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Last Minute Gobblers

May 10, 2013
Ralph Scherder - OV Times Hunting Editor , Ohio Valley Outdoors

By the time this issue hits newsstands, less than a week will remain in Ohio's turkey season and only two more weeks in Pennsylvania's. If you haven't bagged a gobbler by now, time is running out. But even though the fat lady may be tuning up, she's not singing yet, and it's still possible to get your bird before that last song is sung.

Coming down the home stretch of turkey season, the biggest change from early season tactics should be the length of your hunt. Early in the season, Ohio and Pennsylvania restrict turkey hunting to mornings only hunters must be out of the woods by noon. Later in the season, however, typical hunting hours apply, from half hour before sunrise to sunset. Take advantage of this.

Early in the season, I can't even begin to count how many times I spotted strutting turkeys in fields after legal shooting hours. It was frustrating to see them out in the open knowing that if I parked just out of sight and slipped around and got on the field edge that I could probably pull one in for a shot. Alas, the law prevented me from at least trying. Which is fine by me, the law is the law. But the law also provides late season turkey hunters a great opportunity to go after those afternoon strutters.

Article Photos

The author with a nice spring gobbler. There’s still time to bag your bird, and time to continue learning.

To me, turkeys have always seemed like moody birds. Especially gobblers. Although they have habits and can be patterned, those habits often change according to daily whims and what local hens are doing. In the morning, fresh off the roost, toms seek out hens and usually quickly find any that are willing. By late morning, though, many of those hens, especially late in the season, head for the nest, which leaves gobblers once again on the prowl. The result is akin to a rutting buck searching for a receptive doe, and they're naturally more susceptible to the call.

One of the main challenges of turkey hunting is to avoid getting busted. Turkeys have incredible eyesight, second to none. By mid-May, much of the foliage and ground cover is very developed, which can provide great camouflage to help conceal movement. This time of year I've found it easier to get into position on roaming birds.

One of the biggest myths in turkey hunting concerns when turkeys gobble. Most hunters I've met think turkeys only gobble in the morning and never in the afternoon. I've even met some who go out at first light, and if they don't hear birds gobbling on the roost, they head home and try again tomorrow. In my experience, though, just because birds may not be sounding off in the morning doesn't mean they'll stay silent all day. Every bird is different, and so is every day. Living in this area of the country, we all know how fast weather patterns change. Poor conditions in the morning can become ideal by afternoon, and one reason is barometric pressure.

Fact Box

To me, turkeys have always seemed like moody birds. Especially gobblers. Although they have habits and can be patterned, those habits often change according to daily whims and what local hens are doing.

Barometric pressure is the force exerted on objects by the weight of the atmosphere above them. It's used by meteorologists to predict weather patterns. A rising barometer often signals a change from poor weather to nicer weather, and vice versa for a falling barometer. Both rising and falling barometers, though, can jumpstart the feeding and general activity of wildlife. Literally, in minutes, a woods can come alive. What starts out as a lackluster day when even the songbirds are quiet can turn into a chirping songfest by lunchtime. The important thing is to stick it out and be patient through the "dead" times because they can change at a moment's notice.

Last year I experienced one of these days while hunting near home. At first light, the woods were as quiet as ever no bird activity whatsoever, let alone turkey activity. All morning I moved from location to location trying to get something going, but it felt hopeless. Finally, mid-afternoon, a small weather front blew through. No rain fell, just some serious overcast and wind. It lasted only about an hour or so, and when it cleared and settled down again, the woods seemed completely changed it was like some oppressive hand had been lifted. The air felt lighter. All of a sudden, after hours of quiet, a gobbler sounded off down in a little valley and it was game on.

Late in the season, or any time, in fact, I assume the "all it takes is one" mentality one bird, one gobble, one opportunity. It's up to me to take advantage of that opportunity. You have to ask yourself, how bad do you want it? Every hunter answers that question differently. Myself, I've always been the type to take it down to the last minute if necessary. Once I commit to something, I'm in for the duration, and if I still end up unsuccessful, that's okay. At least I gave it my all.

There's nothing wrong with being unsuccessful in anything as long as you try your best within the time frame and opportunities you have to work with. The only failure is giving up because something seems too hard. Every moment spent outdoors is a learning experience, an opportunity to build upon prior knowledge to improve your chances in the present as well as in the future.

Although the 2013 spring turkey season is drawing to a close, there's still time to bag your bird. There's still time to continue learning.



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