Why the Late Season is the Best Time to Kill Your Turkey

By Josh HoneycuttMay 12, 20231 Comment

The early season came and left. The middle of the season passed us by. But now the late season is here. The end of turkey season is drawing near, and it’s time to fill remaining turkey tags.

Fortunately, there are numerous reasons why the late season can be the best time to notch your turkey tag. Here are seven of those reasons, as well as negative aspects to remember and tips for getting it done during the final days.

Season Dates

Some states break down turkey season into multiple segments. In some cases, hunters can only get tags for certain ones. In other situations, turkeys are easier to hunt during the late season. This is due to better circumstances and birds relocating to new areas they weren’t before.

A New Phase of Opportunity

Things change as we move throughout turkey season. Various phases produce different circumstances, expectations, advantages, disadvantages, and even tactics. The late season is one such phase, and with it, comes a fresh slate of opportunity.

That’s a great reason why the late season is great. Plus, by the late season, some birds have shifted to new areas they weren’t spending time in during the early season.

Why The Late Season Is The Best Time To Kill Your Turkey

Better Weather Patterns

Oftentimes, the early season can be hit hard with cold and/or rainy weather. Generally, the late season is sunnier and warmer, which improves the turkey hunting conditions. This alone can make the late season superior.

More Foliage and Better Cover

As the season progresses, more foliage grows out. This provides better cover, which makes it easier to slip up on birds. It allows hunters to move easier, effectively amplifying the run-and-gun tactic.

Closer Roost Setups

In addition to moving closer on grounded birds, more cover makes it easier to set up on roosted turkeys, too. This can put you right in the chips on turkeys that aren’t covering greater distances to reach calling and decoy setups.

Hens Are Harder to Come By

As more hens go off to nest, fewer are receptive to toms. Theoretically, this can make your calling and decoying more attractive to toms that aren’t getting the real thing.

Why The Late Season Is The Best Time To Kill Your Turkey

Fewer Hunters Afield

As some hunters tag out or give up, this should result in less hunter competition afield. This gives you more ground to yourself, and better odds of finding turkeys that aren’t being harassed by other hunters.

Remember the Flip Side

Just because there are good reasons to fill your tags during the late season doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges unique to this phase hunters must overcome. There are. With that said, having the right mindset and playbook, these can certainly be overcome.

First, there are fewer turkeys on the landscape. That alone means fewer opportunities to pull the trigger. Of course, don’t take this thought to the extreme, either. Yes, a lot of turkeys are already dead. No, all the turkeys aren’t dead. Social media might have you believe that, but there are still plenty of birds alive and well for you to hunt during the late season.

Naturally, once the late season arrives, turkeys have likely seen a decent amount of hunting pressure. As the number of hunter days (in the field) increases for a given area, the more run-ins turkeys have with hunters, and the warier gobblers get.

Changes Coming For Tennessee Turkey Hunting To Slow Population Decline

Obviously, this produces smarter turkeys. Not in the true sense of the word. Turkeys aren’t intelligible. But they are incredibly reactionary and most certainly adept at staying alive. Therefore, all the interactions with hunters should hypothetically make turkeys more difficult to hunt.

The late season can produce one of two moods for gobblers. No. 1, hens are less receptive, and gobblers run at the chance to have another love connection. Or, No. 2, toms succumb to declining interest in breeding. Both things happen during the late season. It all just depends on the gobbler and the day.

Regardless of whether your late-season hunt produces positive reasons to be hunting, or negative ones, there are numerous tips to fill that late-season turkey tag. Match the tips to the situations you find yourself experiencing.

Late-Season Turkey Hunting Tips

The late season produces advantages and disadvantages, but our playbook of turkey hunting tips can make the final days of gobbler-getting season a grand time. Consider these tactics and use them when it contextually and strategically makes sense to do so.

Use the Shade: Turkeys are using their sharp eyes even more now that it’s the late season. Stick to the shade when moving from location to location, and when setting up.

Call Less Often: Late-season turkey flocks aren’t as loud. Consider calling less often. However, if the birds are being raucous on a given day, crank that call back up.

Tone Done the Calling: Likewise, just as late-season turkeys tend to call less often, when they do vocalize, it tends to be quieter. As such, your calling should be quieter, too.

Use Various Calls: Sounding like multiple hens, finding a sound a particular turkey likes, or merely finding the one you are most proficient with, are all excellent reasons to use various turkey calls.

Change the Deke Spread: Using that strutter decoy during the early season might have paid off. It likely won’t during the late-season, though. Consider changing up the decoy spread to be more reserved, such as a single hen, multiple hens, or at the most aggressive, the use of a half-strut jake decoy.

Get Closer to Gobblers: Late-season turkeys likely won’t run 300 yards across a field to reach your decoy spread. So, when possible, get closer to known gobbler locations before setting up. Cutting the distance they must travel is a great way to boost the odds.

turkey call

Hunt the Afternoon: Not all late-season toms are hen-less. Some are still hanging with the ladies. That said, they will likely lose them by midday. That’s a perfect time to catch a lonely longbeard.

Find the Strut Zones: As hens become less receptive, some strutters will spend more time in their strut zones. Hitting up these spots might relinquish a love-struck longbeard.

Find the Nesting Cover: During the late season, most hens are nesting. These areas tend to be thicker cover. As hens spend more time there, the toms will likely follow. These are midday and early afternoon hotspots.

Head for Shorter Pastures: In contrast, some areas are getting so thick that turkeys don’t want to spend a lot of time there. Hay fields that previously attracted turkeys are turning off birds due to increased navigation difficulty. So, early in the morning and late in the day, birds are hitting up plowed fields and cattle pastures more than before.

Calibrate Your Ears: Now that the foliage is on, turkeys are becoming more difficult to hear. Turkeys that sounded 150-200 yards during the early season likely were that distance. But with leaves on, it’s important to recalibrate distance gauging. Oftentimes, during the late season, turkeys are much closer than they sound.

Be Patient: Generally, the later in the season, the slower turkeys are to respond. Hunters must be more patient. Sit longer and be more relaxed in your approach.

All things considered, so long as turkey season remains open, there is time left yet to fill turkey tags. Getting afield and creating opportunities is what it’s all about. Put in the effort, and you just might notch your turkey tag during the late season.

Josh Honeycutt
Josh Honeycutt is an avid deer hunter. He's hunted whitetails from South Carolina to South Dakota but spends most of his time hunting in Kentucky. Honeycutt has written and created other forms of media for more than 60 media companies in the outdoor industry, including: North American Whitetail, Whitetail Journal, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Deer & Deer Hunting, Rack Magazine, Inside Archery, Game & Fish, Fur-Fish-Game, and others. He's also very active in digital content, specializing in writing, editing, photography, videography, podcasting, and more. You can see how his deer season unfolds each year on Midwest Whitetail and Chasing November.
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