When I started turkey hunting in 1979, I was 31 years old and full of spit and vinegar. I’d hunt from predawn until the end of legal shooting time. I’d run and gun, walking and calling, and walking and calling some more, rarely setting up unless I heard a gobble. I covered a lot of ground and shot a lot of birds. Now, at 66, I still tag a lot of turkeys, and though I’m in good shape, I’ve tempered my tactics to accommodate the aging process.
The Department of Environmental Conservation reports that the average age of turkey hunters in my home state of New York is 54. Statistics for the remaining 48 turkey hunting states might be similar. With that in mind, I think there are likely many gray beards who go after longbeards, and they might be interested in the adjustments I have made in my hunting tactics.
The typical turkey hunting experience begins well before first light, listening for gobbles that greet the day. Then, the textbook has you getting close to the roost, making some calls and luring a gobbler into shotgun range. It’s a great scenario when it actually unfolds, but all too often, the birds haven’t read the textbook. That doesn’t mean I don’t still make those predawn outings: I just don’t do it as often.
Birds don’t disappear after first light. They might not be as aggressive in coming to your calls, but that doesn’t mean they won’t answer.
As the season progresses and hens spend more time sitting on their nests, late-morning hunts and afternoon outings can be an even better bet. By late morning, hens might have left the gobblers, and the always-ready-to-breed males might prove to be much more receptive to your calls.
Walk less, set up more
I was a run-and-gun guy long before the term was in vogue. I explored every likely ridgetop that showed promise. I’d want to get above the birds and walk and call until I got a response. Then, I’d set up for what I expected to be the last act of the play.
Now, I use my experience to identify the areas where I’ve seen birds before. I find a good spot to sit and then call every 10 minutes or so. The slow-down-and-sit-down technique has gotten me more birds than I ever thought it would.
Give back to younger generations
Nothing gives me more pleasure than getting others, especially young people, into turkey hunting. As seniors, we have a responsibility to get new people to taste the experience. Start with youngsters, by identifying those who qualify for special youth hunts but don’t have anyone to take them. Show the way to them and anyone else who might be interested. Nothing will give you a more memorable senior moment than calling in the first tom for a new turkey hunter.
Gear for seniors
I put an emphasis on comfort now, and I believe that being comfortable will allow more seniors to get into — and stay in — the turkey woods. For me, that means always slinging over my shoulder NWTF’s Deluxe Two-Way Strut Seat, a stool with foldable legs that easily sets up as an elevated seat. It keeps me high, dry and, well, comfortable. I also pack in a foldable stake blind, which I can erect as a partial screen for my setup.
Finally, in recent years, aging has taken its toll on my eyesight, and now I wear glasses when I hunt. To avoid my glasses fogging up during that moment of truth, before I head out, I apply Fogtech DX on my lenses. It comes in a vial of drops or as disposable wipes.