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Late Season Turkey Hunting | Tips for Stubborn Toms

Challenges and Solutions for Late Season Turkey Hunting

Hopefully, you’ve already put a nice tom down and on the table this spring. However, it doesn’t always work out the way you want. Calendars fill up, the weather might not cooperate, and the birds might be even less accommodating. But there’s still time to pull it off this year if you haven’t yet. Turkey hunting, like most types of hunting, can either be the most rewarding and fulfilling experience you can have or the most frustrating and confusing thing in the world. When you talk about late season turkey hunting, it tends to be an extreme case of both somehow. On one hand, the birds are seasoned survivors, so they know most of the tricks up your sleeve and will continue to avoid you despite your best efforts. And yet, when you do manage to kill a late season gobbler, you definitely feel like you’ve earned it and can wear it as a badge of honor. Spring turkey hunting is funny that way.

Each state has slightly different turkey seasons, so we’ll avoid diving into that too deeply. For the sake of this article, we’ll define late season as the last week or so of your state’s turkey season. It is crunch time and you need to make your time afield count. You may have only been able to hunt a small portion of the entire season, but the turkeys have been exposed to hunting pressure throughout the whole time slot. If you hunt turkeys on public land, especially, they have seen a thing or two. They know what’s going on at this point, which definitely complicates your life. Let’s look at a quick comparison of early season turkeys versus late season turkeys.

Early Season TurkeysLate Season Turkeys
Usually eager to respond to hen calls, and gobble back enthusiasticallyOften made call-shy by this point, they may silently slip through the woods

Often come running into decoys confidently

in small groups to fight for hens

May hang up out of range when they see a decoy to make it come to them

Cautious, but less discerning about

their surroundings

Very suspicious animals that will study their environment pretty closely before moving in

If you’ve noticed this pattern before when you’ve gone late season turkey hunting, don’t worry. There’s still hope for you. Let’s look through some turkey biology and explain exactly what turkeys do each day.

Wild Turkey Biology

In the early spring, hens will start to get ready to breed just after most males are primed for it and seeking them. This major peak in breeding activity is a great time to hunt since toms and hens are actively communicating and looking for each other.

However, after a few weeks of this, the bred hens slowly start to nest and the gobblers just can’t seem to find enough willing ones around anymore. They’ve also spent the last few weeks fighting each other for breeding rights and may be hesitant to approach other toms with hens (decoys, that is). But just as whitetails tend to have a second rut as more does come into estrous, there is another peak in turkey breeding activity shortly after the initial breeding phase. Toms will definitely be on the lookout for the last few receptive hens. That’s your ace in the hole for late season turkey hunting. With that, let’s dive into some spring turkey hunting tips you can use yet this season.

Late Season Turkey Hunting Tactics

When it comes to specific techniques, it really comes down to maximum concealment in the best places, the right kind of calling and using smart decoy tactics. Now we’ll break these out in more detail below.

Location and Absolute Concealment

One of the best tips for hunting late season turkeys is setting up in the right locations and then completely disappearing where you are. Setting up along travel routes and food sources is the best option to surprise a tom. After flying down from roost trees, toms will make their way to feeding areas. You can confirm that birds are using a given area with some light and fast scouting the day before or by using trail cameras to scout for you. The Muddy® Pro-Cam 10 or Pro-Cam 12 trail cameras both deliver amazing image quality with plenty of great setting. If you can stealthily sneak into a strip of trees between mature pines/oaks and a clover or alfalfa field, you should be able to surprise some turkeys in the timber. If not, green clover fields are magnets to turkeys in the spring, especially for late season turkey hunting. You’ll often find a turkey roost or two surrounding and in close proximity to green fields like these. Check out the video below, where two hunters tagged two gobblers on day one of their turkey camp in a clover field just like this.

By this point in the season, most gobblers have been harassed by all kinds of hunters and are pretty cautious. They generally won’t come running into fields and decoys as confidently as they did in the early season. They will hang back and make sure the way is safe before proceeding. Because of that, you need to make absolutely sure you can hide from their keen eyesight – that’s always been a turkey hunting 101 lesson. Muddy® blinds are the way to go in this regard. Sure, you could still tuck into some heavy vegetation with some head-to-toe camouflage clothing. But this really limits your movement and can ruin your hunt when a silent gobbler sneaks up behind you and sees you reach for your turkey call.

