Find the Strut Zone

When gobblers go mute, plan an interception.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Silence in the spring woods doesn't mean the gobblers are gone. In fact, it's not uncommon for toms to go suddenly quiet, especially during the late season. That's because pressured birds often travel silently from strut zone to strut zone, where they spit, drum, and strut-but don't gobble-hoping to attract a nearby hen. They often make this circuit several times a day, giving you an excellent opportunity for an ambush.

** Prime Locations **
The first step is to identify a strut zone. Although these vary in size, most are fairly small,often no more than an 8- by 12-foot area on an old logging road, a ridgetop in open woods, or a corner of a field. They should offer good visibility. A high spot in a field corner or a slight rise on a logging road both provide an open and elevated stage where a longbeard can strut in plain view of nearby hens.

Look for clues.
Tracks of varying sizes indicate visits by hens and toms alike. Droppings, too, should be in good supply. And drag or strut marks-parallel scratches left in the dirt, dust, or leaf litter by a strutting gobbler's primary wing feathers dragging the ground-are proof that a gobbler danced in that spot. Find this sign in combination, and you're likely in the zone.

Subtle Approach
Hunting a strut zone is about as low-key as turkey hunting gets. First, keep yourself inconspicuous by setting up on the periphery, as opposed to the middle, of the area. Then get good and comfortable. A soft seat cushion is a must, and a portable blind can be helpful, as you're apt to be waiting for a while.

Quiet calling, including low one- or two-note yelps, clucks, and purrs, is the best way to lure in a closed-mouthed, late-season tom. You want to give a roaming gobbler the impression that somewhere close to his zone is a reluctant hen who just needs a little convincing. With that impression, he'll march straight to his dance floor and attempt to strut and spin his way into her affections-when in fact, he'll be working his way right into your shotgun's sights.