During decades of turkey hunting, I have learned something new every season. The one constant I have found turkey hunting is that no certain hunting or calling tactic will work during all three phases of every hunting day.
Every turkey hunting article in the world will tell you not to overcall a mature gobbler, so let’s get that out of the way now. When you work hard to locate a mature bird’s roost and you slip in on him in the dark well before sunrise, it pure awesomeness to have him thunderously answer one of your pre-dawn clucks. But, it is also almost too tempting to keep talking to him just so you can hear him talk. This is a guaranteed way to make him fly down and walk the opposite direction and every serious turkey hunter knows this, so fight the urge to overcall and let him want you until he flies down.
If he answered you loudly, he is telling you, “I hear you and I know where you are, so stop clucking or yelping so I don’t have to worry about someone else finding you.” Besides, he is actually giving you the courtesy of letting you know your ruse is working, so don’t blow him out of the area with impatience.
Another constant of turkey hunting is to hear a cacophony of gobblers destroy the peace and quiet of the woods at first light, but to only have them go silent as soon as they hit the ground. This is also another time when hunters get impatient and call too much. If any birds answered you from the roost, they will come looking for you again even if you soft call and change locations. Sometimes it takes a while, but eventually, if you are in a birdy area they will find you within an hour.
Late morning is a hot time to hunt. Hens have usually quieted down and gobblers are on the move. Even some old toms who are committed to their strutting zones can take their sweet time getting there and this means they are technically capable of being sweet talked. Late morning is also a good time to roll into a new area and use a locater call like a crow call or a loud box call. If you get more than one enthusiastic answer, you are in business.
While half of the states don’t allow turkey hunting after noontime, half do and this is a bonus time to put a hurtin’ on an old silent runner. Most mature birds will not gobble at all in the afternoon but if you know they are there, then all you have to do is wait them out. Most will undoubtedly come in silent so you will have to do some mean and loud cutting to get one answer. The louder and shriller your calling is, the more you have a chance of taking their temperature. If you get one answer, it’s time to set up.
Knowing the what to do and when to do it is the key to success in all things, including turkey hunting.