How to Hunt the Best Day of the Strut No. 2: April 8
Get out on Saturday if your state is open, and use this expert's secrets to tag a tough, public-land tom
Last week we jumped into our annual Best Days of the Strut series with a look at the first day, April 2. With spring getting a firmer grip on the landscape, it’s a perfect time to take some clues from an expert hunter who hails from the Deep South for a look at his favorite day, April 8. Terry Rohm grew up in gobbler-crazy Pennsylvania but has spent much of his adult life in Georgia, where he wages annual duels with the tough Eastern birds of the South. Anyone who consistently tags toms in this region (and guides others who do the same, which Rohm does) can teach us all how to put gobblers in front of our guns.
While still early in the month of April, Rohm’s favorite day is now later than it used to be; declining bird numbers have led to later openers in many southern states. Elsewhere, hunters from the Midwest and Northeast are anxiously waiting for their openers, while in states like Texas, warmer weather has the breeding activity heating up by the day. If you’re season hasn’t started yet, or you’re not in the south, just look at the strut stage below, and follow Rohm’s advice when your birds are behaving similarly.
The Pro: Terry Rohm, Georgia
Winner of the NWTF’s first two Grand National turkey calling championships, Rohm knows how to run whatever type of call you put in his hands. But while he acknowledges calling can be important, the veteran hunter, guide, and pro-staffer for The Grind Turkey Calls told F&S that understanding certain X-factors—like hunting pressure, food sources, terrain, and gobbler behavior—are just as important when it comes to tagging a tom. “I hunt an old gobbler with many of the same tactics as I use for a mature whitetail,” he said. “I scout a ton, I study the landscape, and—since I hunt a lot of public ground—I try to figure out what other guys are going to do, and I do something different.”
The Strut Stage: Early Breeding
At the end of the first week in April, breeding is getting started in fits and starts where Rohm’s hunts. Similar to the whitetail rut, the dominant males will be the first to pair off with receptive hens, while jakes and 2- or 3-year-old gobblers will be hanging on the fringes, waiting for action. But often, and typically later in the morning, these frustrated breeders will strike out on their own, looking for a hen they might not have to fight for. Unless you want to engage in a long and potentially fruitless campaign with that dominant tom, these are the birds you want to focus on.
Expert Tactic for April 8: Work Remote Funnels for Receptive Toms
An avid public-land hunter, Rohm focuses on two key things when scouting and hunting a spot now. “I use OnX or other hunting apps to take an overview of the area, and the first thing I’m looking for are the parts of the tract that are difficult for other hunters to access,” he said. “Then I look for terrain that will funnel turkey movement, because they travel through the landscape just like whitetails.”
Any time Rohm can find a junction of several ridges or the edge of a creek or lake, he heads straight to that area to start looking for turkey sign. “If I find tracks, scratching, or feathers, I know I’m in a place where turkeys already want to be, and that’s one of the keys to calling up a gobbler; finding a spot where he already feels comfortable.”
Rohm is a big fan of using locator calls, like a crow call, that can pull a gobble from even a reluctant tom. “Once I know where he is, and I know I’m reasonably close and can set up in a spot the bird knows well, I settle in and work him.” As accomplished a caller as he is, Rohm says he doesn’t do a lot of fancy calling in the timber, especially when on public land. “I’d rather keep it subtle and have the tom come hunting me. I’ll respond to his first gobble or two, then once I know I’m in his head, I either tone it way down or shut up completely. If he’s already thinking about me, there’s a good chance he’s coming, even if he doesn’t talk a lot on the way.”