Hunting > Turkeys

The Gobbler Gurus (Page 2)

These three unknown turkey fanatics have mastered the gobblers in their home states. Here are their hard-earned tactics.

“Gobblers will breed when they’re flocked up, but they normally stick with their feeding routine,” Muffler says.

The public and private lands that Muffler hunts in the Upper Peninsula are a mix of rolling hills covered with hardwoods, flat farmlands and cedar swamps. The turkeys use all this habitat, but the bachelor groups tend to hang out near farms before they break up. Cattle farms are especially appealing to the turkeys because the birds like to peck through manure and snap up whatever grain the cattle miss. “Flocks of 200 to 300 birds will hang around a cattle farm all winter,” Muffler says.

Muffler keeps track of the turkey flocks throughout the fall and winter, and he usually finds them in the same places year after year. As the turkey season approaches, he pays special attention to where the gobblers feed at midday because he says they won’t roost far from their food.
 Gobblers will answer a call when they’re running in bachelor groups, but they generally won’t come to it; however, you can occasionally lure a few subordinate gobblers to peel from the flock. Because he can’t count on calling, Muffler sets up along the route a flock travels as it moves from the roost to its midday feeding area. Muffler is usually in position well before daylight, partly because he has trouble sleeping the night before a turkey hunt. Since he can’t sleep, he figures he might as well be in the woods.

A typical early-season hunt goes much like the April morning Muffler spent with his hometown friend, Mike Anderson. Muffler had found where a flock of gobblers was roosting in beech trees on a hilltop. In the morning, they would fly down to small, grassy openings at the base of the hill and strut for two or three hours before heading to a nearby cattle farm to feed.

About 90 minutes before daylight, Muffler and Anderson hid themselves in brushy cover that bordered one of the clearings. They were only 60 yards from where the gobblers were roosting. The ground was frozen and covered with a dusting of snow.

“You can get that close if you sneak in early and take your time,” Muffler says. “The closer you get, the less likely it is that the flock will pass by out of gun range.”

Several of the birds gobbled on the roost at dawn, and they soon flew down to the clearing where Muffler and Anderson waited. Muffler did a little soft calling, but it really wasn’t necessary. At one point, there were 22 gobblers within 35 yards of them. They could have taken a shot at one of the bigger toms then, but the birds were too tightly grouped. The hunters stayed put and passed up shots at a pair of 2-year-old gobblers that ventured within 10 yards of them. About 45 minutes later, a 4-year-old bird gave them a clear shot at 12 yards. It had a 103/4-inch beard and its spurs measured 17/8 inches.

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