Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Try Runnin’ & Gunnin’ For Gobblers


The fog was thick enough that day several years ago to carve with a hefty meat cleaver. I eased into my chosen hunting spot, and was well positioned for a turkey to cross an open field from another woodlot or to move through the woods where I was sitting.

It took until 7:45 for the fog to burn off. I’ve never had any luck hunting in the fog, but I wanted to be afield before the soup dissipated, and be right in amongst the birds. I was there, but the turkeys were somewhere else. They’d forgotten their appointment.

I’d spent the previous two days looking for birds that apparently have yet to learn how to gobble or make themselves seen. They are close-mouthed like crazy, and I figured once the sun burned away the fog, I’d go looking. Until then, I’d have to deal with shut-mouth gobblers.

There were fond hopes of at least one gobbler sounding off from the roost, but it didn’t happen. I stayed rooted to a good spot for two hours, and then went looking, my back and hips were sore and stiff from sitting for a long period of time.

Professional tournament bass fishermen call this past-time runnin’ and gunnin’. It’s as good a description for my day as anything else. One either sits and waits or runs and guns; both techniques work and it’s important to know when to try each one.

When it became abundantly clear, even to a dimwit like me, that the birds weren’t coming to me, I decided to take my Dave Richey dog-and-pony show on the road. I stowed my turkey decoys, and headed out to hunt some state land that borders up to some of the land where I have permission to hunt.

Runnin’ and gunnin’ turkeys is great when it works. The biggest problem, and one that I try hard to avoid, is bumping birds. My Swarovski binoculars are perfect for a quick check before moving ahead, but there is always the chance of bumping an unseen bird.

Nothing is guaranteed in turkey hunting but I would move fast for 100 yards, stop and glass in front of me while listening for any response to my call. If I heard anything, I would play it much more cautious.

No turkeys gobbled, displayed or were seen moving through the woods or the open fields. I put down more boot leather, moved to the next vantage point while remaining cautious in my approach to new cover. If the cover permitted, it was easy to lean against a tree and study an open field ahead. Nothing was seen, and I’m wondering if all the birds move to Benzie or Wexford counties.

I beat feet to another woods. This one had undergone a managed timber cut several years before, and the going was a bit tougher. A turkey could work through it, but I began looking at the tree-tops ahead for any indication of a clearing in front of me.

Out would come a box call, and I’d give it a soft yelp. Wait a minute, yelp a bit louder, and if there was no response, I was on my way. This hunting method has worked in the past, but the more land I covered, the more convinced I became that the birds weren’t talking or they were hiding somewhere else.

I eased up to a power line that cut through a thick patch of woods, and paused well back in the timber from the edge to check the opening. Often birds can be seen in such areas once the fog burns off. The gobblers strut, the hens that have been bred come out for a quick bite, and head back to set on their nest.

There were no birds here. I moved from one side of the powerline quickly to the other, mushed through the bottom, topped out on a ridge, and kept stopping and starting, and calling intermittently.

A big circle was covered today, and that circle encompassed over three miles of travel. There were open fields, small woodlots, thick stands of timber, two-track trails and open power lines, and it seemed as if every inch of that three-mile area was devoid of any gobblers and hens.

I checked sandy areas for sign of dusting turkeys. Nothing. I checked the muddy edges of the fields after a recent rain, and again, no turkey tracks. There were coyote tracks a’plenty, and lots of deer sign, but it was as if the ground had swallowed up the birds.

I’ve run into this situation during the late-season hunts in the past, and usually after two or three days of little turkey movement, there will be a day when the birds gobble their brains out. Those are the days when even a novice with a badly warped box call can bring birds on the run.

My day passed without hearing or seeing a turkey of either sex. That made three days without seeing a gobbler that year so, in all likelihood, the next day might be productive.

If you’re not hearing any birds or seeing them, try runnin’ and gunnin’. It doesn’t always work but it is an alternative to sitting on one spot all day and hoping that a gobbler stumbles by within range. Granted, it’s more work but turkey hunting should never be easy.

Posted by Dave Richey on 04/22 at 05:41 PM
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