Late Season Turkey Hunting Tactics for Last Minute Gobblers

Strategies for Late Season Turkey Hunting

Spring turkey hunting season has come to end in most states, yet other hunters still have a few remaining days left to turkey hunt. In fact, several states have turkey seasons extending all the way to May 31st. Don’t get discouraged and give up if the spring season has not gone your way. Spring is a busy time outside of hunting and weather can be unpredictable. Both can contribute to why you may not have put a bird on the ground yet. Late season turkey hunting is challenging, but with the right tactics you can still pull off bagging that last minute gobbler.

Late season turkey hunting generally is defined as the last week of the spring season. Each state has different season lengths so the exact dates can vary depending on where you may be turkey hunting. Harvesting a bird the last week of spring turkey season is no easy task. Gobblers that have not been killed are guarded, educated birds that have survived through weeks of onslaught. This combination makes them difficult to call in and even more difficult to kill. Other factors such as spring green up and growth, temperature, and behavioral changes among birds adds additional complexity to getting on a gobbler.

Late season turkey hunting tactics vary from the turkey hunting tips and tactics that are generally successful earlier in the season. For those trying to figure out how to hunt turkeys in the late spring season, focus on how turkey behavior is changing, the characteristics of call shy gobblers, and plan to adapt your strategies.

Late Season Turkey Behavior and How to Capitalize

Turkey behavior can be broken down into three phases; early, mid and late seasons.

  • Early Season Phase – During the first week or two of the spring turkey hunting season, hens begin to break from family groups and are preparing for breeding. Gobblers are ramping up for breeding and are extremely vocal and active in the woods. This is arguably the easiest time to harvest birds as they are unpressured and can be called into a turkey decoy setup with ease.
  • Mid-Season Phase – The middle few weeks of the season are marked by few vocal gobblers. Breeding is in full swing, which means less gobbling and uninterested birds. Advanced and adaptable turkey calling in combination with run and gun setups can produce results in this phase.
  • Late Season Phase – Hens have moved on to nesting and gobblers transition to feeding. Gobblers become more vocal in a final effort to secure a willing hen, but they cautiously pursue any interest.

The early and mid-season phases are long gone and birds are now in the final stage of their spring behavior. Recognizing this difference specific for late season turkey hunting can capitalize on this behavioral change.

The end of the peak breeding phase after the mid-season changes how gobblers spend their time. They transition from seeking out and tending hens to focusing on feeding. They will be in areas with abundant forage such as food plots, agricultural fields, and mature forests. Food is most important in the late season. Gobblers will be reluctant to come running into what sounds like a receptive hen and instead stay focused on feeding. One of the most productive late season turkey hunting tactics is to capitalize on this transition by setting up near these food sources. Get right on top of these areas at the end of the season to try to ambush a big gobbler.

Turkey behavior is not the only factor you have to contend with in the last week of spring turkey hunting season. The environment you are hunting in is also changing. Vegetation is greening up and growing to the point where it impacts your turkey hunting. A turkey’s vision is limited with the flush of green in the woods and thus they are more alert as they approach. A greener woods also limits both a turkey’s and a hunter’s hearing. You will have to be closer for both a gobbler and you to hear each other. This fact puts you at a disadvantage when late season turkey hunting.

Late Season Turkey Calling Techniques

If you only remember one of the many turkey hunting tips for the late season it has to be related to calling. It is not about selecting the best turkey calls, but rather about how you use them. Keep your calling SOFT. The hot part of the early season is loud and intense. However, the late season is much different.

The norm this time of year is to hear a gobble or two if you are lucky out of a single bird. Even if they are interested, they will usually slip in silently. Overcalling is unnatural and often revealing to a bird who has heard just about every calling sequence imaginable by the end of the season. Stick to soft calling such as seductive yelps matched with a few purrs. Light clucks can be effective as well but remember less calling is more during the late season. The trick is to call just enough to locate and be patient to wait them out. If there is a gobbler in the area, he knows exactly where you are and if he interested he is coming in regardless if he answers.

As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of hens have already been bred by the time the last week of the season rolls around. Your turkey calling options, therefore, need to adapt down to these three late season turkey call strategies.

  1. Soft and limited calling. 2-3 soft yelps followed by a few purrs is all you need. After that sequence, pause for at least 30 minutes. If a gobbler responds, call again but don’t overdo it. Read his response but often the best practice is to sit tight quietly and wait for him to come in.
  2. Stop calling altogether. If you’re not confident with your calling you may want to rely on your Realtree camo and sit tight in an area where birds will be traveling back and forth, like feeding areas. Set up along a field edge or in a thick patch adjacent to mature timber to ambush an unsuspecting gobbler.
  3. Switch to a gobbler call. Gobblers will rejoin together in bachelor groups once breeding is over. Gobbler yelps can be what it takes to lure in a lonely bird looking for some friends. Be ready after using this late season turkey calling strategy because you are unlikely to get an answer. However, if he hears you he will be on his way in.

Decoy Strategies for Late Season Turkey Hunting

There are numerous decoy setups to consider when turkey hunting. You can choose from a walking harem, fighting gobblers or a submissive hen positioned to be bred. Late season turkey hunting decoys, however, can be simplified down to two setups.

The first strategy for using decoys during the late season is to stick with single hen turkey decoy setup. Many toms may be spooked by some of the more aggressive decoy strategies like a fighting boss gobbler and jake. A single feeding hen is passive but stimulating to a passing gobbler at the end of the season. The right turkey gun setup can shoot out to 50-yards or more but keep the hen decoy around 20-yards from your position. This will allow for a shot even if he hangs up.

The second late season turkey hunting decoy strategy is to play the aggressive hand. This setup is risky, but highly successful when mature, boss gobblers are lurking in an area. A full-strut gobbler decoy, as opposed to a single hen turkey decoy setup, challenges a bird’s dominance. Boss gobblers with a season of established dominance will quickly approach a full-strut gobbler decoy to continue to defend his territory. Use this decoy strategy when afternoon turkey hunting to catch gobblers moving between feeding areas.

Finally, don’t forget a decoy strategy may be no decoy at all. Late season turkey hunting tips can often be boiled down to simplification and decoy setups are no different. Even though the two strategies above are effective, highly pressured birds can quickly get wise to even the best decoys. If you encounter a bird that seems interested but hangs up well out of range, it may signal he has had one too many encounters with fake birds. Back off and hunt him again without any decoy.

You had such high hopes going into spring turkey season, but time has slipped into the late season. Without warning you are now dealing with limited time, educated birds, and a now have the need for some advanced turkey hunting tactics. Late season turkey hunting should not be seen as a last-ditch effort but rather as an opportunity. Big, old, and often the smartest toms can still be fooled in the last days by exploiting their changing behavior and shifting to late season turkey hunting tactics.

Like these tips? Check out Michael Waddell’s Turkey Gun Setup or Michael’s Easy Way to Clean a Turkey.

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