As any turkey hunter knows, hunts that should play out quickly—from setting up on a roosted bird to locating a tom that gobbles at your every call—seldom do. But sometimes, a hunter can't afford to let things play out. Approaching bad weather, a legal end to shooting hours, your job or even your kid's baseball game can mean you have to make something happen quickly. These hunts require a good mix of calling skills, stealth and on-your-feet strategy. Here's how to pull it off.
Tactic: Call and Vanish
That morning, we set up on a draw above a roosted and gobbling tom right where our guide, Steve Ryan, said the bird walked up every morning after flying down. Of course, that morning, it didn't. It went up an adjacent mountainside. Our only option was to go up and try to keep level or above the bird. It's rare you'll ever call a bird down a hill without him spotting you first. The bird gobbled at our calls as we climbed, before stalling on a bluff about 150 yards away. We poured the calling on for a few minutes, getting him fired up and then shut up completely.
Twenty-five to 30 minutes passed without a sound, and just as we thought our strategy of trying to make him think the hens had left and he better come looking had failed, a gobble boomed from less than 60 yards away. The tom was looking for us. As he slipped into range, Harling took the bird down with a face full of Winchester Xtended Range No. 5s.
Tactic: Call and Close
Ryan and I slipped up the hill, closing more than a hundred yards between us and the birds. Peeking over the ridge, we spotted a gobbler 70 yards below. We slipped back below the skyline and tossed out some soft yelps and purrs and scratched in the leaves. Despite being in the open, we kept low behind the rise, and when one of the curious gobblers popped his head over the top to see—he was only 28 steps away—it was a fatal mistake on his part. Five minutes later and we would have had to call it quits. Oh, and when the weather rolled in, nobody else on that hunt had killed a bird.
Tactic: Early Morning Ambush
A week before the season, I scouted out a flock of 30-plus birds, including seven strutters, and then, on opening day, I watched four of those gobblers and hens enter a field in the same spot but couldn't get them to come to my calls. So, the next time I went in I set up under the cover of darkness in the spot where I had seen them enter the field every time. I only had an hour to hunt before blowing out for my kid's soccer game, so I didn't make a peep or do anything to betray my presence. When the birds flew down, they walked by within minutes and I shot a nice longbeard fewer than 30 steps away.
Tactic: The Puppet Show
Tactic: High-Plains Drifter
Using hillsides, ditches, scattered piles of brush or small saplings, and even slight humps in the ground that will afford enough cover to belly crawl behind, close as much distance as possible between you and the turkey. I've used this trick to close what was several hundred yards between me and a bird to less than a hundred, and in so doing, you often get inside the gobbler's comfort zone and can bring him the rest of the distance with soft calling. Many of these shots may be taken from the prone position or without the benefit of a wide tree to comfortably sit against, so be sure to practice those shots before the season.