Instead, set up you blind in a spot with high turkey traffic. If the turkeys in your hunting area are really suspicious birds, take some time to brush your blind in a little using natural vegetation from immediately around the blind. This small act can do wonders for making your blind completely disappear, even in a wide open field. Be sure to wear black clothing and maybe even black face paint when you hunt inside a blackout interior blind. No gobbler will see what’s coming for him. This approach is pretty much mandatory for turkey hunting with a bow due to the extra movement involved in raising and drawing it.

Late Season Turkey Calling

Spring turkey calling is a tricky thing because it changes so much from the beginning of the season to late season turkey hunting. As we mentioned, early season turkeys are pretty likely to come running into a series of hen yelps without too much prompting. But late season turkeys are a different breed and the conditions are very different. The hens have mostly been bred and the activity is dropping off fast. Consequently, there are fewer hens calling and those that are vocal are timider. So you have a few options:

  • You could completely rely on stealth and make no calls at all. This is a great option for areas with lots of turkey traffic and for surprising pressured turkeys. It feels like more of a deer hunt since it’s a complete ambush.
  • You could also try to keep your calling limited to a few soft hen yelps and cuts, followed by long pauses of at least a half an hour (unless you hear a turkey respond). If you hear a hen call to you, try to mimic her tone and cadence in response. If you hear a gobble, call back and try to read the excitement level. He may be excited and still come running over, or he may shut up and silently sneak closer. It’s a case by case basis.
  • If you get a gobbler that hangs up out of range and sight, but keeps gobbling back to your hen yelps, you may want to get mobile. Assuming you have some good camouflage clothing, silently sneak away from the gobbler, making a few calls along the way. Then set up for a shot, stop calling, and just listen. Sometimes, this simulated hen leaving him will make a gobbler change his mind and come running in hot pursuit of his lost opportunity.
  • Finally, if you notice gobblers starting to travel together in bachelor groups in the extreme late season, it might be time to give up the hen calls altogether. Toms may just be looking for other toms to hang out with for the summer and could respond better to a gobbler yelp than a hen yelp. Try letting out three slower, lower, and raspier yelps to simulate a tom instead of the faster, higher, and clean yelps of a hen.

To Decoy or Not to Decoy?

Whether or not you should use turkey decoys during your late-season turkey hunting is a tricky question. In some cases, even the best turkey decoys you’ve got just aren’t good enough. Taking the complete surprise approach by not using any decoys may be the right thing to do. Particularly for cautious birds, this is a smart move. Some toms might see a jake decoy and decide they don’t want to chance an encounter that could get them in another fight with their busted up bodies. Some toms might also see a hen decoy and decide they’ve seen enough hens that turn out to be less than real. In that case, they might hang up out of range and wait for the hen to come to them instead – it’s just a safer option for them.

But using decoys can still be effective for late season turkey hunting, on one condition: you may want to avoid using a jake decoy. It’s just a little too risky in the late season. Usually, the best approach for late season turkey hunting decoys is to just use a single hen about 15 to 20 yards from your ground blind. If a lonely gobbler stumbles on it, he’s bound to come check it out.

For this year’s late season turkey hunting, consider your typical approach and how you could use the late spring turkey hunting tips above to put a gobbler on the ground.

turkey hunting ground blinds

Choosing the Best Turkey Hunting Ground Blind

How to Choose and Use Turkey Hunting Ground Blinds

As the weather continues to warm and we keep hearing the cardinals chirp outside, most hunters’ thoughts are turning to turkey hunting. After all, it’s the next major event of the year that we look forward to, and it’s just around the corner! This imminent arrival means you’re probably getting your turkey decoys ready, practicing a few more mouth calls, and patterning your shotgun. But as you prepare for turkey season this spring, have you thought about turkey hunting ground blinds much? They’re used a lot for fall turkey hunting, simply because you can also deer hunt out of them. But their use for spring turkey hunting is a little more sporadic.

