Conditions Change for Late Season Gobblers

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This gobbler came to the author’s self-made scratchbox call (www.EverydayHunter.com) on May 27 a few years ago. He was actively gobbling every day, so don’t write off any day of the season, not even the last few days.  Photo by Steve Sorensen
This gobbler came to the author’s self-made scratchbox call (www.EverydayHunter.com) on May 27 a few years ago. He was actively gobbling every day, so don’t write off any day of the season, not even the last few days. Photo by Steve Sorensen

Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

Late May is not too late to bring home your Thanksgiving dinner.

No gobbler yet? There’s still hope. Plenty of it.

Maybe your turkey sightings and sounds in April made it look like this would be a slam-dunk season, but now you’re frustrated. Maybe your turkey hunting buddies have been complaining that the mild winter and early spring put the turkeys on an early schedule and it’s already over now. Maybe someone has told you the gobblers he has seen are still henned up, and the season will be over before the gobblers are freed up from their romantic liaisons.

Don’t listen to any of that. Not because it’s not true. Some gobblers might have lost interest now. Some might be hanging out with hens that lost their nests or for some reason aren’t breeding. Some might be as eager as ever, but they’re cautious because they’ve been beat up by the boss gobbler too many times. Or chased around by hunters.

I know for a fact that gobblers can be called in on the last day of the season. I’ve done it. Conditions change, to be sure, but at least two things remain true. First, turkeys are turkeys all 365 days of the year. And second, birds of a feather flock together. That means turkeys want to join up with other turkeys, just because they’re turkeys.

The problem is you still have a tag to fill, and you can tie it to a gobbler’s leg if you adapt your style to late season changes. And conditions have changed in at least four ways.

  1. Fewer gobblers are out there. Yes, some are dead so not as many are responding to hunters’ calls. But the flip side of that is those who are left have fewer companions to pal around with, so they might be more eager to get together. They’ll still respond to hen calls, but don’t forget that you might need to sound like a gobbler to attract late season gobblers when most hens are occupied with nests or with new poults. So offer some gobbler yelps with a deeper sound and a slower cadence. You might be surprised at the response.
  2. Sounds don’t carry as far. That means those gobbles you listen for at first light are harder to hear than when the trees were bare. Nor do your sweet little hen sounds carry as far. His attention may be more difficult to get, so this may be the time to get aggressive. Start out softly in case one is close, but instead of three or four yelps, use nine or ten. No response? Then crank up the volume. Be that demanding hen. Try to sound like more than one turkey. Create some excitement in your call. Give them a reason to come that goes beyond romance. Put on a show with hard, aggressive purrs. If he thinks a fight is breaking out, he may come in for a look.
  3. Trees are in full foliage. Instead of holding back 200 yards or more, remember that the tree canopy blocks his view from up on his roost. So get close. The underbrush is leafed out too, so he can’t depend as much on his vision. You may be able to get as close as 50 yards, even if he’s on the ground. He’ll be hard to see. He’ll be very cautious. And he’ll take his time. But you can still get him if you’re smart, don’t move, and keep your eyes peeled.
  4. Most hunters have given up. All but a few diehard hunters are now doing other things, so almost all your turkey hunting competition is gone. You and the turkeys have the woods to yourselves. That gives you some advantages. Any hen sounds you hear are more likely to be real hens. Any gobbler you are reeling in is less likely to encounter another hunter. Late season is the purest time for spring gobbler hunting one-on-one.

It’s not too late for good turkey hunting. Years ago I remember getting my second or third spring gobbler in mid-season. One local “expert” congratulated me, saying “It takes a good hunter to get one with the leaves in full bloom.” Don’t believe that. The truth is that gobblers will respond even to the calling of a novice well after the season ends, and late May can still be a great time to shop the woods for your Thanksgiving dinner.

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When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. To read more of Steve Sorensen’s thoughts about hunting, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com.

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Steve Sorensen
Steve Sorensen of Russell, PA is an award-winning outdoor writer whose column, The Everyday Hunter®, offers hunting tips, strategies, and insights on how to think about hunting. His byline has appeared in the nation’s top hunting magazines including Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, Deer & Deer Hunting, Pennsylvania Game News, Fur-Fish-Game, North American Whitetail, Bear Hunting Magazine and more. He contributes regular website content to Legendary Whitetails and Havalon Knives and is a field editor for Deer Hunters Online. Steve is also in demand as an event speaker, presenting programs on do-it-yourself Alaska moose hunting, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and eastern coyotes, with new programs coming. E-mail him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com to invite him to speak at your next sportsmen’s dinner (or to tell him where your best hunting spot is).