Killing a turkey in the late season can be tough. That’s why many of us are still sitting on a tag or two with the final weeks of turkey season approaching. But it can be done. One of the hottest turkeys I’ve ever killed came to the call, screamin’ his head off, in the last week of season. You would have thought it was opening morning. He simply did things right, even in the late season. So for all the hard-headed toms you’ll come across in the late season, remember, there are other birds that are more willing and eager to play the game. Here’s 5 ways to kill a late season turkey.
Find a Lonely Bird
The hens spend very little time with the gobblers in the late season. They’ll leave them shortly after fly-down to tend and sit their nests. The key is to intercept these gobblers as they find themselves lonely, yet still in love. Look to your more open hunting areas along field edges where you can easily monitor hens walking off to do their chores. Just maintain a vantage point that allows you to slip in and out of the timber to make your move on Tom.
Consider Your Calling
By the time the late season rolls around, gobblers have most likely had every call imaginable thrown at them. They are pressured to the point of being call-shy. Consider the calls you’ve used on that particular bird over the season. Think about the ones you were using when you got busted. There’s been times when I hammered away with my mouth call in an area and the birds had simply had enough. They seemed to know it was me and they’d just shut down. But when I switched to a friction call or some other option, it grabbed an immediate response. It’s like a new chic just showed up in town. Every guy wants to meet the new chic. So do gobblers. Be the new chic.
Add Movement to Your Decoys
Much like your calling, gobblers have likely seen a variety of decoy presentations over the last month. They may be on to you. Suddenly that feeder, breeder, or strutter decoy ain’t so enticing anymore to the local longbeards. Now is the time to turn your game up a notch. I like to use a single hen decoy in the late season – and I like to use a jerk string or motion-activated decoy stake to bring that decoy to life. Pressured gobblers suspect nearly everything as evil in the late season. By simply making your feeder decoy look as if it’s actually feeding, you can often sway that bird.
The Avian-X Lifeline 360 Turkey Pulley Decoy System allows you to add motion to the mix.
Employ Aggressive Stealth
Keep in mind that the foliage that is present on the trees and landscape in the late season allows you to slip in tight on the birds you’re after. You can get closer to the roost, as well as slipping in closer as you ease within range for the shot of a bird already on the ground. You can get away with a lot more sneaking around when everything’s greened out. Don’t be afraid to make a move that might have gotten you busted last month. Remember, in nature, the hen is supposed to go to the tom. That’s what he is expecting. Be aggressive. Move in as tight as you can as you close the deal.
Bring a Friend Along
Plan on hunting with a friend in the late season. It’s too easy to slap the snooze button on the alarm clock if you’re hunting by yourself. When you know you’ve got a buddy waiting on you, you’ll keep getting up and getting after it. You can also count on a friend for tag-team calling efforts in the late season. Gobbling activity will often increase the middle of May as toms find themselves alone and looking for love, but there will also be a lot of birds that have shutdown at this time of year and become lock-jawed. But that doesn’t mean they won’t respond to your calls. They just come in silent. And this is where most hunters will fail in the late season. A tom that slips in silent will often bust you before you ever know he’s in the world. It’s frustrating, but it’s a reality of hunting the late season. Have your friend drop back 75-100 yards behind you and call softly. It’s no different than the tactic elk hunters employ every fall. And it’ll put a late season longbeard in your lap too.
As my dad use to say, “It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.” There’s still time! If you’ve got turkey tags in your pocket, make the most of the final days of turkey season and punch your tag on a late season longbeard.