John's Journal...

Secrets to Hunting Tough Gobblers

Secrets for Taking Rainy-Day Gobblers

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: The rain danced on the rooftop as my alarm clock went off at Mark Drury's Missouri hunting camp. I thought the inclement weather would allow me to sleep at least a few more hours before I tried to match wits with the wily wizards of the spring woods. But, when I heard the words, "Come on, Bubba. Let's get on our rain gear and go," from Drury, I knew I'd soon get as wet as the turkeys we planned to hunt.

As we dressed, I grumbled about the bad weather and suggested, "Why don't we wait until the rain stops before we leave camp?" Drury, a World Champion turkey caller and co-owner of Drury Outdoors Video Productions, reminded me of the old adage, "You can't bag a gobbler sitting in camp." Even though I had a smile on my face as I put on my GORE-Tex rain suit, I didn't feel very happy. I didn't want to leave the warmth of the camp for the icy rain that fell outside. While we trudged through the downpour, Drury reported that he'd roosted this turkey we planned to hunt for two nights. "I've found a small field beside where he's roosting. I'm convinced the rain will make the turkey fly down into that field. If we can get to the field and set up on the edge of the field in the dark, then, if the turkey flies down into this field we should be able to get a shot." I knew turkeys usually flew down later in the day during a rainstorm than they would on a bluebird day. On this particular morning, the gobbler we hunted confirmed my belief. After sitting in a blind forClick to enlarge over an hour in the driving rain, I finally heard the turkey gobble. I felt confident the gobbler couldn't see us through the blind since we both wore camouflage from head to toe.

After the tom announced his presence to the world, he continued to gobble about 30 times in the next 45 minutes. Then the bird pitched off the limb. With soft, seductive calling on his M.A.D. diaphragm call, Drury reeled the tom in like a kite on a string. When the bird moved to about 35 yards from us, the turkey seemed to suspect the hen he'd heard talking might not be the feathered darling he expected. The tom craned his neck up to look for her and immediately started taking rapid reverse steps. However, I'd already positioned my Remington 1187 to aim it at the bird's neck. When the crosshairs in my scope rested steadily on the gobbler’s wattles, I slowly squeezed the trigger. The Remington's No. 5 HEVI-Shot sprang into action and kissed the gobbler good night. In the miserable weather, we had a successful hunt because we left camp and made an effort to take the bird.

Why Hunt In The Rain:
You’ll have more success bagging a bad-weather-day gobbler if you go to an area the turkeys freClick to enlargequent. Wait on them, and look for gobblers in open fields, on roads and in clear-cuts, pastures and other places where they can see in all directions. Even if you don't locate turkeys in these open regions, when the rain stops, you'll see them. Although you give up the advantage of hearing the turkeys at long distances because of the rain, you’ll enjoy other advantages, including…
* the rain will cover the sound of your movement, which means you can get closer to the turkey on a rainy day.
* the rain will hit limbs, leaves and brush, and the foliage will move, all of which keeps the turkey from spotting you as easily if you move.
* you may call in call-shy, hunter-wise, tough-to-take toms in the rain, because more than likely, no one has hunted these birds before in a downpour.
* you’ll seldom encounter another hunter on a rainy day.
* most hunters who use friction calls won't hunt in these weather conditions, but Ziploc bags will keep your calls dry.
* most hunters don't want to clean their shotguns after they come in from a driving rainstorm and will avoid hunting in the rain. But you can hunt with the new Remington 1187 with its outer shell that protects the gun against the weather, although you’ll still need to clean the bore and receiver.

How We Took The Nasty Gobbler:
At first light some years ago, Don Taylor of Birmingham, Alabama, and I had gone to a spot where Taylor had seen a big gobbler. As the rain poured down, we called the silent longbeard without knowing it. We stooClick to enlarged up to leave and spooked the gobbler. After all the efforts to locate another gobbler had failed, we went to a pasture where Taylor had spotted gobblers earlier. A big, wet longbeard stood out in the middle of the pasture with four hens. After we called to the bird for about 45 minutes and had him answer us seven different times, I told Taylor, "there's clean open hardwoods all the way around that pasture. We can't move on this gobbler. Do you agree?" Taylor did, and he and I decided to try an unorthodox tactic. I planned to lay on my belly and try and crawl as close as I could get to that turkey before I called to him. Because we hunted on private land and knew for sure no other turkey hunter had entered the property, Taylor agreed for me to belly crawl on the bird.

"You watch the gobbler with your binoculars," I said to Taylor. "Let me know when either the gobbler or the hens are looking my way. I'm going to crawl and get behind a big tree to watch the birds. Then I'll motion for you to sneak up behind him when I think you're safe to do that. "There’s lots of water on the ground and in the ditches between here and that turkey," Taylor warned me. "Your rain suit isn't designed to function under water." For an hour, I crawled through three, small, 6-inch to 1-1/2-feet-deep run-off creeks and the hardwoods with my shotgun on my back. Once 50 yards from the field's edge and probably 150 yards from the turkey, I sat down with a large tree at my back and my shotgun on my knee. Taylor sat down about 40 yards behind me and started calling. Although the hens left the field, the big gobbler stayed there—gobbling and half-strutting—but not coming any closer than 60 yards. Then Taylor gave the young-gobbler squealing call - the kee-kee run.

For some reason on that day in that place, this gobbler decided he wanted to run off the young gobbler he'd heard, thinking the youngster had moved in and bred the hen he'd heard earlier. The mature bird broke and ran straight to me, but I couldn't get a clear shot at his head as he weaved in and out of the timber. Then only about 18 steps from me, the drowned gobbler threw his head up and looked hard.  Just at that moment, I freed that ole bird's spirit. When I reached the bedraggled, tasty-looking turkey, he and I both appeared as though we'd just stepped out of a muddy-water washing machine. Although certainly not beautiful, the tom had given me a great hunt, and I’d learned another technique for taking a rainy-day gobbler.

Check back each day this week for more about "Secrets to Hunting Tough Gobblers"

Day 1: Gobblers I Loved To Hate
Day 2: Call-Less Turkey Hunting
Day 3: How to Call Turkeys Like a Champion
Day 4: The Five Deadliest Turkey Calls
Day 5: Secrets for Taking Rainy-Day Gobblers


Entry 454, Day 5