Don’t succumb to temptation and take the path of least resistance. Use terrain and vegetation to keep you hidden from sharp-eyed gobblers.
When your mind sounds that alarm, it’s usually game over in turkey country. I experienced that during a recent hunt, and watching the tail-feather view of a fleeing flock confirmed the security dispatch in my head. I blamed myself with disgust for being careless and letting my bipedal form appear while moving toward a setup.
It wasn’t as if I didn’t have ample opportunities to hide. I simply chose to take the path of least resistance instead of moving behind natural cover. Using terrain lets you limit the busted factor. Don’t go around a geographic or vegetative feature when it could be the yellow-brick road for a veiled entrance to success.
Turkey security system
A turkey’s unique corneas let it see some colors; hence the bird’s spectacular iridescent attire and the ability to spot out-of-place patterns in nature. Plus, a turkey’s eyes are located on the sides of its head, giving it a 270-degree field of view. Combined with the bird’s paranoid mentality, they have a security system even ADT can’t duplicate.
Hearing also comes into play, and turkeys rarely miss an out-of-place sound. They scream back at distant calls and freeze when an unidentified twig breaks. Hearing and eyesight together give them the hunting prowess to seek the tiniest of insects, find other nutrition hidden in their habitat and stay safe from predators.
Matt Brunet, a 25-year hunting veteran, is the whitetail and turkey manager at Harpole’s Heartland Lodge in western Illinois (www.heartlandlodge.com). A New York native, Brunet is in his 10th year of guiding for wary Easterns.
“Turkeys see like nothing else,” he said. “They also have great ears and can pick out calls from a long way off, but it’s the eyes that get you in trouble the quickest. It always amazes me how they pick you out of a tree stand during a deer hunt, but deer pass by without ever seeing you.”
So how do you compensate for those traits?
Appraise the real estate
Use surrounding terrain to cloak your movements. And it’s best to learn the lay of the land before the season starts.
- Before the hunt, Google Earth flyovers can be somewhat helpful, but programs such as ScoutLook Weather (scoutlookweather.com) allow you to see what’s going on underneath the canopy.
- Specialized hunting apps even let you make notes on maps if you see terrain opportunities and potential set-up areas along field edges.
- During the hunt, surrounding landscape can help you stay out of sight and get to your setup if it’s already daylight, a full moon or an open setting you’re trying to get to. From timber edges to old logging roads, if you know the terrain, you can stay out of sight.
- The same landscape can help you move to a new setup if required during your hunt. Keeping up with the flock you’re chasing while staying hidden can be a task if you are not prepared.
Finally, Brunet isn’t afraid to put terrain to use in whitetail fashion. He monitors trail cameras all year to understand the turkeys’ daily movements.
“Turkeys usually have a common strut zone they go to every day,” he said. “We’ll hunt them off the roost, and if they won’t work the calls for us, we use the terrain to navigate to midday strut zones and set up for a later meeting.”
The path of least resistance is tempting, especially when you’re facing a rock-strewn hillside. Still, if it puts you in sight of a turkey flock, even the abilities of the Six Million Dollar Man can’t keep those birds from spotting you. Don’t get busted. Use terrain for a turkey hunting advantage.