We have all had one of “those” seasons before. The one where you try anything and everything but just can’t seem to fill that spring turkey tag. Frustration sets in, and every afternoon you catch yourself wondering why you even put yourself through this to begin with. Some old school turkey hunters call this “the grind,” and believe me, it sure can be. The key is to stay positive. Keep looking for new ways to fool those weary old birds, or perhaps return to some “goodies” from years gone by.
When I catch myself falling victim to “the grind,” the first thing I like to do is talk it out with a buddy. I know that sounds a lot like giving-up to most hunters, but trust me—two heads are always better than one, and sometimes an outside perspective can shed light on overlooked opportunities and missed chances.
A positive mental attitude goes a long way in anything you do, and turkey hunting is no different. If you get down and start doubting yourself, you won’t be prepared when the opportunity does show itself, and it will slip through your grasp. Stay upbeat, and make a conscious effort to say: “This is it. This is the set where it all comes together.”
When I’m having trouble with birds, and I can’t seem to break through, a tactic I love to utilize is switching to little-used calls. I have a few “go to” calls in my storage bin at home for just such an occasion. I like to use calls that have a unique sound, something I know those birds haven’t heard, and something I can get back to the basics with. Things like my Kevin Kirkpatrick custom tube call or a wing bone call made by my good friend Kevin Lynch can do the trick most of the time. The reasons I like to utilize these calls are simple: Not many other people have them. It’s something that can pique the interest of an old tom, and it gets me back to the basics of turkey hunting by utilizing cadence and rhythm, which are key to successfully working birds instead of falling victim to more advertised variables in the calling world. Remember: just because you think a call sounds good, doesn’t mean the turkeys do, and vice-versa. So make sure to give every call in your arsenal a fair chance. Again, stay positive.
Just this season I experienced the grind. As the manager of Whitetail Heaven Outfitters hunting lodge, which has bases all over Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio, I see guides go through similar phases of this all year, and it’s my job to try and help them overcome these stumbling blocks. One tactic I saw utilized this year that really has taken the turkey hunting world by storm is “fanning” or “reaping” turkeys. This has proven to be a very effective tactic for us on days that birds were not vocalizing or for when you catch that old, wise tom in a field with a few hens. Sometimes you just have to put the moves on him. There is also something really cool about sneaking that close to a bird, showing him a fan and watching his head turn snow white as he does the “baby dinosaur run” to inside 10 yards before he realizes he may have just committed suicide. This is a tactic that should only be performed on private property. Be very careful to observe your surroundings, and make sure no other hunters are in the vicinity.
Being versatile is key in breaking through the glass ceiling of “the grind.” I like to utilize things that help me do just that—things like carrying multiple strikers and many different cuts of diaphragm calls. One of my all-time favorites is a combo call from Commando Hunting Products. This call allows me to utilize three different calling surfaces on a single echo chamber providing different sound options with a limited amount of baggage.
It’s been my experience that patience kills more birds than anything else, whether it’s sitting on a midday food source or knowing that you don’t have to make a bird gobble to harvest him. Don’t let your frustration keep you out of the turkey woods during the late season. Try something different. You may be surprised, and you’re definitely going to be learning something new. They’re all pieces of a puzzle; it’s just our job to use the right piece where it fits.