Morning Turkey Lessons For Afternoon Gobbler Decisions

Details you note from a slow morning may help you to a successful afternoon hunt.

Keith Byers | March 7, 2007

If you pay attention to the information an uncooperative gobbler provides you each morning, you may be able to turn the tables on the tom during an afternoon hunt. The wind was blowing fairly hard when I got out of my vehicle at approximately 4 p.m. for a late-afternoon turkey hunt. I checked my equipment, put on my vest, and loaded my gun. It was time to make the somewhat long walk through the Ocmulgee River swamp to my intended turkey hunting destination. Checking off the gear I might need once more, I began my trek through the swamp.

While on this 30-minute hike, there were a few things I mulled about how I was going to hunt that afternoon. First, if the hunt was going to be successful, I had to get to my destination undetected by an old gobbler. Second, what calling sequences was I going to use? Third, and probably the most important, where was I going to set up for the afternoon hunt?

The first problem was pretty straightforward. I would take my time and ease through the river swamp trying not to make too much noise. This was easy to do because the wind was blowing, and it helped to cover up the sound of my footsteps in the dry leaves.I had made the decision that if I ran into a gobbler and bumped him, I would immediately end the hunt and try again the following morning. Because if I bumped him, the bird might alter his daily routine and change his travel pattern — therefore screwing up my strategy for this afternoon.

The second problem was the decision on which calling sequences I wanted to use. During the walk in, I came to the conclusion that it needed to be simple and soft.

As to what type of call to use, the diaphragm, box or slate, I had not made up my mind.

It was at about this time that I startled a squirrel that was within a few yards of me, and he dashed for the nearest tree. Little did he know that he probably scared me more than I did him because at first I thought I had ruined my hunt before it started by bumping into the gobbler. After pausing for a moment to collect my thoughts, I began hiking again.

The third problem was making the decision on where to set up. I knew the area I wanted to set up in was the other side of a dead lake. As to the exact location, well, I needed to get
there first in order to make that critical decision.

I finally made it to the part of the swamp where I planned to do battle with the old gobbler. I eased down a small bank and reached the edge of a big slough that ran from the lake. I waded across the slough, and luckily, it did not go over my boot tops.

Once across, it was decision-making time again. Where would be the best place to set up? Where to set up being in my opinion the most critical decision of the day, I surveyed the area
carefully in order to pick out the best location. Once I settled on a location, it was time to pick out a tree.

After sitting down at a couple of trees and looking the surrounding area over, I picked a tree that had some blown-down limbs and vines directly in front of it about 15 yards out. Now I
know you are asking the question why put these kinds of obstacles in front of your set-up position?

I set up behind the screen of vines for cover. I also had a big slough behind me and another slough about 40 yards to my right. All of these things provided natural cover and obstacles
for my set-up position. I had a hunch that the gobbler would probably come in from directly in front of my set-up position. The clutter of the blown down limbs and vines would cause him
to go to the left or right of me — when and if he came in. Remember, this is unlike setting up on a gobbler in the morning. You do not know where he is, or what direction he will come from, or if he will come in at all. However, you can dictate somewhat the direction the bird will use by the position of natural obstacles. Cover is a no-brainer; you want to see him before he sees you.

I was just about ready. My next decision would cause me to do a little more work. Earlier on my walk in I had decided the calling needed to be simple and soft. Now I am a diaphragm man all the way and can make every call from a peep to a gobble with one. Most of the turkeys I bag are called in using one, but just before the season started I purchased a new glass call. The call was made by a local call maker in Jeff Davis County by the name of Jerry “Dad” White of Dad’s Custom Calls. The call is somewhat raspy, and after a few practice sessions I got the hang of using it. This would be the call I would use this afternoon because I could turn out some of the softest raspy yelps and clucks that I have ever produced using a glass. That is what this afternoon’s hunt called for.

Using a glass call would be a challenge because when using a diaphragm there is no noticeable movement involved. However, the glass call requires movement to use and this movement called for me to build a blind. I scoured the immediate area for blind material such as small bamboo canes, low-growing bushes, and a palmetto frond or two. After gathering
all this material, I arranged the screen of natural greenery so it would hide the movements of the lower half of my body as well as my hands. Also, I made sure there was no interference with my gun barrel, just in case the old tom came in. With the blind built, I settled in for the hunt.

The wind began to lay a little and with it came the return of the mosquitoes. I turned on my Thermo-cell and raked back the rest of the leaf litter and twigs inside the blind. Leaning back against the tree, I pulled out my glass call and striker, and placed my favorite diaphragm call on the glass-call box beside me within reach, just in case. I was ready to see if my hunting hunch had been right.

I looked at my watch; it was 5 p.m. Picking up the glass call I made my first series of calls. Using the striker against the glass, I ever so softly clucked twice and plain yelped three times, ending with another cluck. I lay the call down and sat back. It was time to be patient, and while I waited, I thought about what had brought me to this location and set-up.

