John's Journal...

How to Hunt Bad Weather Birds

Use the Wind to Hunt Turkeys with Brad Harris and Allen Jenkins, Plus a Turkey Hunting Video with Chris Parrish

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Probably most hunters find a blowing wind the most-common bad-weather condition. However, outdoorsmen can hunt a raging wind successfully.

Standing on a high South Dakota cliff overlooking a deep valley, my longtime hunting buddy and nationally-known outdoorsman and videographer Brad Harris of Lohman’s Manufacturing in Neosho, Missouri, and I spotted three Merriam’s gobblers on the far side of a valley from us. The turkeys stood at least 3-miles away as the wind howled. We couldn’t reach the turkeys without them spotting us. We didn’t think the turkeys could hear us in the wind at that distance. “Maybe I can make those turkeys gobble,” Harris told me. I looked at Harris as though he’d lost his mind. “To make those turkeys gobble, they must hear us, Brad. I barely can hear you standing right beside you. How do you think those turkeys will hear you 3-miles away?” “Watch the birds with your binoculars,” Harris said. “Tell me what happens when I begin to call.”Click to enlarge

I faintly could hear Harris cutting and cackling above me on his diaphragm call. I laid on the ground below him to hold my binoculars steady on the edge of the rimrock. “They’re gobbling!” I told Harris. Every time Harris blew the call, the turkeys would stick out their necks. I could see them gobble, even though I couldn’t hear them. Finally, one turkey ran down the side of the mountain and started across the valley. Then the other two toms followed in close pursuit. “I see that turkey coming to us,” I told Harris. We both scurried to get off the edge of the mountain and below the lip of the hill, so the birds couldn’t see us. As we took a stand just off an old logging road that meandered up the mountain, I whispered to Harris, “Do you really believe those birds heard us from that far away?” With a big smile like the cat that swallowed the canary, Harris announced, “Sure, they did. Many hunters don’t understand that a blowing wind at your back carries your call much further than if you have the wind in your face. Even on windy days, you can call turkeys at great distances, if you throw the call at the bird and let the wind carry the call to him.” In less than 30 minutes, the gobblers had run down their side of the mountain, crossed the valley and ran up the mountain where we sat. When a longbeard stepped into view, I bagged the Merriam’s tom.

Look for the Lull in the Wind for Success:Click to enlarge
For two days, Allen Jenkins, the president of M.L. Lynch Calls in Thomasville, Georgia, and I hunted in a blowing wind in New Mexico that would take the hat off your head. Nobody in camp had seen or heard a turkey. I considered our chances to be between slim and none for bagging a bird on this trip. But Jenkins insisted we continue to hunt in the howling wind. At 11:00 am on the third day, Jenkins and I took a break. We sat on the edge of the canyon listening to the wind wail and whine. Then suddenly the wind stopped. An eerie calm fell over the canyon. “Did you hear that?” Jenkins asked. “Hear what?” I replied. “Hear that turkey,” Jenkins said. “Listen, he gobbled again.” About 300-yards ahead of us, the turkey stood in a cottonwood thicket. Because we didn’t believe the bird could see us, Jenkins and I sprinted across the canyon floor and climbed-down into a deep ditch with a small creek running through it. Using the ditch to hide our movements, we quickly walked in the direction where we’d heard the turkey gobble. Coming out of the ditch, we took a stand beside a cottonwood. Jenkins started calling. The turkey answered three-different times as he came to us during the lull. When we heard the bird 50-yards away, he walked straight toward us. But the wind picked up again and howled, preventing us from hearing the turkey gobble any more.Click to enlarge

The wind coming from behind the turkey caused his feathers to have a ruffled appearance as though someone had grabbed him by the feet and shook him. The gobbler tried to strut. But each time he fanned his tail, the wind almost blew him over. He continued to move to us. Because of the strong wind blowing in our faces and at the turkey’s back, we didn’t know if the tom could hear Jenkins calling. Finally, the bird came to within 26 steps of us. The wind whipped through his feathers, he craned his neck, and I squeezed the trigger. We took this gobbler because we remained in an area where the toms liked to stay. Then when the wind finally stopped for 30 minutes, we had an opportunity to bag the bird. The wind stopped blowing during those 4 days only for that 30-minute period. None of the other five hunters who searched for turkeys those 4 days took a bird. Persistence once again paid off when all the weather conditions indicated we had no chance at a gobbler.

Learn more about hunting legendary gobblers from John E. Phillips’ library of turkey-hunting books, including “The Turkey Hunter’s Bible,” “Turkey Tactics,” “Outdoor Life’s Complete Turkey Hunting,” “The Masters’ Secrets of Turkey Hunting” and “Hunter’s Specialties’ PhD Gobblers.” To learn more about these hunting books and others, visit, or call 205-967-3830.

Watch Video: “Chris Parrish – Size Shot and Choke Tube I Use for Turkeys”

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Tomorrow: Taking Toms in the Snow with Jim Zumbo, Plus a Turkey Hunting Video with Will Primos

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Hunt Bad Weather Birds"

Day 1: Hunting Turkeys in the Rain, Plus a Turkey Hunting Video with Will Primos
Day 2: Hunting Turkeys in the Rain Sometimes Pays-Off, Plus a Turkey Hunting Video with Chris Parrish
Day 3: Use the Wind to Hunt Turkeys with Brad Harris and Allen Jenkins, Plus a Turkey Hunting Video with Chris Parrish
Day 4: Taking Toms in the Snow with Jim Zumbo, Plus a Turkey Hunting Video with Will Primos
Day 5: Secrets for Taking Turkeys in Bad Weather, Plus a Turkey Hunting Video with Will Primos


Entry 559, Day 3