March 21, 2022
By Scott Ellis
One of the most-overlooked aspects of successful spring gobbler hunting is the setup. Position is often the most important key to affording the hunter the best opportunity to harvest the bird. Below we will discuss four scenarios and some key factors that could seal the deal this spring.
1) Daybreak: Gobbler on the Roost
Once you have a gobbler answering your locator calls at daybreak, one of the oldest rules in the book is to slip in as close as possible to his position and then engage the gobbler. The farther you set up from a gobbler on the roost the more mishaps can occur. Two factors to consider when trying to work a gobbler from extended distances: One, other hunters can come between you and your quarry. Two, distance gives the hens plenty of time and space to intervene as you attempt to coax the tom into gun range.
Set up tight on the gobbler on the roost but be very careful not to spook him. If you have worked the gobbler previous hunts, he may be following some type of pattern after he flies down. Set up and begin your conversation where you have noted he is flying down and beginning his morning routine.
2) Setting Up in a Hurry
As exciting as “running and gunning” can be, it often creates an unsuccessful scenario as the hunter's adrenaline levels are high and excitement blocks productive thought processes. As you're easing along trying to elicit a response from a hot gobbler, be cognizant of a possible setup before you utter a sound. Survey your surroundings. Key on cover but ensure that it provides visibility. Do your best to quickly identify terrain features and avoid setups that could hinder the gobbler's route to your location. Position yourself in his path of least resistance. Providing easy access to your setup makes calling him into gun range a more reasonable prospect.
3) Following the Leader
If you have been pursuing a mouthy gobbler that is constantly moving away, it's time to cease hen calling and position yourself in front of the gobbler's apparent path. Utilize your locator calls such as a crow or hawk to pinpoint the tom's position as you circle around to get in front of his route. Attempt to course his movement and his general direction. Take note if he is traveling the perimeter of a driedup pond, pasture edge or ridge. Attempting to plot his course will help you will choose a setup that could have the gobbler wander by in gun or bow range. As mentioned earlier, consider visibility and cover when choosing your setup.
4) Late Season, Less-Vocal Turkeys
Once the season starts winding down and the turkeys start becoming less vocal, I adjust my tactics. At this point it is imperative to set up in places where you know turkeys are frequenting even though the gobbling has waned. I will set up on logging roads, pasture edges or strut zones. Identify feeding areas that hens are utilizing.
If you can locate concentrations of hens, there is a strong possibility that there will be gobblers in the area. Once I have identified a turkey-rich environment, I then utilize available natural materials (limbs, brush and vegetation) to create a makeshift blind to mask movement. Ensure that the greenery you utilize is placed beyond the length of your shouldered shotgun barrel or bow at full draw. It is also imperative that your blind is not too high, hindering your vision or your ability to move if needed, ensuring a clean shot. Lastly, settle in for the long haul, as patience in this scenario will often prevail. Once I have set up, I begin producing soft subtle calling. This includes soft purrs , clucks and whines, occasionally throwing in very soft 3 to 5 note yelps. As well, incorporate the age-old tactic of scratching in the leaves while producing these calls, thus simulating a feeding hen.
Always be mindful of setting up where the gobbler wants to go. This will make calling him into gun range much easier. Hunt hard, hunt safe and good luck! FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine March 2016