Persistence Pays: Tips for Late-Season Turkey Hunting
May 17, 2024

Persistence Pays: Tips for Late-Season Turkey Hunting

Persistence Pays: Tips for Late-Season Turkey Hunting

Persistence Pays

Each year, the commencement of turkey season brings with it a sense of renewal. It’s a time to leave behind the mistakes of past seasons and embrace the burgeoning spring. The initial days are filled with enthusiasm, fueled by high spirits and lofty aspirations of big spurs, long beards, and that early morning thunder we all love to hear. Though bagging a turkey on the first trip out brings a rush of excitement, taking one as the season comes to an end offers a deep sense of accomplishment. Despite prevailing myths, turkeys continue their vocal antics deep into the season. While they may not be as vocal or quick to come running in as they are in the early days, the closing period of the season still holds substantial promise for hunters, whether you’re seeking your first bird ever, the first bird of the season or you’re hunting in an area where multiple birds are allowed to be taken, persistence pays.

📸: Mark Johnson // Calling Late Season Turkeys

Strategies for Navigating the Late-Season Landscape

Refined Calling Techniques: Less is often more when it comes to calling in late-season turkeys. In areas where turkeys are heavily pressured, reducing your calling can lead to better results. When you find yourself on public land where turkeys have grown wary of calls, observing signs such as fresh droppings or marks of scratching can be far more indicative of turkey activity than continuous calling. In spots where evidence of turkeys is easy to find, maintain a lower profile with your calling sequences. Sometimes, the mere sound of rustling leaves or a gentle cluck is enough to draw in a curious turkey. I’ve learned to hold back on calling, creating an almost silent hunt, and this restraint has often led to surprising success.

Dial Up the Calls When Needed: Though it might seem counterintuitive, there are times when increasing your calls is the right move. Each turkey has a unique temperament; some may respond more positively to a more aggressive calling strategy. Recognizing and reacting to these nuances can be the key to a successful hunt. I recall a hunt where a particularly aggressive gobbler reacted to every sound from my call, gobbled at geese flying by, the wheeze of a whitetail who caught my scent and even the crashing sound of me dropping my call and watching it hit my bow riser in what seemed to be slow motion. Despite common advice to tone down calls, maintaining a steady stream of calls was exactly what drew this turkey into shooting range. If I would not have successfully shot that bird, I know I would have been catching a ration of shit from my other two buddies in their blind on the other side of the meadow when I came walking back into camp later that day. 

📸: Mark Johnson // Catamount Outdoor Gear Stash Pocket

Getting off "The Beaten Path": By the late season, many turkeys have already been shot, or shot at (I'm looking a select few of you here 😂), prompting the need for hunters to explore new areas, keeping a keen eye out for any relatively fresh sign. Don’t hesitate to investigate unconventional spots that might not typically stand out as great turkey habitat. I found the use of an e-bike tremendously helpful in covering lots of ground quickly and fairly quietly, while not legal in some places, and not a logical choice in others, when they are legal and easy to use, they fit the bill nicely and make covering far more ground, incredibly quick and easy. 

📸: Mark Johnson // E-Bikes make covering big ground quick and easy

Late to Bed, Early to Rise: Just like early season birds, being near the roost significantly increases your chances of getting a wary tom in close. It’s a bold strategy to move closer once you hear a gobble, but it’s highly effective because a tom is more likely to come over if he doesn’t have to stray far from his group of birds to investigate who this "new guy" is that just showed up to crash his party.

📸: Mark Johnson // Late Season Success

The Virtue of Persistence in Turkey Hunting

The latter part of turkey season might not offer the seemingly constant excitement of the days closer to opener, but its rewards are just as gratifying, if not more so. Success in late-season hunting hinges on your ability to adapt and persevere as well as bucking the conventional turkey hunting tactics. It’s about those mornings when you push yourself to leave your warm bed for the crisp morning air, staying out all day if need be, locating the birds and "putting them to bed", just to get yourself in the perfect spot the next morning. The essence of late-season turkey hunting doesn't rest in any top secret techniques, but in the determination to continue when others have quit and headed home or back to camp. By continuously adjusting your approach and keeping with it, you can tap into some of the most fulfilling moments of the season. Keep at it, adapt as necessary, and savor the hunt—every outing is an opportunity to experience the unpredictability and thrill of the hunt, all the while making memories and hopefully capitalizing on that big late season tom who has eluded everyone else throughout the season.