Late-season spring gobblers are some of the toughest birds you’ll ever hunt. Sometimes they seem like post-rut bucks. These turkeys have been run out of fields, called to, and in some cases shot at. Survivors all of them, it’s tough to fool one into range. One of the latest gobblers I’ve ever killed also had the most beards. I almost didn’t hunt that day. In some ways my late start helped.
Licking my wounds, late in the season, and still carrying a New Hampshire tag, I didn’t even get up early that Memorial Day morning. I hit the woods a little after 9 a.m. To find the bird, I didn’t use a locator call, but spied a daub of red 100 yards away in a plowed cornfield. I sat down and slipped a slate out of a vest pocket.
Always the fall hunter, instead of hitting the bird with a high-pitched hen call, something it likely heard that season from local hunters, I offered a raspy three-note gobbler yelp: yawp, yawp, yawp. Autumn gobbler chasers will tell you that calling approach can work in October. Pecking order is always on the mind of gobblers. I thought that approach might work in late May. It did.
That gobbler imitated me note for note as it walked in—out of the field, into the woods. Gun up, I waited, and a minute or so later the turkey appeared to my right—not strutting, but walking in, looking hard, studying my location. That was the last thing it did. The three beards hang in a shadow box nearby as I write this.
Any of you Strut Zoners pull off the impossible recently? What tactics did you use? What calls? Did you set up tight on the roost? Did you hunt midmorning, and approach the area differently than before? Did you finally kill a bird that has given you trouble all season? Did you tag a gobbler you missed earlier in the season? How? Your tags are filled. We’re still carryin’. Any tricks to share? Let us know.—Steve Hickoff