Hunting turkeys in the evening didn't even exist when I started turkey hunting over 20 years ago. I'm unsure if any states still practice the hunt until noon time. That is how it was when I first started turkey hunting.
I'm glad those days no longer exist, and we get to hunt them to the end of the day now. Sure many hunters are in the woods at dawn, and most turkeys are harvested before 8 am. From what I see on the pressured public lands I hunt in central Wisconsin, I often wonder if hunters only hunt until noon. That is one of the benefits of hunting later into the day; the calling and hunting pressure has lessened for the day.
Be Mobile in Turkey Hunting
This run-and-gun style of hunting is what I fell in love with. It reminds me of my archery elk hunts out in Colorado—calling and moving, calling and moving. These evening birds can cover a lot of ground, so you will want to hunt an area quickly. Set up and call for ten minutes. If there is no response, move on to the next location.
Tip: Have a good vest; it helps keep calls, decoys, and water organized and at the ready. The newest craze on turkey vests has a built-in kickstand, they are so much more comfortable to use, and you can quickly drop down anyplace and lean back.
Use Habits of Turkeys in Hunting
What are key things in life? Sleep, food, and social time. Understanding where a turkey roosts and where they feed will help you get set up to intercept them as they travel throughout the day in their social habits. Turkeys are creatures of habit; if they are not pressured, they often "run" the same course for several days. If you spend enough time in the woods, you will notice this behavior in turkeys. Use this creature of habit routine to improve your success.
Learning a turkey's routine can be accomplished by scouting trips before you hunt them. These scouting trips can teach you a lot about where the birds are roosting, where they are feeding, and where are the strut zones. Trail cameras can help you cover more areas. With the newest technology of cellular cameras, you won't even have to disturb the areas by checking SD cards regularly.
Stay Alert to Hunt Turkeys
These evening birds are mobile and are not the most vocal birds to hunt; take a real good look around before deciding to move on to your next area. Nothing is more frustrating than picking up too early and having a hen or tom bust you that you have never even seen working towards you. Hunting in the evening has a different sense of pressure; you feel the pressure of I'm running out of daylight and need to find a bird. Unlike when you hunt in the morning, you feel like I got all day and time is on your side.
When I'm getting ready to leave an area, I like to use my binoculars and give the area a good scan by looking for bird movement. Several times, I have caught movement from a bird that I didn't even see with my bare eye. I believe binoculars are one of the most underutilized tools used during turkey season.
Trust Your Turkey Hunting Area
You got birds patterned; you see lots of signs, and you know where they have roost areas and feeding areas are known. But you just haven't seen or heard a bird yet. Now, what do you do? Trust your area and get to the roost areas; they will show up there. Turkeys will roost at sunset; depending on the time of year, this can range from 6 pm to 8 pm. If you are within 100 yards of that roost area, you will see the birds coming into that area, and you can intercept their movement to get a tag filled.
Ever notice when you are at a Cabelas store they have chairs set up in the front lobby area? Why is that? Well, when you are shopping with your significant other, and you get separated, that is a given spot to meet them; it's just like a turkey going to its roost area; all the birds are heading there.
Use A Decoy to Hunt More Turkeys
This can be a great time to use a decoy; a jake and hen combo is a solid choice. In the evening, you can find an ole tom out by himself, looking for a mate before heading to a roost; when he walks in on you and sees jake next to a hen, that will trigger his dominance.
I shared with you that being mobile is a crucial tactic to evening hunting, and dragging around a few decoys in your turkey vest can seem like a bother. I recently switched to the most mobile turkey decoys I have ever used; try out the jake and hen combo from Montana Decoy. The Purrfect Pair XD, these decoys are lightweight, easy to pack, and make being a mobile turkey hunter much easier.
Final Thoughts of Turkey Hunting
Getting your tag filled during the evening hunt can be challenging. It can be enjoyable to be in the turkey woods; pressure can be less because other hunters filled tags from morning hunts, so you will feel like you have the woods to yourself. Hunt near those roost areas, and if your evening hunt doesn't work out, you have a plan ready to hunt them in the morning because you will know where they are. Celebrate The Experience!