Why You Don't Need a Game Plan to Bag a Spring Turkey
I hear it all the time. "I've figured out a plan on how to kill that gobbler...". Yeah, I bet you do. But I'll let you in on a little secret, his plan doesn't involve you. Harsh and honest, I know, but likely true it is.
Turkeys are finicky creatures, especially during the springtime. You can pattern them, figure out roosts and even uncover his strut zone, but as the saying goes "everything can change in the blink of an eye". You see, a gobbler has one thing on his mind during the spring and that's finding a lady friend. And though you might be setup within an earshot of his roost, if there's a hen nearby, you've got some competition to work with and that's where a perfect plan can tend to fall apart.
I used to be a planned out hunt kinda guy. I'd sit at the base of a tree that I had scoped out with my favorite new call in hand eagerly watching the field in front of me. Sitting there with endless optimism that sooner or later, a feathery puff ball would emerge from the wood line and work his way toward me. But so many mornings, I went home empty handed. "But why? Everything was perfect, he just hung-up and shutdown". Convenience is king in the turkey woods and when you're not it, you're more than likely not going to be on his priority list to visit.
Flexibility in the spring turkey woods is paramount.
Essentially, you need to become a hen to be considered a hen by a wary gobbler. Sure, it seems rudimentary, but hens don't sit at the base of one tree, using one call for 2-3 hours. They're on the move and they have an arsenal of different calls at their disposal, and so should you. It's easy to get comfortable with one call, especially if it's worked for you in the past and you like the way that it sounds. But just because your favorite box call worked a couple of times last year, doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to seal the deal now. Be prepared to cycle through a handful of different calls and chances are that you will find a pitch and type of call that he likes. On a side note related to using a friction call, be sure to keep a couple of different strikers in your vest to change up the delivery.
Be prepared to move.
I've always admitted that I do some of my best sleeping in the woods, and that's probably because I've spent too much time in one spot and that can get old. Sometimes, I think that the first hunt of the morning is categorized by many as a different type of hunt from the second. Posting up in one spot, calling him in and waiting him out is the mindset of many. Then, for the mid-morning hunt, it's time to get up and move. But in all honesty, the first hunt and the second shouldn't be so different. Once that gobbler departs his roost, give him a chance to work his way toward you, but not too much time where he loses interest. When he starts cutting a different direction, you need to move. During this time, there are plenty of different things that could be happening, many of which are tipping the odds in his favor. Maybe he's locked onto a nearby hen, maybe he's lost interest or maybe you're just not in the direction where he wants to go? Pack up shop and move to try to get into a new spot and continue to call.
What is the right amount of calling?
Trick question, there is no one answer. If you ask me, I say that far too often we as turkey hunters are too concerned about "the right amount", when in reality it just depends on the bird. Each hunt is a new hunt and just like how a different call might do the trick, a different amount of calling just might do the same. Experiment with different pitches, different sounds and different rhythms. Some birds actually love the sound of a hot and heavy hen that just won't stop cutting. Trust yourself and your ability to call. After each call and response, feel out the gobbler that is on the other end of the phone line. It's a conversation after all, not a boring one-way call.
Turkey hunting is challenging and though it takes a good amount of skill and a fair amount of luck to come out successful, it doesn't have to be planned out down to every move. Be flexible and constantly assess the bird that you're hunting. Work with his moves and convince him that you're the hot hen that he's been looking for. Best of luck this spring!