Got your long beard yet? It has been a great wild turkey hunting season for my friends and for me. I got two long beards in Kansas and Kentucky. The only state where I failed to connect was North Carolina, where hunting is always a mess. It is just a potluck hunt, brought on by the do-nothingto get-ready acts of my brother. I know better than to even go there, but he is my only brother and I keep hoping he might change. I really know better.
Good news for the late-toconnect hunters: Between the time you read this edition of Struttin’ Time until the season ends on May 7 is the best time to get your tags filled.
Turkeys operate much like deer and have five transition periods. Since our season ends before the fifth period is over, we will touch on the last of the third period and the first of the fourth. (Although in my opinion the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife does many things wrong, opening deer and turkey season when it does is right on.)
In transition period three, turkeys are at the peak of their mating season. Problem is, they have already been hunted hard in Letcher County. Still, there is one thing in the hunter’s advantage:
The hens are nesting and the gobblers are lonesome, and you should be able to call in a nice gobbler looking for a lonesome hen. If you get one to gobble between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., look out — he usually is coming in.
At this time of year any call will work. I try and stick to my box calls, no matter what time I hunt. Gobblers become more territorial and move less. Gobblers get a comfort zone where they can see and be seen. Find this zone and increase your odds of calling him into range. At this time in the season, jake and hen decoys work perfect.
Transition period four starts May 3. Hens for the large part are no longer available and gobblers spend a lot of time in their strut zones — usually a place from where they have called hens to them in the past. He will strut for about 15 minutes before moving to his next zone. He is a target to be patterned by you, going from one strut zone to the next.
Use a soft cluck and purr to draw him in. Remember these two things: the gobblers want to see the hen, so use decoys. And hens are not vocal during this time of season, so you shouldn’t be either.
Follow these simple rules and you can still fill your tags.