Maybe you’ve never used one before, but you have been eyeing them for a couple years. While some shotgun turkey hunters prefer to sit in the open and depend on their turkey hunting clothing while they hunt instead, ground blinds are almost necessary for bow hunting turkeys. Because turkeys have such amazing eyesight, more shotgun hunters are turning to turkey hunting ground blinds as well. They might not be as portable as moving your body alone, but the advantage of being completely unseen is often a better tradeoff for portability. It allows you to bring your kids along more easily (you know they can’t hold still for very long), and it grants you more freedom of movement to get ready for a shot. Provided you pick the right locations for them and take a few precautionary steps before you hunt, you’ll be impressed with the benefits of using a ground blind.

How to Choose a Hunting Blind

Convinced you need a ground blind for turkey hunting yet? Before you run to the store to put one in the back of your pickup, you need to realize one important thing: not all blinds are created equal. Some are cheaply made or poorly designed for specific hunting purposes. Others are just too bulky or don’t blend in the way they should. Take a moment to consider your turkey hunting opportunities and compare them to the major categories below. If a hunting blind meets these specific criteria, you are in business and ready for hunting.

Design/Size

First off, if the turkey hunting ground blinds you’re looking at simply aren’t big enough for you, you should pass on them. If you feel cramped inside a blind, you won’t want to hunt in it very long, which will usually limit your opportunities at bagging a bird. For bow hunters especially, having enough elbow room to draw your bow back stealthily is critical to it all working. Some people prefer shooting in a standing position, so you need to find one to fit that style of hunting. Additionally, you might want a hunting partner or camera gear to join you on a given hunt, which means you’ll need even more room. Finally, some hunting blinds just seem like they were made for anything but hunters in mind. For example, windows containing noisy Velcro or zippers are sure to spook game out of range in a split second. But windows with a silent hook release can be operated with only one hand while the other holds your weapon.

Camouflage Pattern

As we mentioned, wild turkeys have amazing eyesight and can spot the smallest little irregularities. That’s one of the advantages of hunting from a ground blind; it totally conceals your movements. But if your pop up turkey blind doesn’t blend in the way it should, it’s not really doing its job. You can (and should) always take steps to brush it in a little, even if it’s in a field setting. But that won’t hide poor designs or camouflage patterns; that would be like putting makeup on a pig. Try to get the most realistic pattern you can find so you don’t have to drastically alter the look of your turkey hunting ground blinds.

Weather Resistance

If your hunting ground blinds can’t stand up to the unpredictable spring elements, you’re out of luck. One of the advantages of using a turkey blind in the first place is to stay out of the weather, which could include sleet or rain, depending on where and when you hunt. If the blind is constructed poorly, it will likely leak through after only a little while and start raining inside too. Who wants to hunt in that?

Stability

Along with weather considerations, most hunters leave their turkey hunting ground blinds in the field for at least a few weeks. This allows time to get the turkeys acclimated to seeing it and also includes the actual hunting time you spend in it. During those few weeks, it will experience high winds, falling branches, wildlife encounters, and probably more than you even want to think about (particularly if it’s a brand new blind). But that’s just how it goes. So if your turkey hunting blinds can’t stay securely anchored or hold up to the abuse they are going to face, they probably won’t last very long.

What’s the Best Turkey Blind?

So now that you know what to look for in your turkey hunting ground blinds, it’s time to actually go buy one. But is it possible to combine all the attributes discussed above into a single option?

Ground Blind Options

Ground blinds come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and features. We pride ourselves in the fact that our blinds, tree stands, and hunting accessories are top notch quality, offering you the best products available for your hunting. We offer 3 Hub-style ground blinds, the Ravage, Redemption, and the VS360. We also offer up-in-comers in the world of both deer and turkey hunting, bale blinds. Both the Muddy Bale Blind and Muddy Portable Bale Blind offer the quality of blind needed for turkey hunting, in a better disguised package! All of the ground blinds feature a blackout interior with solid and durable exterior.

How to Use Ground Blinds

Once you get your turkey blind out of the box at home, it’s time to consider how you’re going to use it to be the most effective turkey hunter you can be. While you could simply throw your blind up in the woods and potentially kill a turkey that same day, there are some other things you should think about first.

