Bow Hunting Late-Season Gobblers
Turkey season has come to an end in parts of the country but hunters in some states still have a few days left to fill a tag with a bow. Late-season toms are perhaps the most challenging birds to go after. Bow hunting late-season gobblers this time of year is tough, more so than during the first couple of weeks of spring turkey season. Here are 4 turkey hunting tips to help you close this turkey season with success.
The woods and fields are becoming closed in from the flush of vegetation as each day of the season progresses from opening day. This green up affects your bow hunting turkey tactics in two ways. First, vegetation limits your ability to see incoming birds. By this point in the season, leaves are fully out and understory growth is typically as tall as a turkey depending on the habitat you are bow hunting. Second, the spring growth softens the sound of a gobbling tom. Unlike earlier in the season where birds can be heard from ridgetop to ridgetop, late season makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly where the bird is if one sounds off. Turkeys also can’t hear as well this time of year so calling gets muffled through the trees and lost to most birds unless they are close.
If a gobbler sounds off he is close, closer than you may think. You need to setup quickly because with the dense vegetation the bird is actively searching and on alert more so than earlier in the year. Bow hunting late-season gobblers is aided for most by using a blind. Blinds are certainly important to provide concealment to draw with confidence when the time is right. The problem in the late season with blinds is there may not be enough time to get a blind up. A gobbling bird can be on top of you much sooner than you anticipate based on your inability to effectively hear exactly where he is. Time spent trying to setup a blind could spook an incoming gobbler. Turkey hunting with a bow in late season means you should be prepared to use a ground set unless you are lucky enough to have one roosted the night before.
The ending of breeding and green up also changes where birds spend their time. Instead of searching for hens, birds are focusing in on areas that contain abundant natural foods such as grasses and brushy undergrowth in mature forests. Turkeys are filling up on insects and other invertebrates throughout these areas and are less likely to be lured away to a calling hunter. Bow hunters should target habitat areas with these characteristics to find post-breeding gobblers near the end of the season.
Turkey hunting methods are not completely different from the usually this time of the year. They do, however, require some modifications. If you can understand how field conditions impact late-season birds you can help yourself with these 4 turkey hunting tips for bow hunting late-season gobblers.
Full Day Patience
Patience is essential in turkey hunting. Hunting turkeys in the last few days of the season requires even more than bow hunting opening day birds. Even though you haven’t bagged a gobbler yet, don’t let the pressure to make something happen dictate your methods in the woods. The same methodical approach to turkey hunting that applies any time of the year becomes especially important in the late season. When you hear a bird, work through your normal assessment routine and plan your setup. The worst thing you can do is get overly excited and let the bird take control. Make him come to you on your own terms.
Henned-up gobblers become rarities after 10 a.m. Peak bow hunting hours are between 10:30 and 12:30 and even late afternoons can spark a gobbling session. Later is better in most circumstances as the season draws to a close. Patience plays a role typically in waiting for a turkey to gobble and then having enough to wait on that turkey to show up. Even more patience is required, however, to forego the normal sunrise attack in lieu of waiting until late morning to head to the field. Bow hunting turkeys in the late season already means fewer hunters in the woods, leaving most prime spots open. Any hunters still looking to tag out rarely have the patience at this point to stay after the first few hours of sunrise. Wait and really start hunting hard in late morning after the woods have cleared and gobblers are on the move.
Be patient bow hunting turkeys as gobbling activity is definitely limited this time of the year. Focus on areas where you know there are birds, such as feeding areas, and wait them out. Your chances of getting a gobbler with a bow that sounds off in the afternoon are often increased due to the fact that less receptive hens are around.
Patience leads to perseverance. The old adage holds in late-season bow hunting for turkeys. You can’t kill one if you are not hunting. It gets difficult to remain focused as the season winds down and lawn care, fishing, and other interests compete for your time. The early wake-up calls have also long since ceased being fun. Trade in those early mornings for later day hunts even if it is for only a few hours as that might be all it takes to find success when bow hunting late-season gobblers.
Quality vs. Quantity When it comes to Calling
Trade in your typical turkey hunting methods for calling sequences that are spread out and involve different sounds than would be in your usual repertoire. Overcalling can be a problem at any time of the year but overcalling now can blow a bird out of the woods. Gobblers that have survived to this point have likely been called to by several hunters. These birds are cunning and haven’t survived this long into the season by being incompetent. You shouldn’t be either. Be patient and call sparingly, just enough to let any gobblers in the area know that a potential hen is around. Once a bird does answer, stick with quality calling and don’t over call as he works his way in. Try subtle clucks instead of the normal yelps that you made early on. Once the bird knows where you are, he will typically go silent and move in to your location. Stow the call, prepare your Prime Rival LD bow and wait for him to come it.
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Since most remaining birds have probably heard just about every call out there at this point, employ a turkey call that is different from the norm. Mass-manufactured calls are based on traditional patterns and materials. Therefore, a lot of them sound pretty much the same. To give late-season gobblers something new to act on, hold off on using custom calls during the early weeks and save them for the late season. Attempt sounds like purrs, kee kees and raspy clucks at different pitches to set your calling apart from the battering of calls made by other early season hunters.
Understanding Decoy Setups in Late Season
Each bird has its own personality and reacts differently to calling and decoys. You have to target the personality of the bird you are working not only with your calling but also with your decoy setup while bow hunting for turkeys in the late season.
One decoy setup for late season success is to challenge a bird’s dominance with a full-strut gobbler decoy. By this point, mature birds remain and have early on established their dominance to any other birds in the area. Often a gobbler can be enticed into bow hunting range by posing as a competitor in his territory. Play to his aggressiveness by keeping calls to seductive yelps or clucks, without over calling, and setting up a full-strut challenger. This setup can be used in areas where birds are feeding or in spots that potential gobblers may catch a glimpse of during late day movements.
Another choice while bow hunting late-season gobblers is to setup a few hens and jakes. As summer approaches, toms will begin reforming bachelor groups to concentrate on feeding. This transition period can be taken advantage of with showing off small groups of decoys. If breeding is still on in your area this late, a group of hens may work best. Choose a mix of hens and jakes if the social behavior has changed to regrouping. Set up groups in visible areas in movement corridors and use quality calling strategies to work a bird within range of you bow hunting sights.
Not only does the decoy strategy matter for bow hunting turkeys but the actual decoy is also important. Just like standard calls that have been used by all the hunters before you, many birds have seen and been spooked off by poor quality decoys. Life-like decoys are about the only option left for bow hunting at this stage in the game. If a bird sees a realistic subordinate or a group of hen decoys, like mounted birds or those with a real fan, he is more likely to pursue rather than hang up or simply run away.
Choice is not a Luxury Anymore
Every bow hunter wants to take a longbeard. The fact is that turkey hunting with a bow this late in the season with perhaps only a day or so left until you are waiting till next spring doesn’t lend itself that luxury. Sure most birds left are mature, wise toms but don’t limit yourself to only them. There are also yearling jakes or small 2-year-old gobblers that have survived to this point. If they answer your call and come into range, you should take the shot. Bow hunting late-season gobblers is no time to be picky. Cherish the triumph of getting a gobbler in range while bow hunting for turkeys and fill your tag.
Bow hunting late-season gobblers is not easy. The changing conditions in the field make for difficult situations while in pursuit. Maintain your patience and modify your turkey hunting methods to stand out to those mature birds that are left by altering your calling techniques and tricking canny toms with clever decoy setups. Use these late-season turkey hunting tips to fill your tag as the spring season comes to an end.