boots or uninsulated rubber boots for this style of hunting. Savvy hunters roll the boot tops down to allow increased air circulation when hunting on dry land.
Last spring we had extreme cold weather in April and heavy rain. Nesting hens got flooded out and breeding was frantic during May. The extreme cold February 2015 weather and January-like weather in March has put gobbler breeding activity on hold. I expect spring 2015 to be a carbon copy of 2014 and there will be an abundance of breeding during May.
Gobbler numbers are fast declining throughout Michigan due to cold/wet spring weather and recruitment has been very poor. Northern Michigan turkey populations are taking a big hit and many hunters are concentrating on Unit ZZ in southern Michigan where populations are somewhat stable.
Food sources available in southern Michigan have helped turkeys to survive cold weather and in many areas with the drastic decline in deer numbers the coyote population has decreased substantially. Last fall there was no turkey season in northern Michigan because biologists felt the turkey numbers were at an all-time low and they wanted no birds harvested. Smart hunters have made the switch from northern counties to turkey rich lands found in southern Michigan.
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 have breeding experience expect hens to come running. Smart turkeys are always looking for an ambush from coyote or hunters.
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. 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.
Wise hunters set out decoys in areas where gobblers can see them. Good locations include agricultural fields, roadways, two track trails, openings in the forest, sand creek bottoms, sand pits, freshly planted fields and more. The trick is to set out life-like realistic looking decoys and conceal yourself nearby. Don’t think just because you are wearing camo clothing that the super sharp eyes of an adult gobbler will not locate you. Turkeys detect motion much better than trophy bucks and they can easily locate a shiny unpainted shotgun barrel, black bottoms of your boots, white fingers, anything that looks unnatural.
There are many decoys on the market but I cannot say enough about using an adult gobbler decoy with fully fanned tail. Some hunters prefer a folding style fake tail like the MOJO Tail Chaser that is easy to transport but I like to use actual wild turkey tail fully fanned and treated with Boraxo powdered hand soap. Real turkey feathers give off little shine in bright sunlight; they move with the wind and offer the brand of realism that brings toms running.
Full strut decoys are the ticket to instant turkey hunting success because local gobblers come looking for a fight if they detect an intruder. It seems woods-wise gobblers come running when they see a new gobbler on their turf in full fan. Combine realistic feathers with photo-quality head colors and glass eye hypnotize approaching toms with a “Dare you to fight me” profile that gobblers cannot resist. Combine a full strut gobbler with a submissive hen decoy and you have a powerful combination that is certain to spell victory for hunters.
When gobblers go silent and ignore a decoy that’s when I go trophy hunting by driving country roads, spot trophy gobblers and stalk the big birds. My goal is to glass big birds and find a gob with at least a 10-inch beard, get permission from landowners, sneak into the woods and catch birds as they leave the agricultural 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, and 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 shiny gun barrel and turkeys will scram, pronto.
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.
Turkeys are most active at daylight and late afternoon when temperatures are ideal for hunting. During hot, sunny weather gobblers often take a nap and lay down in the shade of a tree or in tall grass to cool their body. A sudden thunderstorm can bring gobblers on the run as they quickly become active. May gobblers often feed in plowed fields following heavy showers in search of earthworms.
Warm weather 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 hunting gobblers during