Two mornings earlier, I had heard this gobbler gobble five times around fly-down time. By the time I could get to within striking distance he had gone silent. The only alternative I had was
to guess his approximate location, set up and do some calling. I did this, and to my disappointment I received no results for my efforts. To top it off he seemed to be the only action going on in the swamp. No other birds gobbled.

I was back in the swamp the next morning, which just happened to be about 11 hours earlier from my afternoon hunt, and along about fly-down time he gobbled at the approximate
location he had sounded off from the morning before.

I quickly made my way in his direction. When I was as close as I dared to get, I leaned back against a tree and waited. After about 10 minutes passed he gobbled again. This enabled me to further pinpoint his location. He sounded like he was about where I was currently set-up for the afternoon hunt.

For the morning hunt, I had gone farther down the slough, crossed it, circled back toward where I had heard his last gobble and set up. No calling sequence that I used, and nothing I
tried ever elicited a response from this gobbler. All was silent throughout the swamp. Again, I went home scratching my head and pondering over what to do next.

After a good lunch, I began to think about what I had learned about this gobbler on the two mornings that I had tried but failed to bring him home with me. It was about this time
that I connected the dots or to put it in another term, I saw a glimmer of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

The turkey had gobbled at approximately the same time and from the same location for the past two mornings. This information told me he had roosted in the same general area for
the past two nights. I also believed that with his limited gobbling he was definitely traveling with at least one hen if not more. Those details gave me the information I needed to devise a plan that would hopefully put this old gobbler in front of my gun barrel.

This was my plan. After a short rest I would go back into the swamp, set up in the general area I had heard the bird gobble.

Why? I concluded that if the gobbler had roosted in this area the past two nights, if not disturbed he would probably roost there again. Also, being late in the day, he might have left those hens I believed him to be traveling with. If I set up and did some simple and soft calls there was a good chance that with him returning to roost in the area he would be within hearing distance of my calling at some point during this late-afternoon hunt. I hoped he would have a chance to respond to my calling just before he went to his roost tree for the night.

The worst that could happen was that I would not see or hear anything. The best that could happen is that I would call in and bag the old bird, or if nothing more, I could possibly roost
him for the next morning.

I was brought back from my thoughts by the sound of something walking in the leaves. It took a moment to clear my head but the sound was coming from directly in front of me, behind the blown-down limbs and vines. I tightened the grip on my gun and listened as the sound began to move to my right. It was about this time that I saw movement about 40 yards out and identified the source of the sound, a hen turkey.

The bird made her way a little farther to my right and then began to work her way toward me. Being the diaphragm man that I am, I kind of felt helpless as I glanced down at the call beside me, especially if the gobbler appeared and I needed to make another call. The hen continued to ease her way through the woods, and she passed my set-up position about 15 yards to my right. After she was out of sight, I put my diaphragm call in my mouth, relaxed a bit and looked at my watch. It was 5:20 p.m.

I waited another five minutes, picked up the glass call and striker and gave a series of calls that consisted of two soft clucks, three plain yelps and a cluck to end the series. Then I waited.

It was not long before I heard the familiar sound of something walking
in the leaves.

Again the sound came from directly in front of me, behind the blown down limbs and vines. The sound turned to my right, and this time the bird that stepped into view was not a hen. It was a gobbler. He came into view about 40 yards out and began to parallel my position. Using my diaphragm, I clucked to him softly. He turned and began to work his way through the trees toward me.

When he was about 25 yards from me, he went behind some limbs and a log that had been washed up against a tree during high water when the Ocmulgee River had overflowed its banks. Once behind this screen, I do not know what he was doing, but he was either strutting or scratching in the leaves because he was making one heck of a racket. I clucked and purred, and the racket in the leaves seemed to get louder.

After what seemed like an eternity, I plain yelped to him three times real softly, and there he came. I squeezed the trigger on a trophy of a swamp bird that had never uttered a sound.

The gobbler weighed 20 1/2 pounds, had a 10 5/8-inch beard that was three-fingers wide, and he had 1 1/4-inch spurs. Also, he turned out to be the king of that section of the river swamp. I waited a few days before I went back hunting one morning and heard five different gobblers sound off in that part of the swamp.

As an experienced turkey hunter I can tell you that every time you hunt a gobbler and make contact with him you learn valuable information about that bird’s behavior. I do not necessarily mean contact through the use of a call. Contact can be seeing, hearing, running across sign, and last but not least, calling contact. The point is, the more contact you have with a bird the more you learn about his habits and behavior. As a hunter you can use this valuable information against your quarry.

The problem is, most turkey hunters are not in tune to these tell-tale behavioral signs. You have to pay attention to what is happening in the woods around you. Once you get tuned in to these often-subtle behavioral signs and/or habits, it will open new doors of success for you as a hunter.

Always remember the lessons you learn in the morning could lead you to make the right decisions in the afternoon that could put an old gobbler in front of your gun.

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.