Strut Report: Midday Gobblers Coming to the Call Up North

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While pressure is affecting some birds in the Midwest, action is off the charts in the Plains, and both western and northeastern turkey hunters are having good hunts

Many hunters are finding incredible action in the Plains states right now. Image by Tom Reichner

Knock on wood, it looks like we’re finally over the cold-weather hump in the Northern U.S. Over the last few days in central Wisconsin, I’ve seen fewer turkeys in ag fields. Hunting pressure is a factor in that, but more forest foods are available now that things are just beginning to green up. 

This week, I’m participating in a depredation hunt that’s limited to one property. Wednesday morning, a tom gobbled constantly on the roost and on the ground, but he didn’t come to my calling or to the hen yelping behind me. He stopped gobbling entirely an hour after daylight.

Realtree pro staffer Melissa Bachman and husband Ben Bearshield were successful over the weekend in South Dakota with archery gear. “We’ve had great luck on turkeys,” Bachman said. “We hunted two days, calling two longbeards right into our setup on both outings. For decoys, we were using a submissive hen, upright hen, and a jake. On both occasions, the toms beat up our jake, then tried to breed the submissive hen.”

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Melissa Bachman and her husband, Ben Bearshield, with a couple nice South Dakota toms.

My sister, Clair Marshall, and her husband, Andrew, also doubled with bows in South Dakota since my last report. They hunted from a pop-up blind on public land with their 7-month-old daughter, Timber, and had a pair of toms raid their decoys. Clair shot first, and as her bird flopped his last, the second tom came back to the jake decoy. Andrew cleaned up the leftovers. Things are on fire in South Dakota. 

Ben Turnock, a wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, shared his most recent observations from eastern Washington. “We’re starting to see a lot of toms by themselves during the day. Most folks I’ve talked with recently haven’t been harvesting toms first thing in the morning. Instead, they’ve had the best success later between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The toms are pretty fired up and coming to calls at that time of the day.”

NWTF regional director Carter Heath didn’t allow 49 minutes of sleep to keep him out of the woods for New Hampshire’s opener. Although he didn’t sling a bird over his shoulder, he heard about six different gobblers right off the bat. None came in for Heath, but one of his friends scored on a tom. Heath hit one of his favorite spots about mid-morning and called in a big bird.

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“He had a hen,” Heath told, “but he came in spitting and drumming. Unfortunately, I missed the slam-dunk shot. He flew off unscathed. Most toms are gobbling hard on the roost and continuing to gobble on the ground. They’re acting right, and I think everyone in the Northeast should have excellent hunting over Mother’s Day weekend.”

If you’re struggling in the Midwest, I’d say stick to the timber and use a mixture of realistic calling with tossing leaves to pull in pressured gobblers. Maybe skip the decoys. And if you don’t fill your tag first thing in the morning, stay on them, as midday gobblers seem to be responsive.

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