“There are no birds left on this property”. At least that was my thought as I was making the 1-1/2 mile trek back to my truck from the spot I had been set up at. It was 1 p.m., and I hadn’t heard a single bird all day. As I walked past an area I always stop to call, I figured I’d give my box call one more rip before humping it to my chevy so I could pick up the kids in time (I’d been late one to many times that spring, and wasn’t looking forward to the talking too I was sure to get from their teachers if I showed up past 3 p.m. again).
After one 4 chord yelp, he hammered, hard. If I was going to take this bird home, there was no time for pleasantries. I slung my shotgun over my shoulder and quickly closed the 150 yards before slowing down to a crawl, and peaking over the rise. He was strutting with 3 hens and a Jake, and had no idea I was there. Bang.
Sometimes playing the slow game is the way to that toms heart. Sweet talking him into range while your shotgun sits on your knee is what dreams are made of, but it doesn’t have to be the only way. Here are some tips for run-and-gun turkey hunting, that just may help fill your tag this spring.
Know the terrain –
I’ve blown plenty of setups in my time by not sitting still, or pushing it just a little to far on the approach. Those experiences have taught me nothing helps a “take the fight to them” type hunter, more than knowing the ground you hunt. Knowing where the ridges, bottoms, tree lines, and fields are, will help you take more turkeys than most high-dollar custom slate calls ever will. Study google earth or topo maps to see those little areas you can use to sneak around. You just might find that one route that gets you right into his wheelhouse.
Know when to wait –
Although running and gunning is becoming one of my favorite ways to hunt turkeys, I have also learned that sometimes, it’s better to sit and wait. If a bird sounds like he’s moving your way, there’s a good chance he is. Only use the kamikaze method when he locks up, or is completely disinterested. Taking off running after a bird that is headed your way is a sure-fire disaster, and a hard lesson in patience.
Know the animal –
A turkeys ability to pick out movement at great distances can only be fully understood by hunting them, and inadvertently becoming that movement. Only move on a bird when you are completely blocked from his vision. Move slowly and deliberately, stopping in places that give you great cover when he pokes his head around that tree. Also be aware of other birds around. When you’re stalking a Tom with hens, you’re stalking the entire flock, not just him. Knowing what you can and can’t get away with is something best learned in practice, but when in doubt, err on the side of caution.
Know you’re gonna fail –
And you’re gonna bump birds. That’s just the hard truth of this method of hunting. For every Tom you sneak into gun range on, there will be several that you bump before you get a chance to slip the safety off. But don’t give up, with time and practice, your failures will become less and less, and you’ll have more and more exciting stories to tell around the breakfast table with your buddies.
Take these tips into consideration next time you’re in the turkey woods, and they may just help you bag a bird this season!