The spring turkey hunting season has gotten well under way and I am getting reports of some nice gobblers being taken. The early season is my favorite part of the spring turkey hunting time and often the gobblers will come running to your calls. However, be certain that you want to pull the trigger, cause it ain’t catch and release! I have had several season where both the gobblers and me were over-anxious and it reculted in me limiting out a couple of times in March. I like to pace myself and make sure the gobblers I do shoot have been listened to and looked at enough to have a good chance at being one I want to put on my wall instead of just in my oven.
Some guidelines for choosing older and often trophy “toms”. Early in the season they will often be the ones that gobble the most but, will not come to your calls. IF you get them within sight, they will often be flanked by an entourage of hens and even one or two subordinate gobblers.
The subordinates may not gobble at all but, their heads will be either white, or glowing red if they are not allowed to gobble. The Boss tom will also have the red head but, may show more blue in his waddles and sport a white cap of fat across the top of his head. He will often have his “snood” hanging out, which is a turn-on for the hens. He will be the one strutting and doing most all the gobbling. The other toms and hens stay out of his way as he struts and drums,(pffffiiiittt drummmmm sound) dragging his wing tips in the dirt.
If you do get his attention and can call him in for a shot, go for the strutter! He is the boss tom that probably has the sharpest spurs and definitely has the baddest attitude! He is the one you want!
I have had many cases in past seasons where the Boss gobbler controlled a section of woods and ran all the other gobblers out of “his woods”. With the advent of gobbler decoys, you can set one up and he will often charge in to challenge the intruder and be so enraged that he throws his wariness and good judgement to the wind. This has cost many an old gobbler his life.
If he won’t come to you and he will not be fooled by decoys of gobblers, hens or jakes then the next tactic is to wait him out! This is the least fun to most of us hunters but the reward can be high! A couple of my best gobblers were the “waited out kind” and did not come in gobbling at daybreak or early morning. I killed one of them after 1 p.m. after a 7 hour hunt where he answered me several hundred times but, did not come in until after all his hens had left him to go lay their egg or work on their nest.
The other old tom had several sub-toms and he seemed to have more fun head pecking and beating up the other toms. After a morning of hunting him and having him gobble a few hundred times from the safety of a pasture where he was chasing other toms out of his domain, I left him and took a lunch break until after 5p.m. that evening. I slipped back to his location and found him just where I left him that morning and he was still fighting and chasing the subordinates around in the pasture!
When he ran across it to chase another tom the other direction, I slipped in close and hid at the base of a large privet hedge. A bush I had watched him pass several times earlier that day, knowing that it was in his “strut zone” and was a place he felt safe, I settled in and got ready to take a shot so I would not have to move if he came to my call. The sun was bright and to my back, placing me in good shade but, the bush had no cover in front of me except a few blades of sage straw.
At the first yelp I made, He stopped and looked back at me across 200 yards of open pasture. On my next yelp and cutt, He took off running straight at me! At 15 steps, he slid to a stop throwing up dust like the Road Runner on cartoons and broke into a strut as he turned to his right and “side saddled” in closer! I got my aim right and rolled him! Thank God I did not see his near 2 inch spurs or turkey fever might have prevailed!
Hope you call up a Big Tom and whack him in the jaw!
Postoak out! (in the spring woods)