Photographer: Albert Lavallee/NWTF Wild Turkey Subspecies: Rio Grande

Turkey Phases and Hunting Techniques

Turkey's behavior changes throughout the year and here's how to use it.

It just makes sense. As the seasons, daylight, and weather change, so does animal behavior. As deer hunters we capitalize on this, so why not do the same for turkeys.

Early Season

Coming just off of winter, groups of toms have recently broken up and are starting to pay attention to hens. This is the best time to start scouting, as gobbling activity is starting to heat up on the roost. While they will gobble, it can quickly be ruined by the weather, so if it rains or storms just sleep in. As the birds are interested in hens older toms will strut and follow the hens. With the toms being "Henned Up," it makes for tough hunting. Get as close as you can and try to call gently, with the goal of drawing in a flock of hens with a tom in tow. Make the hens think you're a feeding hen. If that doesn't work, try to challenge the hens with some loud yelps. If all else fails turn to a gobbler call with loud cutting and yelps, bring in a boss tom to assert his dominance.


Shortly after the early season comes the peak of activity. This is the best time to hunt, as most of the hens have been bred and have left the toms. Leading to gobblers being vocal and responsive. With hens on the nest toms will travel and gobble frequently. Now is the best time to run and gun. Try to locate gobblers by either glassing or calling. The key in this season is once you have a gobbler heading your direction stop calling accept for a few intermittent purrs. You can tell you are in the peak season when you hear a lot of day time gobbling.

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Late Season

The hardest period to hunt. Most of the time the birds won't gobble. If your woods has gone silent you're stuck in the late season. It isn't impossible to bag your bird. Toms stick to strutting zones and feeding areas. Set up an ambush at these locations. Barely use your calls and only with soft purrs. When I hunt late season birds, I don't hunt the evenings and instead focus on roosting them. Once I know where they roost; I put on a  ghillie suit and get as close to the roost as possible. It's best to leave your tom and jake decoys at home and throw out a solo hen, if you use one at all.