Let’s face it. These are busy times for most everyone; especially us turkey hunters. Try these strategies to maximize your time and effort – and you might even put your tag on a gobbler opening day.
Fly-down time involves an early rising, the drive to your spot, the setup within calling distance of a roost, the tree-calling phase plus the fly-down. Time it right, in a nearby location, and we’re talking maybe an hour or two hunt max. Scout right during the pre-season, and you can try this tactic opening day.
The more you hunt that roost, the better your chance at figuring where turkeys prefer to land. Each time you hunt a spot, your chances increase. You don’t have to hunt it all day, only in that window of opportunity.
You do need to be stealthy about it. You don’t want to pressure turkeys as you observe them and try to gain that edge. Unpressured birds often have a comfortable niche they prefer to land in on fly-down. It’s your job to find it. You waterfowlers know what I’m talking about. It’s like finding the so-called X to set your spread in the pre-dawn hours. It’s the place those birds want to be.
Tip No. 1: Waterfowlers also use many decoys to create realistic spreads. Why not place all of your turkey decoys in a true-to-life set in the area your opener birds are likely to land? Subtle hands-free diaphragm calling can add to the appeal as you try to tag a turkey in a short window of time after fly-down. Create a flock of fakes.
Work Commute Hunts
Depending on your work situation, rural or urban, you may be able to leave for the office a bit early, and tag a turkey on the way in. Maybe try it on the opener?
Tell me you haven’t seen strutting gobblers on your way to work in the past. Tell me you haven’t thought about getting on those birds. The reason you haven’t is likely that you were on your way to work. Well, one of these spring days you might have to work a half-day, or arrive later than usual. Assuming you don't kill one on the opener.
Get on the commute birds. Make it happen.
Tip No. 2: You’ll have to explain the situation to your boss. If you’re lucky, he or she’s a hunter and will understand. If not, educate them about our spring tradition. Offer to work later in the off-season. Find a way to hunt those work commute gobblers. Maybe it’s cool with your employer if you flash hunt your mid-morning coffee break.
Didn't kill a bird that morning at fly-down time? Go back that afternoon.
Maybe the birds got together and drifted off after daybreak. They’ll come back; you should too. Get in there opening day afternoon, and sit as early as necessary to flash hunt the time they move from fields to the roost.
Every second counts. There’s no room for error.
Tip No. 3: The stage is set for an afternoon hunt where legal. Get in there, and stay until the bell sounds. While all of your buddies are rising early, and growing more tired by the day, you might be able to figure out a situation that involves a seat and/or comfortable cushion. Maybe you can just arrive, sit, and watch the drama unfold in front of you before you pull the trigger. Good stuff, right?
Editor's note: As always, check your lawbook to see if afternoon turkey hunting is legal in your state.
Steve Hickoff is Realtree.com's editorial director and turkey hunting editor. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country.