Second-Shift Turkey Hunting Strategies

Mornings get all the attention during turkey season, and why not? Breathtaking sunrises and heart-pounding fly-down hunts stir our imagination.

However, afternoons need some love, too. Many hunters avoid the late shift because turkeys usually aren’t as active or vocal during afternoons, especially if it’s warm and sunny. But, gobblers don’t vanish after lunchtime, and you can tag one if you adjust your approach. Here's how:

Let conditions dictate your afternoon strategies. If temperatures are relatively warm and it’s not raining, turkeys will likely loaf or mill about in shady areas until grabbing a bite to eat during late afternoon or early evening and heading off to roost. Glass likely areas from the road or high vantage points in hopes of locating birds. If you see some, formulate a plan to cut them off or set up at their likely destination.

If you don’t locate birds, which is often the case, set up at probable feeding or travel spots — ag fields, logging roads, open flats or cattle gates, for example — and cold-call sporadically, hoping to attract birds or at least generate a response. You might have to wait a bit, as turkeys often won’t get active again until the sun starts to sink and temperatures cool a bit.

During wet weather, focus on locating turkeys in open areas, and plot an ambush. They’re typically much more visible in soggy conditions, as they’ll stay in fields or pastures much of the day until heading to roost. This doesn’t mean you should look for flocks and try to bushwhack them. Rather, note their location and travel direction, and try to set up along their path or within calling distance.

You don't need to vary your calling approach too much from morning to afternoon. If you're cold-calling, start soft and wait a few minutes between series, ratcheting up the frequency and intensity of your calling as time passes. Also, use several calls to sound like a group of hens. When an afternoon gobbler responds to calling, work him like any other turkey, giving him urgent, excited calling if he wants it or toning things down if he tries to play coy. That’s one nice element of afternoon hunting: If a turkey gobbles at your calling two or three times — that is, not a one-off courtesy gobble — he’s likely alone and ready to work. Your odds of killing him are good.

One final afternoon note: Sometimes, it’s easy to sit by a hot roost site and clobber a gobbler as he prepares to fly up. Just remember, blowing up a roost might ruin the area for days or even the season. It's often better to find or guess where a bird might approach, set up away from the roost and hunt there.

Don’t sweat if you sleep through your alarm clock once or twice this spring. You’ll feel just as happy toting a gobbler back to the truck at sundown as you would at midmorning. 

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