From the reports I am getting from several states and several sources, this past icy winter has taken its toll on mature Midwestern turkeys. I know an outfitter in the Bible belt who has cancelled all turkey hunts due to the lack of three and four year old birds. Overall, it seems like 2014 might be a lean year for gobblers so you will need to adopt late-season tactics a bit earlier than usual if you want a chance for a limb hanger.
First off, if you are a serious turkey addict and can live without harvesting a nice bird, this might be a good year to let them walk if you live in an affected area. Or, if you feel like your local birds took a big hit and you still want to hunt, maybe you can travel to a different state to hunt if you can afford the time and money it would take.
Regardless, there is no shame in wanting to hunt locally so if that is your desire, then I would suggest going solo. Hunting is hard with more than one person, so going solo will help you stay more mobile and more flexible on your own time table.
The one thing you are going to want to do if hunting conditions are difficult is cover a lot of ground. Run and gun is a long, time-tested tactic used to find the one lone bird in the mood for coming to your lonesome hen turkey call. Cover ground and try to stay away from traveling in open areas so that you don’t spook an unseen bird watching such locations. Tough hunting requires eliminating as many mistakes as possible, so don’t gamble away any potential opportunities.
Next, use a loud friction call like a box call. The louder the better. Loud calls reach out farther than normal calls and even a lukewarm gobbler will mostly answer a loud call. You might only hear a single return gobble, but that is all you need to determine that there is a mature bird in the area. If you hear him, meet him at least half way and settle down for some softer calling.
Finally, when conditions are rough, it will improve all of your chances if you can put a gobbler to bed. Knowing what tree a bird roosts in will help you pinpoint a good morning location to hopefully get him early. Good reconnaissance is priceless and it will save you a lot of hard work.