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The unpredictability of spring turkey hunting


May 01, 2008
Tricking a spring gobbler is no easy task, especially when most gobblers' moods vary daily. These birds can either love or hate your decoy and calling set-up. This makes spring turkey hunting both unpredictable and exciting.

Hunters use decoys to entice or anger a gobbler into shooting range. There are a ton of decoys on the market that will help coax a tom into range. When purchasing a decoy make sure that it's durable and able to stand up to spring turkey hunting in Michigan. Other turkeys and weather will wreak havoc on your decoys. Make sure they can stand up to harsh spring storms, or even an occasional snowstorm. I remember one April having a snow day during my turkey season. Michigan weather is as unpredictable, just like a lovelorn gobbler.




A good decoy should be easy to access and offer birds a sense of realism. Open fields or woodlots prove to be the best places to set up decoys. Using a decoy doesn't guarantee any particular behavior, a moody bird could decide to run away in the opposite direction of the decoys. Hunting turkeys in the spring has a lot to do with the particular mood of a certain turkey and most turkeys are unpredictable.

This unpredictably is what makes turkey hunting so challenging. In the early season using a single jake decoy can prove its worth. Try to stay away from using more than one jake decoy, sometimes a group of jakes will intimidate a tom. Gobblers are quite aggressive in the early season and will take every opportunity to show dominance over other birds in their home area.

When I want to get real aggressive I put out a strutting male decoy. This decoy works wonders in early season when the birds haven't had much contact with other decoys. As the season continues this aggressive behavior starts to slow down due to mating and hunting pressure. Jakes often stay away from the strutting tom decoy because they have been spurred or beaten up in the past. I like to put out at least two hen decoys with my strutting tom. For late season results, try putting a breeding hen and jake decoy. This could anger a pressured tom just enough to drop his guard and investigate the decoy set-up. There are always mixed results with decoys. A seasoned gobbler will be much harder to entice into a fight than a less experienced tom.

Another key to decoying success is location. Having the proper location has a lot to do with success, try not to put your decoy too close and too far from the shooter. Decoy positioning is a critical part of spring turkey hunting. If the decoy is too far away, the gobbler may hang up and stay out of comfortable gun range. If the decoy is too close, then hunter movement becomes a major issue. Bow hunters should try to place the decoy about 10-15 yards away from the hunter. Most hunters feel that the decoy should face the direction the turkey will come from. Hunters will have better luck if they position the decoy so that it's in full broadside view. Having a broadside view will put the decoy in full view and should bring the tom into range. For gun hunters, place the decoy no more than 20-25 yards away, so if a turkey decides to hang up it is still in effective gun range and gives the hunter a good shot opportunity. Always make sure there are no branches or other obstacles in your shooting lane. A small twig or bush hedge can cause major problems in a hunter's shot pattern. After putting out the decoy, clear shooting lanes and other obstructions before sitting down.

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Once your decoy is set up, calling becomes the final and most influential tool to bring in a gobbler.

When calling make sure to mix up the types of calls, don't be afraid to find one that works. There have been times when a certain mouth call will get a response and other calls won't work at all. I have had good luck with slate calls, especially on quiet mornings. On windy spring days, I like to use a box call. A box call has a higher volume and it covers a lot of ground. A turkey will give hints in the way it responds to your call. If you hit your call and automatically get a loud response that is a good sign that that bird likes your call. When you get a delayed response it might indicate that your calling needs to be more aggressive. While most hunters use a yelp, don't be afraid to use a more aggressive cut if it seems like the turkey is standoffish. Starting with a yelp is a good idea but don't be afraid to go deeper into the arsenal to get the response that you are looking for. If that gobbler still seems distant, don't be afraid to move. Turkeys are constantly moving and changing locations could make a big difference. Try to give the turkey at least 20 minutes or so before moving. Some turkeys take longer and meander to the caller's location. If a tom hears the same call from the same location, it could send up an immediate red flag. This tactic can really fire up a weary gobbler. While he may still gobble, he is will stay out of range and eventually lose interest. A gobbler wants to call the hens to his location, so by moving it might entice the tom to move a little closer. It might take two or three set-ups before the tom finally makes the decision to come in.

Being a successful turkey hunter comes with experience and confidence. These tips and tactics can help bring in even the moodiest gobbler this spring. Even the best advice and strategies take a back seat to the particular mood that each individual gobbler has that day. Just like people, moods change and a wary gobbler can become aggressive if the right call or decoy is used. This unpredictability is what makes spring turkey hunting one of the most entertaining and challenging hunting experiences.n

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