What does a hunter do when wild turkey gobblers get a serious case of shut-mouth disease during the spring season?
For a hunter who wants to be successful and put a gobbler in the freezer, it’s time to go back to work to put the hunt back in the spring turkey hunting game.
But don’t take my word for it. Instead, take the words of a couple of the best spring turkey hunters out there.
“If the turkeys are not gobbling very much and they’re not responding to calls, go back in your memory bank from all of your scouting and get in an area where there is a lot of food and you’ve seen a lot of turkey activity,” said Chris Kirby, head man of Quaker Boy Game Calls and a well-known turkey calling champ from the northeastern U.S.
Mark Drury, a longtime Outdoor Channel television hunting personality and a one time call maker from the gobbler rich Midwest agrees.
In fact, he says that one of the most important things that any turkey hunter can do all boils down to a single word, especially when the birds go into silent mode.
“Scouting,” said Drury. “The more you understand the quarry, as far as their habits (go) and what they do day in and day out to stay alive, the better you become at trying to harvest that bird.”
So what does all of this mean for a Red River Valley turkey hunter as this springtime hunting campaign starts to head towards the finish line for the 2020 season?
In my book, it means answering four simple questions and then connecting the various dots to come up with a solid game plan for a day of turkey hunting.
First, you want to know where the birds are roosting on the property that you are hunting. That is best accomplished by getting out in the evening and listening as the birds fly up to roost in big trees near creeks, rivers and bottomland drainages filled with mature timber.
As the birds move into such areas as the last light of evening fades on the western horizon, a hunter who is sitting somewhere within hearing distance can hear the birds traveling, calling, flying up into a roost tree and sounding off with a gobble or two while the sun goes down.
The next piece to the puzzle to understand is what the birds — particularly the hens — are feeding on each day and where the local chow hall happens to be. Of similar importance is where a bird is watering — look for tracks around creeks and ponds — and where they may be loafing in the coolness of shade trees that lure in the birds on a warm spring afternoon.
To find such spots, rely on your eyes and perhaps a few game camera units that you still have out after last fall’s deer season.
Next, it helps to have an idea of where the hens on a piece of property typically nest during the spring. Usually, that’s a high-and-dry spot that is out of a flood zone and one that offers protection from ground-based and avian predators who might want to raid a hen’s nest full of incubating eggs.
Finally, a hunter will want to know the various travel routes that a gobbler is using each day to get from Point A (roost areas) to Point B (feeding areas) to Point C (nesting zones, shady spots, watering holes, etc.).
That’s as simple as finding a collection of turkey tracks in the soft mud (including direction of travel); long range optical spying (with binoculars) on the birds as they move about each day; and once again, even the use of strategically placed game trail cameras (where the practice is legal).
With such data carefully noted — in either an old-school notebook, or more likely these days on a Smartphone hunting app — a sense of a turkey’s daily habits and movement patterns will begin to emerge to the discerning hunter.
Such information can then be put to good use as the spring season unfolds and winds down.
That’s true when the birds are sounding off well on a given day, but it is also particularly useful when the spring woods go silent and there isn’t a gobble to be found anywhere around.
Until Mr. Johnny Gobbler shows up unannounced and you quickly invite him to the dinner table.