Turkey Hunting: Open-Field Gobbler Tactics
Field birds are hands down the most frustrating of all turkeys to hunt. You can see them. You can hear...
Field birds are hands down the most frustrating of all turkeys to hunt. You can see them. You can hear them. You just can’t seem to yank them into range no matter what you pull out of your bag of tricks. Don’t give up hope just yet.
At flydown, a full-fan strutter came mincing along the high rise in the middle of the greened-up pasture. He paraded there, out of shotgun range, waiting for the hen we imitated to walk toward him. I called, and the longbeard tormented us, gobbling hard and strutting just out of range. And then another full-fan gobbler joined from the east. I expected them to fight. Instead, they doubled the frustration.
Right then we heard a hen in the woods. I mimicked the boss hen. She hustled in, challenging my calling–dragging a longbeard along. We closed that deal, but it’s almost never that simple. In fact, field gobblers can be the toughest of all birds to hunt. Try these options this spring.
1. Ground Blinds
Hub-style blinds are light and compact enough to carry and easy to set up and take down. Many can accommodate multiple hunters. Some have shoot-through mesh windows, and many include zippered exterior windows you can adjust inside and outside.
In short, they’re suited for run-and-gun hunters chasing open-field gobblers in areas with minimal cover–especially near strut zones.
In farm country, try scouting fields just after flydown to pattern longbeards. Several days before the season opens, set up your blind at midday in a field where gobblers are strutting, in order to allow birds to become comfortable with it. Be in it on the opener.
2. Belly-Crawling vs. Repositioning
Moving on turkeys (aka stalking, slipping, sneaking) isn’t legal everywhere, and it’s not always safe. But if it’s legal and you’re careful, belly-crawling to advance on a tough bird might work. When it’s not feasible, repositioning on especially tough turkeys to get within their comfort zone is a better approach.
Once you’ve nailed the location of a tough-to-kill field gobbler, use your knowledge of the area’s topography to sneak nearly into gun or bow range of the bird. Calling strategically to get a field strutter to move steps closer to your position might work. If it doesn’t, try shutting up and then try moving directly away while calling.
3. Decoy and Tail Fan Tactics
The key to using a tail fan or decoy to move on field gobblers involves safety first, and then reading turkey body language.
First, don’t even think of trying this tactic unless you’re on private land. Next, take your time. If you don’t, the bird(s) will surely notice and you might not get a second chance. Move when the strutting turkey is facing away. Make sure your tail fan or decoy looks the part as you draw closer. You’ve got to put your face in the dirt to bring that gobbler home in your vest. You can cluck and yelp on your way to the gobbler if you want, but don’t call if you don’t want him to look your way.
4. Pinch Points and Entrance Trails
If you’ve patterned a turkey from the roost to an open field, you can set up at the bird’s destination with a blind or, better yet, position yourself at a transitional pinch point (where terrain narrows along the gobbler’s intended path) or entrance trail (the exact location where this bird enters the field).
First, locate the gobbler’s roost before first light and listen for the turkey in the morning or watch it fly down. Look for fresh sign in the form of tracks and droppings. It’s as much a matter of isolating the phases of flydown and the walk to the strut zone as anything else. It may take several days until you figure out his route completely.