All turkey hunters look forward to opening day and the excitement that comes from getting back into the woods after a long winter of sitting at home. Turkey calling skills have been practiced and honed, scouting is complete, and birds have been located. This is your year – the year you’ll harvest a mature gobbler on opening day. At least it can be. Follow these three tips to kick off your opening day with a literal bang!
Wake Them Up
Many turkey hunters' pre-season scouting regimens include locating birds by listening to them gobble. Once general locations are known, hunters can pinpoint roosted birds the night before opening morning with the use of a locator call. Approximately thirty minutes before dark, use a crow call, owl hoot, or a coyote howl from a safe distance to shock a tom into gobbling. This simple trick tells you where he’s roosted… and where you should be set up for your best chance at a quick ambush on opening day.
When opening morning comes, leave yourself ample time to get set up under the cover of darkness. Sneak in early, slowly, and quietly. Mind your footfalls and leave the noisy clothing at home. Apparel like the Blocker Outdoors Silentec Jacket and Pant go a long way in helping you slip through the woods silently and undetected.
Once set up, your first goal is to use your calling to make the tom fly down from the roost in your direction. The urgency of your calls should encourage him to waste no time in getting to the hen you are imitating. When calling to a gobbler on the roost, start by making a few soft tree yelps, which are the sounds a hen makes while still on the roost. A few minutes before the tom flies down, make a fly-down cackle and then a short sequence of yelps. Don’t overdo it; you are simply letting the gobbler know where you’re at… and where he should be. Then comes the trick; stop calling and give him the silent treatment. In most cases, the gobbler won’t be able to take any more of the anticipation and will fly down and begin his search for the hen.
Remaining patient and resisting the urge to move too quickly can be difficult, especially on opening morning when looking to begin the season with a quick, successful harvest. Patience, however, is critical for early-season and opening-morning success. Trust your setup, even if your tom flies down in another direction.
In most parts of the country, there isn’t much vegetation on the ground or leaves in the trees on opening day. This makes it difficult to make a move without the risk of getting busted by a turkey’s incredible eyesight. Even if a tom doesn’t spot you, any hen that sees you will alert every turkey in the woods of your location with a series of alarm putts. Game over. When a gobbler makes a wrong move, leaving you out of his travel path and out of shooting range, resist the urge to make a move. Remain at your location. Take a break and let Old Tom go about his business. He still knows where you’re at, and any other nearby toms you may be unaware of likely do, too.
I often stay in my original position without calling for several minutes after a gobbler has gone a different route. After thirty to forty-five minutes, I begin calling again. More often than not, a tom will answer my call and the game starts over again. Most importantly, I haven’t blown my hunt by getting busted while attempting a risky move in sparse cover.
Call the Hens
Toms who find live hens on the ground during the early parts of the season often stop responding to a hunter’s calls. When henned-up gobblers show low or zero interest in my calling, I shift my focus on calling to the hens instead of the tom. The first indication that a tom is henned up comes when he stops gobbling in response to your calls. The confirmation comes when you hear another hen's soft clucks, purrs, and yelping. This is your cue – and your opportunity. When I hear a live hen with tom, I begin to mimic every sound she makes with my Zink Calls Lucky Lady diaphragm call. After a few minutes of repeating her calls back to her, the hen often becomes more focused on competing with me than she is in the gobbler. She can’t stand it. You can hear her aggravation and aggression building as she realizes another girl is trying to steal her man. Get her worked up enough and she’ll come to investigate or fight. When she does, the gobbler won’t be far behind.
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