Turkey Hunting Tips for Bad-Weather Birds
Don’t let bad weather keep you indoors. Here's how to tag a gobbler in the rain or the wind
Getting up early to meet turkeys at their roost can be hard enough on the perfect day. Nasty spring weather often will send hunters back under the covers. But turkey hunting in wind and rain isn’t futile if you adjust your tactics. In fact, sometimes bad weather can even be good. Turkeys don’t stop breeding because the weather turns bad, so there’s no reason you should stop turkey hunting.
Here are some turkey hunting tips for filling your tag even when the weather turn rotten.
Turkey Hunting in the Rain
Not all wet days affect turkey behavior the same way. Some rainy conditions actually make turkeys gobble more, whereas others shut them up. Thunder shocks toms into sounding off; steady drizzle and overcast skies seem to prolong gobbling activity well into the day. When the sun breaks through the clouds after a heavy storm, toms gobble hard to make up for lost time. On the other hand, a steady rain, especially a cold one, shuts gobbling down and turkeys sit longer on the roost.
Where do birds go when it rains? Hunt open fields, like pastures and short alfalfa. In wet weather, turkeys would rather walk in short vegetation so that their feathers won’t drag through sodden grass and underbrush. They prefer open spaces where they can see predators that might otherwise slip up on them undetected in the wet woods. Stake out a field if you know birds use it. Hunting turkeys in the rain doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. Pop up blinds are made for rainy day hunting. Bring a thermos, set up a blind, get comfortable, stay dry and wait. Even if the rain has stopped, wet weather influences turkey behavior. Last spring I set up on the edge of the only picked cropfield on the farm I hunt. Rain the night before made me think turkeys would prefer the bare field to the grassy fields all around it and that they would likely roost nearby and strut there first thing. I expected one tom, but three came in together for a memorable early morning hunt.
If you don’t want to sit, move quietly, glassing open areas for birds. Once you spot them, spend a few minutes determining their line of march. Get around them, set up, and call. Be patient; they may not respond as quickly as on a nice day, but they’ll come.
Keep your box call in a sealed plastic bag in wet weather, and use acrylic or graphite strikers on your pot calls. There are a few chalk-free weatherproof box calls on the market and they sound great wet or dry.
I don’t like shooting wet turkeys, but I will take wet turkey over no turkey any day. Soggy turkeys photograph like something the cat dragged in. Spend a few minutes drying the feathers with a blow-dryer before you take pictures.
Turkey Hunting in the Wind
While rainy-day hunting can be surprisingly good, everyone hates hunting in the wind. You can’t hear birds, they can’t hear you, and the rustle of branches whipping back and forth masks the sounds of sneaky predators, turning turkeys spooky. Birds will take cover in hollows or depressions out of the bluster, where they can hear. Move from one sheltered spot to the next, set up, and be loud. Box calls and the little-used tube generate plenty of volume for making yourself heard in a strong breeze. Keep your gun up and stay alert. Chances are you won’t hear them coming.
When you spot a turkey, use the wind’s roar to screen the sound of your approach. A few years ago, on a day of 25-mile-per-hour gusts, a friend and I watched a bird land and run into a tiny, sheltered woodlot. Under cover of the wind, we made a wide detour and crept in to set up close to where we’d spotted him. The woods themselves were very quiet in contrast to the surrounding fields. A few yelps brought the silent tom into range. It wasn’t easy, but it was a lot better than staying in bed.