Great Roost Hunts

There’s no better turkey hunting plan than to locate a gobbler during the evening and get under him the next morning. Here’s how to make it happen.

Roost him: Start near a likely roost. Find a good listening spot, and wait until the sun is low before trying to elicit gobbles. Many hunters err by trying to roost turkeys that haven’t flown up yet.

When you’re sure birds have roosted, start with owl hoots to provoke a shock gobble. If that nets nothing, wait a minute, and then make some fly-up cackles on a friction call. Wait and listen. If nothing responds, repeat the owl hoots and cackles. Be patient. A gobbler won’t always answer right away. If you want to ratchet up the intensity, use a coyote howler.

When a bird responds, course his gobble immediately. If he’s close, great. Try to determine which tree he’s in. If the turkey is farther, use terrain and cover to cut the distance, and then make him gobble again. Get as close as possible so you can nail down his exact location. You’ll only have a few minutes to do this before dark.

Make your plan: If you’re close to the roosted turkey, seek a good setup. Then, when it’s dark, slip out without spooking the bird. You might even count your steps to the truck so you can retrace that route the next morning.

If the turkey is farther away, refer to your knowledge of the land or review aerial photographs to find the best approach. Identify the easiest, stealthiest route to a likely set-up spot near the gobbler.

The toughest part will be guessing where the turkey might fly down. If you heard him fly up, great, as he might hit the ground there the next morning. Otherwise, take your best shot. Turkeys roosted in bowls or off ridges usually fly down to the high side of the terrain. Open ridges, pastures, clear-cuts or ag fields are also likely landing spots. 

Act on it: If you plan to set up close to the roost — and closer is usually better — do it well before dawn. Be under the bird a half-hour or more before light starts to appear in the east.

Use darkness to slip into the area. No flashlights. If you must walk through woods, traverse logging roads or deer trails if possible. Otherwise, tiptoe slowly and deliberately to your setup, avoiding brush and clumsy footfalls. You’ll make some noise getting close to turkeys, but that’s OK. They’re accustomed to hearing deer and other critters underneath them at night. Find your tree, sit and wait. Let the woods settle down. If you were careful, nearby turkeys won’t suspect a thing.

Hunt: As light begins to break, scan treetops for dark forms, and listen for drumming. Toms will do this long before they gobble. At the first gobble, determine where the longbeard is and where he might pitch down. Ease your body in position to shoot the second he hits the ground. Utter some light tree yelps if you want, but don’t overdo it. Stay ready.

Reflect: Enjoy your fried turkey breast. You earned it. 

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