First, it usually helps to set your turkey hunting ground blinds up early so the turkeys and other wildlife have time to get used to it before you hunt them. Some birds don’t seem to care about or even notice blinds when they’re put up that day, but some definitely do. If you’re going to go hunting at all, why wouldn’t you eliminate any possible chance of being unsuccessful before it happens? In this case, it’s a very easy solution. If you hunt on private land, simply set up your ground blinds at least a week or two before your turkey season starts. That way, the normally wary birds among the flock should have settled down again and grown used to seeing it there. When they start to expect it, you will be all set to sneak into your blind and hunt. Depending on how discerning your local turkeys are, you may even want to leave the windows open so they get used to seeing the black shapes. If you keep them closed and they’re suddenly open when you go hunting, it will have the same effect as not having a blind there in the first place. If you hunt on public land, you don’t have much of a choice. Most public lands don’t allow you to leave ground blinds overnight. And for the places that do allow it, you run the risk of someone else stealing or destroying it when you’re not there. But as long as you’re setting up near some quality gobbler hot spots, you’ll still probably get a shot at one.

Before you hunt in your new ground blinds for turkey hunting, you may also want to consider a few concealment tips. First, you’ll want to get your brand new blind dirty. Literally. Slop some mud or dirt up on the walls and rub it around. But the goal is not to create a layer that hides your camouflage and makes you look like an earthen mound. Instead, you should wipe a thin layer around and brush most of it back off. This simple act helps cover up the slight sheen from new blind materials once the sun shines on it. Have you seen what dust can do to a shiny new car? It makes it look dull, right? That’s exactly what you want for camouflaged turkey hunting ground blinds.

After the blind is in place and mudded up, you should also take just a few moments to brush it in. No matter if you’re in the deep and thick timber or within an open, grassy field, it helps to surround the blind with some other natural vegetation to hide its outline. Lay lightweight branches against the sides of the blind and even on top as long as they’re not too heavy. Tuck tufts of grass and branches into any exterior crevices or around the windows. The whole idea is to make it blend in with the surrounding vegetation as much as possible, and nothing can help do that better than using some of that natural vegetation.

Using Turkey Hunting Ground Blinds This Spring

If any of this resonates with you, it’s probably time you start looking at adding a hunting blind to your turkey hunting gear. Using a blind, especially on turkeys, offers you a much better chance of success in the field; unless you choose a blind that falls short in the features we mentioned above. But if you pick a high-quality version that puts hunters’ interests first, you’ll wonder how you ever hunted without one before.

Using trail cameras to spy on mature gobblers | Muddy Outdoors

Using Muddy Trail Cameras to Spy on Mature Gobblers

Muddy Trail Cameras | Remote Scouting for Spring Turkey Hunting

Wouldn’t it be ideal to have some way of spying on the secret habits of the turkey you intend to hunt, especially when you’re not there to influence his behavior? If you could find out exactly where a dominant tom goes to feed or rest, how much easier would setting up a blind in the right location be? You’re in luck and you probably already own this valuable piece of technology. Trail cameras are often under-utilized for turkeys for some reason. We associate them with spying out big bucks every fall, but usually the cameras don’t make their way back out into the woods until sometime in the summer. This is a critical mistake.

Let’s face it; you probably can’t spend every day in the woods or on the farm actually looking at wildlife. You certainly can’t do it throughout the night time hours. And would you want to sit absolutely still outside when it’s raining or snowing in the spring? Probably not. But a trail camera can accomplish all these things for you. Without trail cameras, you’re missing out on hundreds and even thousands of valuable observation hours that you can then use to pattern a mature gobbler to hunt. Most spring turkey hunting isn’t very mobile. While you can “run and gun” a little, the best strategy is to usually wait in a ground blind and let the turkeys come to your decoys and seductive calls. Because of that, the position of your ground blind is really important. Let’s look at some of the details that go into spying on the birds with your trail cameras.

