Turkey Hunting: Late-Season Gobbler Tactics

late season turkey
The author and his hunting buddies after a late-season turkey hunt.Gerry Bethge

My most overused adage goes something like this: The two best days of turkey season are the first and the last. The first because you're so psyched about getting out in the woods and the last because your body simply can't withstand another 4 a.m. wake-up. Although it'll likely take a month for me to get over turkey time, Saturday marks the final day of my season.

In all, my turkey camp buddies and I took 11 birds, which falls a few birds short of our best-ever mark of 14, but I'm pretty hopeful for Saturday. I've got a leftover tag as do a couple of friends.

We refer to the final day of the season as "clean-up day." The goal is pretty simple: head to all of the spots where we've heard but not shot birds over the past month. It's a shock-and-awe approach and rather than spend a lot of time with gobblers that might be still henned up or are just plain difficult, we'll move on. We won't spend more than ½-hour on obstinate birds. I honestly can't recall a season in which the tactic hasn't paid off. Here are the 3 basics.

1. Roost the Reliables
Right now, I know of 3 or 4 birds that have basically been in the same location the entire season. There's the Green Gate Bird, the White House Bird, the Killing Fields Bird etc. For a variety of reasons, no one's been able to close the deal on these tough toms. I haven't tried them for a week, but will try to roost all of them the night before I hunt and then get extremely tight--within 50 yards--of them in the morning. Because the woods are more dense now, getting ultra tight should be easier.

2. Listen for the Newbies
If I strike out off the roost, my game-plan is to make the rounds of the various properties that I'm able to hunt paying special attention to birds that I haven't heard all season. These are more likely to be the roamers looking for hens that are still breedable. These birds are more callable.

3. Don't Be Shy
Late-season turkey hunters tend to be overly cautious. Most think that these last-day birds are survivor birds, which have heard every manner of turkey call known to man. Hunters typically take a sheepish approach when it comes to setting up and calling. I'm just the opposite. The clock's ticking and I just don't have the time for the cluck-and-wait game. A gobbler is a gobbler. Just because he didn't come yesterday doesn't mean that he won't come today. Who knows? He might have had a hen yesterday that he lost today. I'll call just as aggressively with cutts and yelps on the last day as I do on the first. Get on 'em.