Better late? Change tactics to fill tag in turkey season's last weekend

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

Turkey hunting depends both on the landscape and the mood of the birds, both of which change dramatically over the course of the season. To bag a bird on the eve of May typically requires different tactics that those used on the ides of March.
For Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland of Houston and Rusty McDaniels of Tupelo, two lifelong turkey hunters who’ve broadened their experience further by capturing turkey hunts on video for Mossy Oak over the course of many springs, late season strategies mean more looking to go with the listening.
“The late season is a lot more visual and less vocal,” Strickland said, “whereas the early season is the opposite of that. If I had to suggest one thing, it would be to focus on the middle of the day, because they sure enough may stop gobbling after they fly down, or even not gobble at all, but if he hears one, look out.”
“They do tend to get call shy late in the season if they’ve been called to a lot,” McDaniels said. “If you’re in a hunting club and you and eight of your friends have been hunting the same turkeys all season, they may not be as responsive to calling in terms of gobbling back, but you can still pique their interest.”
“I wouldn’t be scared to yelp,” Strickland said. “It’s still all about letting them know there’s a hen there, but the late season does get to be a little terrain-y. Is there a clover field somewhere that’s not grown up three feet high? Is there a road that’s been trimmed?”
“You can’t just plan to go set up on a greenfield because by now even the rye grass has grown up knee high,” McDaniels said.
“They’re not going to walk through that, especially in the morning when it’s wet,” Strickland said, “so it’s critical to know where they’re likely to be hanging out.”
The upside, though, is there are that many fewer places that could be.
See what you hear
“You really need to tune in on your listening, because when the woods and fields are greened up and the grass is tall, they’ll fool you on how far away they are,” McDaniels said.
“When they’re on the ground with the thick stuff between you and them and they gobble facing away from you, it can sound like they’re a mile away even when they’re close,” Strickland said.
“You might walk 75 yards and spook them,” McDaniels said, “so like Cuz said, it becomes that much more important now to look while you listen.”