It’s too bad most of us don’t have unlimited access to large tracts of managed private land with minimal outside hunting pressure. Here in the real world, we’ve got to make things happen on high-pressured tracts of public land where longbeards have earned Masters’ Degrees in survival and turkey call judging.
These super sensitive jokers know exactly how to play the game, and they can be extremely difficult to tag on any given day. The good news is there are several proven strategies you can use to beat hunting pressure and bust more gobblers season after season. When the woods are crowded and you find yourself facing tough hunting conditions, follow these seven strategies to increase your odds to encounter longbeards in your neck of the woods.
1. Go Off the Radar: One of the quickest ways to beat outside hunting pressure is to focus your attention on isolated locations with limited access. This means you have to sometimes go the extra mile and target areas other hunters typically never reach. With this tactic, you’ve got to be willing to cross deep creeks, climb steep hills and go around or through heavy cover to put some distance between you and the competition. Stay away from conveniently located pull-offs and heavily traveled roads. Look for alternate routes to access protected sanctuaries on the backside or opposite ends of heavily hunted locations.
2. Welcome Bad Weather: A little rain and some wind is usually all it takes to clear the woods. This can create a major window of opportunity for those who are willing to embrace adverse weather conditions. If it’s raining, simply throw on some waterproof gear and target open locations with high-visibility. Fields, logging decks, clean ridges and creek bottoms are key areas where turkeys will generally congregate and hang-out when the weather is bad. During windy conditions, try setting up inside of low areas or protected pockets where turkeys can hear and have good visibility. Utilize high-volume calls capable of breaking through the wind and being heard by turkeys. Placing decoys in open areas also is a deadly strategy to grab a gobbler’s attention.
3. Cover Some Ground: Burning some boot leather and covering a lot of ground is another great way to potentially get on a hot gobbler no one else has messed with yet. The trick is to quietly ease through the woods and momentarily stop to call. Try using a shock-call or mouth diaphragm with aggressive calling to trigger a response. Be sure to utilize the terrain to hide your movement and sneak quietly through the woods to avoid accidentally bumping birds in the process.
4. Hit’em with Something Different: Separating yourself from the pack by using a different type of call can make a huge difference when hunting high-pressured gobblers with sore ears. If you notice other hunters are using aggressive calling strategies or a particular style call, then switch gears and hit turkeys with something new. Try utilizing finesse calling tactics consisting of soft yelps, clucks and purrs. In most cases on public land, less and lighter calling will be more productive than loud and aggressive. Don’t be afraid to break out a tube call or even a push-call to entice call-shy birds with a different sounding tone and cadence. It’s also not a bad idea to change over to a hawk or woodpecker shock call to give turkeys a break from the more popular owl and crow calls.
5. Setup Tight: Go with super close setups that don’t give gobblers much breathing room. Use the terrain to sneak in close before attempting to call or work a longbeard into range. Setting up close will help eliminate potential hang-ups, and dramatically decrease the chances of a tom gobbling up an actual hen or another hunter. We all love to hear them gobble, but don’t allow your addiction to knock you out of punching a tag. The less you make a longbeard talk the better on public land.
6. Get Creative: Go deep and construct your own hotspot setup locations. For example, create mock dusting sites in between known feeding and roosting areas. Dust bowls attract a lot of turkeys, especially during the mid-day hours when it’s warm and sunny. Lonely gobblers will often cruise these primetime spots to pick up a date when other hens are off nesting. Another strong strategy is to create your own strut zones inside of locations with good ambush points. Targeting heavily covered areas and clearing out openings offering good visibility is a deadly hunting technique. Longbeards that are skittish and afraid to gobble will flock to these strut zones in an attempt to find hens during the late morning and early-afternoon hours.
7. Hunt Off-Periods and Down-Times: Try hunting high-pressured areas during the mid-day to early-evening hours (in states where legal). A lot of hunters generally begin to lose confidence in a location once the peek gobbling activity ends shortly after fly-down. As a result, many hunters leave the woods to grab some lunch, take a nap, or change hunting locations altogether. A combination of limited hunting pressure coupled with the fact many hens break away from gobblers at this time will increase your chances of hitting pay-dirt and punching a tag.