A few things in springtime excite me about returning to the outdoors. Shed hunting is underway, spawning walleye run, but the one that gets me excited the most is listening to turkey gobbling. When I go for my morning walk, I listen to the sounds of gobbles and get excited, knowing that my season in Central Wisconsin will soon be here.
I cut my teeth on hunting turkey in Clark and Eau Claire County public lands in Wisconsin in the early 2000s. My Dad, brothers, and I would spend the early mornings driving from logging road to logging road, stopping where we would find the most turkey tracks in the sandy roads. We would get out of the truck and make shock calls from the owl calls to see how many birds would gobble from the roost. Those crazy gobbling mornings are gone as those public land birds have now become call educated.
How to Hunt Turkeys from the Roosts
Most turkey hunters are early risers and want to get out in the woods to hear those early morning gobbles while the birds are all on the roost. Hunting turkey in the early morning is often one of the most successful times to fill a tag.
Scout the Hunting Terrain
It is essential to make yourself familiar with the terrain you are hunting in. To improve your turkey hunting, you need to step up your game. Hearing a turkey gobble in the distance is exhilarating, but it's of no use if you can't move towards it stealthily or if the turkey can't approach you easily.
Start with looking at mapping apps to get a general idea of where you want to start your scouting. Then get your favorite boots on and fine-tune the lay of the land. The best scouting for turkey is getting that boots-on-the-ground knowledge. Walk logging roads, looking for feeding areas and game trails, and see where toms have their strut zones. Understanding where and how the turkey moves through the land will help you pattern what they will do when they come down from the roost.
Once you know how turkeys are using the area, use your GPS to mark the location you want to set up in the morning; prep this area by clearing out brush. If you are a ground blind hunter, this is a great time to set your blind up so you can slip in under cover of darkness.
Understand Morning Habits of Turkeys
Gobblers tend to use the same trees as their roosting spots on a daily basis. If you have a good understanding of the terrain in these areas, it can provide you with useful information on where a gobbler might spend the night and the direction it will travel in the morning to find hens. If you can enter these areas without being detected, you may have a chance to take a shot at a cautious gobbler as soon as it leaves the roost or intercept it along its path to meet up with hens.
Putting your time into scouting now will help you understand their habits. In the areas you plan to hunt, get out before the season, and listen at first light. Make sure to carry some turkey calls with you when you go hunting, in case you need to get a turkey to make noise. Locator calls can be especially useful for this purpose, as they can stimulate a turkey to gobble.
It's best to let the morning progress naturally when turkey hunting, paying attention to each gobble and tracking the direction of the bird as it moves. If you hear a tom gobbling on an oak ridge two days in a row, get back there on the third morning to hone in on that gobbler's patterns.
Avoid Overcallling to a Roosted Turkey
You scouted and feel confident in your prep work, now is not the time to ruin your prep work. When you get to your spot and if you hear a bird sound off in the roost, do not rush into the woods while calling to him. He's already told you where he is, so there's no need to start hammering away.
Allow nature to take its course when turkey hunting. If you start calling out to a turkey, it may become aware of your presence, making it difficult to approach without being detected. Additionally, your calls may remind the turkey of previous encounters with hunters, which can be particularly problematic on public lands that experience a lot of hunting pressure.
Be patient and move slowly when closing in on a turkey, waiting for each gobble before advancing to pinpoint its position and set up your approach without being detected. If the turkey stops gobbling, but you still need to get closer, you can try using a soft owl call to provoke it into gobbling again.
A benefit of early morning hunts is that the rest of the animals in the woods also wake up; often, many sounds will trigger a gobbler. In farm country, the sound of a local rooster, springtime geese, and crows. Please don't rush into making sounds; let nature work its magic. If you really want to see where that gobbler is at, and you haven't heard him for a while, a good gobble will often trigger him to respond; use this locator call sparsely, though.
Set up Early
It's ideal to set up against a tree in the dark, within 100 yards of a gobbling turkey. Walking through an open field as the sun rises is not recommended. A good guideline to follow is that if you can hear songbirds making noise, the turkey you're after is probably already awake and alert.
