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Turkeys in Your Pocket (Page 2)

How to find and exploit overlooked gobbler hotspots on your public land parcel.

I was back in my newly discovered “rottweiler spot” on opening day. I hiked straight up 1,000 feet. The key to killing gobblers in big woods is finding them and the best way to do that is to hear them gobble from their roosts. To do that you need to start high where you can hear gobblers on the mountain benches below. If you stay low their gobbles may be eaten up by the folds in the hills and the growing canopy. And once they fly down their gobbles often become even harder to hear.

A group of three toms began gobbling after the light passed from auburn to jasmine, their voices mingling together into a melody as musical as a pipe organ. Problem was, they were on the next mountain. My scouting told me where: They were roosted on a bench halfway up near a small brook. It would take me at least an hour to get to them.

Big-Woods Hotspots

Springs—The first spring growth appears near brooks and seeps on mountain ridges, especially on south-facing slopes. Approach them slowly, set up and call when you’re within 200 yards. If terrain allows, set up on the same level with them and start soft before calling loud.
Meadows—Most state lands have few openings in their hardwood canopies. I used to hunt an old homestead located 2 miles from the nearest road in Vermont. There were overgrown meadows that attracted strutting toms and hens looking to peck spring’s first bugs. Aerial photos are the best tools for finding these hotspots.

Benches—Mountains rarely go just straight up. Use topographical maps to find mountain benches, especially those with springs or brooks. Climb up to the bench and follow it, calling every few hundred yards.

The gobblers had moved a half-mile down the bench before I found them. My legs burned and my lungs heaved, but the toms were receptive. No other hunter had found this pocket and they didn’t know humans could mimic hens. Likely other hunters had come and listened on the dirt road far below days or weeks before and heard nothing, as the birds just weren’t there yet or weren’t audible from the bottom where a stream gurgles over rocks. After just a few minutes they strutted in all together and made me very happy that I’d done my homework.

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