Best Locations for Turkey Trail Cameras

Think about where you would ideally want to set your ground blind up. Does it make sense that a turkey would wander in front of it? It should or why would you sit there? But a little ground truthing is always a good idea. To be absolutely sure, mount a trail camera to a tree or post to see what kind of action it gets throughout the day. If you have a large field and could use more “eyes” on it, use a dual camera ground mount, which you can set anywhere you want. While you can do this on private property with little fear, take care on public lands to secure your game camera or it could become a victim to thievery.

using trail cameras to spy on mature gobblers | Muddy OutdoorsSome good location options you should target include field edges, forest openings, spring clover food plots, natural pinch points, well-used trails or logging roads, or along ditches and creeks. These areas should naturally gather some turkey traffic since they’ll use open areas for feeding and strutting, and they’ll use trails for getting from a roost to a feeding area and back again. Ideally, you should have a camera on each field or opening on the property so you can see which one draws the most turkeys, especially gobblers. Once you pull your trail camera memory cards, you can then hand pick the best-looking location to hunt after reviewing the trail camera pictures.

The Art of Good Pictures

Speaking of pictures, anyone can slap a trail cam up in a tree and get some pictures. But without some forethought, they can be poor quality or even unusable to a hunter. Sub-par pictures won’t tell us the kind of details we’re interested in finding out when the sun creates a massive blind spot or you have to weed through 2,000 pictures of waving branches before finding 1 actual turkey picture. What makes a good picture, whether it’s on trail cameras or a regular camera? Ideally it should be clear, crisp, and in full color. Blurry, black and white photos that would puzzle Sherlock Holmes won’t do you any good.

So what can you do to ensure your camera takes the best pictures? The first is to know your camera by studying the manual that came with it. While you can capture pictures on any game trail camera, there are certain settings that can drastically improve the quality if you just know how to do it. For example, you can set a camera to photograph the field at set intervals (e.g., every ten minutes) or you can allow it to take pictures only when there’s movement. You can take burst photos to catch fast-moving animals, or you could try videos for a little more detail. The Pro-Cam 12 by Muddy offers all of these features, with amazing 12-megapixel daytime pictures and 1280 x 720 HD videos with sound. If there’s a gobbler in your area, you’ll be watching and listening to him working his hens in no time.

Muddy Trail Cameras | Pro Cam 10 & Pro Cam 12
(Video) – by VantagePoint Outdoors, In this video we take a quick look at the new trail camera lineup from Muddy for 2016 including the Pro Cam 10 and the Pro Cam 12. For more information on these trail cameras and other products from Muddy, join them online at www.gomuddy.com.

As far as placement, there are a few things you can do to really improve the pictures on your trail cameras. First, position your camera so that it faces in a northerly direction (i.e., NW, N, or NE). That will eliminate the sun from creating glare and decreasing the quality of your pictures. Alternatively, find a naturally shady location (e.g. within a pine stand adjacent to a food plot) so that you can face the camera any direction without fear of the sun. You want your trail camera to blend in, but you don’t want it too covered up. Remove any branches of brushy growth from in front or the side of the camera so that you won’t false trigger it repeatedly when the wind blows.

Piecing the Puzzle Together

Once your trail cams are mounted, it’s time to let them do their work. Waiting is admittedly the hardest part because it’s just so tempting to go check after a few days. You might go nuts waiting if the trail cameras are only 200 yards from the house, but it will be much more bearable if your turkey hunting property is a couple hours away. Regardless of location, try to wait at least one week before you venture back out. It really helps to have several cameras to cover the property during that week so you can conduct a rough population estimate. If you notice groups of turkeys at each site within a few minutes of each other, you know they are different turkeys.

using trail cameras to spy on mature gobblers | Muddy OutdoorsHow do you make a good choice on where to hunt a spring gobbler, and more specifically, how do you use the information gathered by your game cameras? First, understand that where there are hens, there should be gobblers. If you have a group of hens consistently in a spring clover plot, you should definitely be seeing gobblers or at least a few jakes. They’ll often use these open areas as strut zones, so target a different area if you’re not seeing them on your trail cameras. You can also use the time of day to indicate what the turkeys are doing. For example, if you notice lots of early morning pictures, that site is probably pretty close to a roost tree. If it’s during the middle of the day and you see feeding activity, you’re probably in a solid feeding area. Use the time stamp on the pictures to see when the birds show up, which will tell you how early you need to be set up and ready to hunt. These key details can help you pick a location and get hunting some long beards.

Most people don’t think to use trail cameras for turkeys, so you’ll have a much better chance at harvesting a mature gobbler than any of your friends. If bagging one for yourself isn’t enough motivation, beating your friend should do it.