The boss gobbler thundered several times before flying down. We couldn’t see it but anxiously awaited its approach. We had taken all the hunting precautions- rising early, sneaking into a known travel route from the roost, having a gobbler decoy staked out, and my best calls at the ready. However, our best-laid plans fell flat, and the tom and his hens took an off-ramp to a distant meadow. We sneaked, crawled, and slithered to within 100 yards of his strutting area, but he wouldn’t budge.
Tackle its Aggression-
I’m hunting in South Dakota where a gobbler decoy is often the best allure. The season had been open for two weeks and most toms had been called to or spooked from their roost. Normally, even buggered gobblers will attack another gobbler, yet the old turkey I was after had survived several seasons and wasn’t interested in mating games.
Geared for Quick Shooting
South Dakota has Rio and Merriam subspecies that exhibit similar behaviors. Once they leave the roost they may travel a mile and roam throughout the day. As a result, sedentary Eastern tactics rarely work. I love hunting from a blind, yet the wind frequently blows (Some would say constantly) and fabric flapping in the wind is a deterrent to usually clueless turkeys. The Burris Oracle X allowed me to instantly aim at unknown distances on turkeys that are frequently on the move.
Go for the Body Shot-
If you have followed my turkey hunting posts in recent weeks you know that I’m a big fan of neck shots. However, on moving turkeys at varying ranges where I must hide in natural surroundings I planned to shoot for the vitals, often aiming just above and forward of the legs. Aside from striking the vitals, a hit in this location prevents the turkey from flying and hobbles it for easy retrieval. The blades of Sevr heads nest into the ferrul so they fly very accurately and aren’t affected by the prairie winds.
Since we knew where the gobbler usually roosted, we returned in mid-afternoon in hopes of ambushing the flock. About an hour before dark, the big tom and three hens showed up at the same spot where I had tried to fan it in the morning. The gobbler strutted and circled for 20 minutes or so before making a beeline for the roost. Again we hoped that the boss tom would fight an intruder, but the big bird would not approach. My best shot was at 50 yards on a moving bird, not an ethical attempt despite my excellent equipment.
Drive-By of Sorts
On the last morning of my trip to South Dakota, I had one final chance and chose to post at the strutting ground where the big gobbler often displayed his white-tipped feathers. However, I had to sneak past the roost, risking busting the birds from the tree, especially likely if deer were in the area. So, my buddy and I chose to drive by the roost in total darkness just like the rancher did on my occasions. Once half a mile from the roost, I hid the vehicle and sneaked toward the strutting ground.
The Plan Comes Together
My partner on this hunt was a young camera operator who was learning to film outdoor hunts. He and I selected a location along a steep stream bank where we could hide below ground level until the turkeys moved into the strutting zone. We heard the gobbler sound off from the roost but did not call or make any attempt to intercept it. We believed it would come to the strutting ground and were right.
Plan the Shot Carefully-
I knew the camouflaged TenPoint would not alert the approaching turkeys so I lay it in the open where I could quickly raise it, aim, and shoot. When I saw the first hen pass by, I whispered to the cameraman to get ready. In seconds, the big tom came strutting past at 20 yards, spinning, and fully displayed. As I reached for the bow, the tom broke strut and turned away, yet it was too late and the Sevr did its job. When gobblers are hammered by hunting pressure, find a place where they strut and be patient. Like a deer, a turkey in a completely relaxed condition is easier to fool and shoot accurately. Good Luck!