Why learn how to hunt turkeys in the rain? Well, just think of spring weather. Sure, if you ask someone to describe the perfect forecast for hunting turkeys, you’ll get some version of clear, calm, and warm. I love days like that, too, but in real life, spring turkey seasons coincide with some of the year’s most turbulent weather. Unless you want to waste the whole season waiting on the couch instead of chasing gobblers, you’d better be able to hunt effectively when the rain clouds roll in.
I hunt 40 or so days each spring in multiple states, and have been doing that for years. There’s no question that I’ve killed more turkeys on days that it rained than on days that it didn’t. Part of that, of course, is due to weather patterns in March, April, and May; it usually rains at some point. But purposely getting out there on rainy days has a few real advantages, too. So, learning how to hunt turkeys in the rain will not only get you in the spring woods more often, but if you do it right, it’ll put you into gobblers while other hunters are on the couch. Here are three keys to follow.
1. How to Hunt Turkeys in the Rain: Sleep In, But Not for Long
About the only time I stay in bed past first light during turkey season is when I initially I wake to the sound of a hard rain. Though I’ve heard a few turkeys gobble from the roost in a deluge, it hasn’t been many. Meanwhile, hunting multiple days in a row is taxing on the body and mind. I’ve found that I’m a more effective hunter if I’ve had a restful reset, and I’d just as soon do that when turkeys aren’t gobbling. So, unless I already know where a bird is roosted, I’ll usually just reset my alarm if I awaken to the sounds of a downpour. The birds will be there when the rain lets up a little—and so will I.
2. How to Hunt Turkeys in the Rain: Get in on the Gobbling Frenzy
If I were to describe my favorite weather for turkey hunting, it would be rain giving way to a sunny break in the clouds at about 7 a.m. Sometimes the fits of gobbling that follow make me feel sorry for all the hens out there. Gobblers that didn’t assemble with girlfriends at daybreak will frequently head to a high point to strut, gobble, and command attention. You can use the damp leaves to slip quietly into a good setup.
Toms that were roosted with hens but hit the ground in silence, generally end up in an open field to bug, preen, and strut alongside their harem, since the warm rains and sun bring earthworms, pill bugs, and other tasty invertebrates to the surface. In my experience, these henned-up toms are usually willing to gobble, too. Killing them isn’t always easy, but again, you can use the soft ground and droplets falling from trees to your concealment advantage to maneuver ahead of the flock and hopefully call them to a spot where they plan to go anyway.
Regardless of the circumstance, I’ve gotten on more turkeys than I can count during “wash-out” days by timing my efforts during short breaks in the weather. Take advantage of the sleep-in opportunity if you can—but don’t miss being in the woods listening for gobbles as soon as the downpour turns to a light rain, drizzle, or if you’re lucky, an odd patch of blue.
3. How to Hunt Turkeys in the Rain: Wait them Out in a Blind
Sometimes there are no breaks in the clouds, and the rains fall relentlessly, filling the creeks and clogging culverts with diapers and Mountain Dew bottles. During weather like that, turkeys have a peculiar habit of walking into open fields and standing next to one another in silence, like a group of rejected mimes. If you know of a field where turkeys frequent, pop up a ground blind and be there waiting for them in the (relative) dry.
But if you don’t mind getting wet, it’s pretty easy to sneak up on rainy-day field turkeys by using fencerows, ditches, and tree lines for cover. In a real downpour, turkeys will just stand in the rain like idiots, rarely move anywhere in a hurry, which means you can judge their path, get ahead of them, and then wait for them to slog into shotgun range.
If I’m hunting out of a blind, I’ll bring whatever clothing and gear I need to stay comfortable and a variety of calls. I might need a loud long box, for example, to get birds to hear my calling in the rain or wind. But if I’m venturing out into the weather, I usually pare down to just some good, fairly quiet rain gear and a few of my favorite mouth calls, which sound just as good rain or shine.
I’d almost rather not shoot a turkey under these circumstances because the birds rarely strut, gobble, or put on the show that I enjoy. But sometimes it’s late in the season and you’re running out of time. Sometimes you’re on a trip far from home, where you can’t plan the weather and you might as well hunt. And sometimes you realize that being soaking wet while carrying a soaking-wet longbeard isn’t quite as bad as just being soaking wet.
Success and Solitude in the Turkey Woods
Speaking of idiots, you’ll probably be among the very few out there hunting in a thunderstorm or driving rain. I know I usually am. On the other hand, doing stupid things on purpose can be really fun. Remember high-school? You may see some trucks full of camo cruising the roads on the local WMA in bad weather, but in my experience, few of those hunters will actually leaving their vehicles for as long as it takes to kill a turkey. But you should.
I don’t like to stand in the rain just to say that I’m hunting, but I do understand that rainy weather can make turkeys do some predictable things—and that knowing how to hunt turkeys in the rain can really pay off. If having that hunting opportunity all to myself means I also have to take a good soaking, then so be it. I always keep a change of dry clothes in the truck. It is springtime after all.