9 Mornings. 9 Sunrises. 9 Cups of coffee, truck rides, game plans, and high hopes. That’s how many trips to the same spot, hunting the same bird, in the same conditions, it took to tag an old, wary river tom. We had tried every setup but one, and we had one last day to make it work. As we pulled in to park, Kevin and I went back and forth about our last ditch plan to try and fool this bird. Was it the right call? Were we pushing it too far? With it being the last day of season, it didn’t really matter. Sundown on this Sunday meant this particular turkey got a pardon until next season, and that just didn’t sit well with us. So we wished each other luck, turned off our flashlights, and set out to the opposite ends of the field. This bird had given us the slip every time we thought we had him pegged. If we setup next to the river, he would be roosted up the hill. If we setup on the hill, he would fly down by the river. By splitting up, we knew we were getting a good chance to get in front of him, but also a good chance to bust him out of his bedroom. Luckily, our plan paid off, and by 7 o’clock we were walking back to the truck with a bird over our shoulder, and a smile on our faces.
That turkey taught me many things that season, but not the least of them were these 3 things about hunting the so called “River Toms”;
#1 – The River is your friend, and also your enemy.
If you’ve ever hunted turkeys near water, you’ll notice that they love to roost right by it. There are several theories on why, from birds loving the security of knowing their back is covered, to having a set landmark in which to return to every night. No matter what the reason, it can be a huge benefit, or a giant downfall. The benefit to hunting birds that tend to roost near water is that usually, they come back to the same general area night after night to roost. This can come in handy when trying to pattern birds in early spring. It can also give you an upper hand if the water they are hanging near has an embankment, or thick woods that allow you to walk the waters edge in order to sneak into gun range. However, this can also lead to a lot of frustration. If they are roosted near water with no woods, or a steep embankment, it can lead to them knowing they’re covered, and you’ve got no chance of sneaking in on them. The other downfall of river birds is sometimes, they just decide to fly down the other way. There’s no better way to cut a turkey hunt short than to setup on a flock of turkeys, and have them fly across a large creek or river. Unless you have permission and access to that side, chances are those birds are done for the day.
#2 – Give them a break
One thing I’ve learned over my years spent chasing spring turkeys, is that sometimes the best thing you can do, is leave them be for awhile. First thing in the morning long beards will gobble their heads off, and make you think they’re going to land on your gun barrel. But as the morning wears on, if they have hens, they get quieter and quieter, and less and less responsive. This is because when a turkey is in breeding mode, and has hens at his disposal, he has no reason to make a peep or leave his post. He’s going to do his best to spread his genetics to every willing hen within eyesight, and he has no desire to go off searching for one he can’t even see. That’s why sometimes, it’s better to leave that turkey be for a few hours. Pull back, let him breed his hens, and let him get desperate once they start leaving him to nest. That’s when you can strike, giving him the “lonely hen” treatment, and catch him at his weakest.
#3 – Divide and conquer
This final lesson took us an entire season to master. We watched the same bird morning after morning do something different, just out of shotgun range. By splitting up and covering 2 of his favorite “strut zones”, we effectively doubled our chances of taking this bird home in the back of the truck. We also gave ourselves an opportunity to make a move on him if he flew down no-where close. By breaking ourselves up, one of us could be in the position to slip back into the woods and get a little closer, seeing that now we only had to close the distance by 100 yards, as opposed to 300 when we were in the same spot. In the end, this was the downfall of that old bird, and the downfall of many others since.
Try and take these tip’s into your next encounter with a stubborn old tom, and you might get the chance to get up close and personal with him!
In this tip, Jared goes over what he considers to be one of the best locator calls, that sounds pretty bad. Check it out!