Spring turkey hunting can give you all sorts of weather. Knowing how weather can affect turkey behavior can help improve your success when dealing with imperfect weather conditions. Yes, I wish every day of turkey season would be beautiful calm, clear mornings where turkeys are gobbling at every sound in the woods, but that isn't the reality!I know in my part of central Wisconsin, I have hunted in some pretty miserable weather between youth hunts into the last season. I have had some success in these not-so-ideal weather conditions by understanding how a cold front would affect the hunt.
What is a Cold Front
The simple definition of a cold front is when a cold air mass pushes into a warmer one. Cold fronts can produce dramatic changes in weather. These fronts are often fast-moving as well. Many outdoors people follow the weather and watch it on a favorite weather app or tune into the local news station to catch a forecast. Sometimes hunters do this to explain why they will sleep in the morning. Other times, they try to use this information to create a plan. And yes, sometimes sleeping in can be considered a plan!
So when the forecast says you have a cold front coming, get ready to change how you will hunt. Typical weather associated with a cold front are thunderstorms, snow storms, and high winds.
How does a Cold Front Affect Turkey Behavior
Knowing that the typical weather patterns associated with a cold front are rainy, snow, and or high winds now allows you to hone in on how this weather affects turkey behavior. One of the most significant impacts you will see when pursuing cold front turkey is that they tend to be quieter birds and even can be called shy.
Cold front turkeys can often stay on roost longer than usual; if their roost position does not offer much protection from the wind and weather, you could find that they will leave their original roost and find shelter in pine trees and roost there until the storm passes. If you did your prep work before the season and scouted, you will understand where Turkey's typical travel patterns will be. They will travel to a food source when they come off the roost. Setup in these locations, and you can increase your odds of success on tagging out on a cold front tom.
How to Hunt Turkeys during Cold Front Phase
Hunting the beginning of a cold front will probably mean you will sit in a location longer, and birds will slip in on you quietly, so be alert. Use a good pair of binoculars to scan the woods for movement. Your calling should be limited and quiet; you will probably hear hens talking because birds will be in a bigger flock than just a lone tom. Mimic and speak to the hen; the odds are she will look for you and drag a tom fanned out behind her.
If your morning starts with heavy rains, this is when you can sleep in; you can wait out the storm. Get into your location just before the rains are going to end. Because when they do stop, this is when you want to be ready; the birds will start to move, either looking for food or a mate.
My favorite location to wait for turkey in a cold front situation is a big oak tree forest that borders a field. Turkey does not like wet feathers, so they will likely avoid dense, brushy woods. Giant oak tree forests will have open areas; their canopy will create what often looks like a park environment. These open areas will allow the turkey to dry out any wet feathers. These oaks will also provide a mast food source.
The edge of the field will allow the birds to go out and shake off any wetness they have and still offer them the cover next to the woods. Also, logging roads or natural meadows are good areas for soaked birds to travel to.
Hunting cold-front birds can be successful if you plan correctly; these birds will stay on roost longer, flock up more, and look for a place to dry off and find food. Use a cold front to your advantage, and get yourself an excellent blind to protect yourself from the wind, rain, or snow. Having a ground blind will make your long sit much more enjoyable.
If you can't find that perfect setup where the food source bumps into open drying areas, then choose to hunt in the drying area. Turkeys do not like being wet and hang out in open areas like logging roads and meadows to dry off. Using a Jake/hen decoy combo is suitable for this scenario.
Oh, and when success does come your way, the hero photo will not be the best right away because the odds are that after doing the turkey flop, your tom will look drenched. Today, I chuckle at the photo I took from one of the first toms during a cold front hunt. That bird looks terrible in the picture; the hunter also seems tired!
Celebrate the experience!