Fall turkey season in Michigan is fast approaching. Soon we will be setting out in hopes of bringing home a gobbler to enjoy at Thanksgiving or even sooner. In order to give yourself the best chance of scoring such a bird, you want to hone your skills ahead of time. With fall turkey season opening on September 15th, there is no time like right now to knock the dust off your turkey repertoire.
Since the sounds turkeys make can give you a lot of information, be sure to listen carefully. For example, roosting turkeys are generally noisy in the morning as well as the evening. Cackles are usually present when turkeys fly up or down from a roost with hens leading this particular vocal charge. Gobblers will respond to the cackle of a hen in most cases which is a good reason for hunters to issue such calls. Listening to turkey chatter will clue you in to the location of gobblers and since they roost for the night, evening scouting will give you an idea where to begin your hunt in the morning. However, if you are unable to get a response from the roost, try again just before daylight as this may yield better results.
Sometimes it becomes important to issue different calls in order to get some vocalizations going. Although a cackle will often get a response, it may be necessary for you to try something else such as kee kees, lost yelps, gobbler yelps, or even a gobble itself. Using calls from other animals such as predators is useful as well. These calls should be issued suddenly and unexpectedly rather than eased into in order to spur turkeys to respond. Owl and coyote calls tend to be amongst the most effective for this purpose.
When listening for turkey vocalizations and issuing your own is not effective, the next step is to break out the wings. By flapping a set of wings from a previous hunt paired with a call, you can often get the attention of toms that might not otherwise gobble. Another option is to rub wings against a tree as this mimics the sound of a hen preening from her roost and therefore may draw a response from gobblers. Listening for wing-beats is also useful in determining the location of turkeys when all else fails.
Don’t forget that just because the leader of the pack isn’t responding doesn’t mean someone else won’t. In other words, silence isn’t always a deal breaker or indication that your turkey hunt is a bust. Since subordinates are ruled by a dominant tom, they tend not to gobble due to this pecking order. However, if you call to one of these fellas, he very well may slip on over in search of a hen but will do so quietly in order to avoid disrupting the pecking order.
Now that you’ve got a turkey in your sights and the time has arrived to pull the trigger, you might find yourself struggling to get comfortable with your gun and end up missing a shot. The reason for this is that turkey hunting is generally done from a sitting position which many of us fail to practice with enough frequency to master it between turkey seasons. Since being seated can alter perception, spend some time shooting from a seated position as you peer down the barrel at your target in order to perfect your skills.
Remember that turkeys use the same vocalizations in both spring and fall with the only difference being that spring calls are more geared towards mating and falls calls are more to maintain group unity. Start in areas where turkey scratching for food is obvious, then combine a mixed bag of tactics and skills to capture the interest of a turkey this season. Using all of the tools in your arsenal together in cohesion will practically invite a turkey to Thanksgiving dinner. Bring on the guest of honor!