Turkey has terrific vision, so don't underestimate how far a bird can see through early-season open hardwoods. Gobblers choose their roost trees to use their vision to their advantage. The earlier you can get into the woods and set up, your likelihood of getting away with a few snapped twigs and stumbles will not be as noticed.
Sit Tight and Wait
The gobblers that sit on roost and gobble at every sound fly down at first light and come running into your soft purrs only last so long. Those are the birds that get taken early in the season. I hope the turkey gods bless you with at least one hunt like this in your hunting career.
A more typical hunt will be that you have to wait out a bird. You will hear the birds fly down if you have positioned yourself close enough. Listen closely to determine if the tom flew down. Often a pressured tom will fly down and strut quietly with his hens. Listen for drumming sounds from toms that don't gobble.
Your time to call is when you're sure he's on the ground and moving in another direction. Start your calling softly; he is close, and calling loudly will give him an indication that something isn't normal. If he starts to gobble, let him keep talking. He is interested in finding you and is seeking. You don't need to respond to his every gobble; call enough to keep him interested.
How To Find a Turkey Roost Area
Finding a turkey roost area can be a challenge, but there are several things you can look for to increase your chances of success. Here are some tips for finding a turkey roost area:
- Look for large trees. Turkeys typically roost in large trees that provide good cover and protection from predators. Look for mature trees with thick foliage like oaks, maples, and pines.
- Look for tracks and droppings. Turkeys leave distinctive tracks and droppings to help you identify their roosting areas. Look for tracks and droppings in areas with good cover and near a reliable source of food and water.
- Listen for gobbling. Male turkeys, or gobblers, often gobble from their roosts in the early morning and late afternoon. Listen for the sound of gobbling in the early morning hours to help you locate a roosting area.
- Scout before the season. If possible, scout the area before the hunting season begins to understand better where the turkeys are roosting. Look for areas with good cover, food sources, and water.
- Use trail cameras. Trail cameras can be an excellent tool for identifying turkey roosting areas. Set up cameras where you have seen turkey tracks and droppings and check them regularly to see if you can capture images of turkeys roosting.
How to Call Roosted Turkeys
DO NOT call too much; one of the fun parts about turkey hunting is having a tom gobble his head off at you. And it sure gets tempting when you are set up early in the morning, songbirds are just waking up, and you hear a hen give soft tree yelps, with a response of the tom responding to gobble. If that doesn't get you excited in the spring, I suggest you keep your butt at home and in bed, but if you can relate to how exciting it can be to hear that sound, then read on, a friend of the same feather. To call a turkey on the roost, you can use a technique called "tree yelping." This sound involves imitating the sound of a hen turkey to make the gobbler on the roost believe that there is another turkey nearby. Remember to be patient and wait for the turkey to come to you. Don't overcall, as this can scare the turkey away.
What Sounds to Make When Calling Roosted Turkeys
Hunters use several types of calls to call turkeys on the roost. The kind of call you choose will depend on the situation and the response you are getting from the turkey. Here are some common calls:
- Tree Yelp: This soft, high-pitched Yelp imitates a hen turkey. It is an excellent call to use to locate gobblers on the roost.
- Fly Down Cackle: This is a series of excited yelps that a hen turkey makes when she flies down from the roost. It can effectively coax a gobbler to fly down and come to you.
- Purr: This is a soft, rolling call that a contented hen turkey makes when she is feeding. It can be effective in calming a nervous gobbler and coaxing him closer.
- Cluck: This is a short, sharp call that a hen turkey makes to communicate with other turkeys. It can get a gobbler's attention and make him curious about what is happening.
- Gobble: This is the loud, distinctive call a male turkey makes to announce his presence. It can get a gobbler to respond and give away his location.
It is important to remember that calling turkeys on the roost can be challenging, as they are often cautious. It is important to be patient and persistent and to listen carefully to their responses. Get scouting time and understand the birds' movement; this knowledge can help you be a more successful turkey hunter.
There is only one guarantee in turkey hunting: there is no guarantee in turkey hunting. Well, if it were simple, everybody would have their turkey tag filled. Take in this information and use it to improve your success. Having a plan and using these tips will help you walk out of the woods with a long beard slung over your shoulder. Celebrate The Experience!