It was opening week on public land. Several other hunters scratched out overlapping strings of yelps in the near distance. No big deal, I figured. Twenty-five yards away was a mock dusting site I’d made well before the opener.
A half hour into the hunt, I heard the low rumble of a longbeard drumming just to my left. I clucked and he gobbled–then stepped through the dust bowl, giving me an easy shot. He was the latest of more than 20 gobblers I’ve taken on public land this way.
Creating a mock dusting site is simple and can steer even pressured birds right into your lap. Turkeys are creatures of habit. They visit dust bowls on a daily basis to rid themselves of mites. Lonesome longbeards also frequent them to find hens. And the birds are as quick to adopt your mock sites as to use their own. Here’s how to do it:
1. Lose the Crowd
Unless you’re the lone hunter on private ground, keep your mock dusting site hidden: It’s supposed to attract turkeys, not hunters. Choose a spot near turkey scratchings, droppings, or feathers found off the beaten path–say, at the back of a hill or thicket, or on the creek bank opposite the easiest access.
2. Set the trap
Position the mock dust bowl near an ambush point–a dip, a corner, a blowdown–so that any tom approaching close enough to see it is already in gun range. Otherwise, the bird may stop short and merely survey the area for hens rather than actually visit it. Scrape away leaves and debris in a roughly circular area a little more than a foot in diameter. Then use a handheld rake or trowel to break up and churn the exposed dirt into a fine dust. It’s as simple as that. Construct the site a couple of weeks before the opener so birds can get into a routine of using it.
3. Bag the Bird
When the season starts, go back at midmorning, when turkeys typically dust themselves. Set up about 25 yards away from the mock bowl, perpendicular to the bird’s line of travel, in a spot with good cover. Go light on the calling; soft, contented clucks and purrs should be all you need to bring a gobbler into range. Then you can do the dusting.