Wherever I go, whenever I hunt and whatever species I’m pursuing, I try to avoid doing what everyone else in that area typically does. I use the same principle while turkey hunting across the country, whether on public or private, north to south, spring or fall.
You can cut against the grain with several easy tactics. The first and easiest is to avoid hunting weekends, during which most weekend warriors will be afield. Most states sell over-the-counter licenses, so it’s easy to pick a few good weekdays to chase birds that haven’t been messed with for several days and have had a chance to cool off. Even if you have access to private property and are the only one that hunts it, birds can move long distances throughout the day and are easily harassed by neighboring hunters. My goal is to arrive at a destination midday on Wednesday so I can get a feel for the ground and hunt it hard before the Friday afternoon hunters show up. Go with what fits your schedule best if you must obtain a license months before the season, because you know there will only be a limited number of hunters for each season.
Here’s another against-the-grain tactic: Don’t hunt a bird that’s close to the road. In fact, months before I arrive at an area, I look at maps to see how I can get far from any road. Further, I’m always the first one in and the last one out of the woods. My goal is to be within listening distance of a gobbler, cooled down, unpacked, with my gear ready and motionless for 20 to 30 minutes before I think the turkey will gobble as the sun cracks.
I also consider other factors, such as decoy spreads, midday hunting, using blinds, setting up in the field or woods, or setting up near a feeder or high-use area. I’ll talk to everyone I think might have input to better my chances and lets me know the norm in each area. I’m careful not to offend anyone about their tactics, but “when in Rome” is not for me.
The way I hunt and live is proactive, so I’m always planning the best way to accomplish my goals. Yet with that said, if you see or hear a gobbler acting right or dumb near the road, go get him.
— Jeff Budz