Turkey Hunting: Afternoon Delight

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Editor's Note: Afternoon hunting is not legal in every state.  Be sure to check out your states' regulations before afternoon hunting.

Hunting in the afternoon is a feast or famine exercise, and one that many hunters refrain from.  I know that it’s tough to get motivated after a long morning of turkey hunting to go face the sweltering heat, while swatting off mosquitoes and running from cottonmouths.  However, persistence is the one trait that I personally feel separates the average turkey hunter from the elite.  You have to possess that "never give up” mentality; the mentality that drives you to climb the next hill, yelp one more time, and give him five more minutes before heading to the truck.  With that being said, here are some of the tactics I use when hunting after lunch. As always, check your state regulations to see if hunting is allowed in the afternoon.

Run and Gun: This is my favorite way to hunt in the afternoon. If nothing else, its great exercise, and a great way to scout the area you are hunting.  I plan on making a one or two mile loop through an area, and dress accordingly.  I typically do not take my turkey vest.  I will usually slip in one mouth call, take a slate and striker, a pair of gloves and a face mask, and always pack a good pair of binoculars.  I feel naked without a compact pair of optics, and cannot tell you how valuable they are in the spring woods, especially on afternoon hunts.  I will call aggressively as I loop through the woods, but if any way possible, try to make the turkey shock gobble with a locator call first before I yelp to him. 

As hens start to leave the gobblers to tend to their nests, the gobblers go into panic mode, and many times will come in very quickly in the afternoon.  This is the main reason why I typically use a locator first, turkey call second.  However, as my "run" wears on, and if it appears that the turkeys are tight lipped to the locators, I will hit them with the loudest, nastiest cutting and yelping I can produce.  Many times even the tightest lipped longbeard cannot help himself.  The key with this tactic is being close to a tree in case one hammers close by. You don't want to get caught in a bad position, so think before you call.

Last spring, I decided to "scout with a shotgun" on a new tract of land.  On the return end of my prospecting loop, I struck two lonesome gobblers less than one hundred yards off the road. Caught with my pants down, I ran back down the road and quickly set up.  Five minutes later, the roar of my Remington 11-87 stopped a trotting longbeard in his tracks.  It can happen that fast in the afternoon, so stay on the ready.

Field Checking:  I also like to glass fields, cow pastures, and clear cuts in the afternoon.  Many times the wind will pick up later in the day, or it will be raining, or simply the turkeys have feeding in openings on their minds.  Whatever the reason, you will more than likely be able to find turkeys in fields in the afternoon hours.  Now don't get me wrong, these turkeys will be tough to kill. A field turkey is tough no matter what time of the day.  This is why this is my second favorite tactic.  But, if all else fails, head to a field.

Some people thrive on this type of tactic.  After a line of heavy afternoon thunderstorms moved through several springs ago, my brother grabbed his shotgun, binoculars, and turkey vest.  He returned less than an hour later with a hook-spurred gobbler.  The gobbler and his harem had hit up the fields in an attempt to dry out their feathers in the bright sunshine.

Blind Calling:  If the "proactive" style of afternoon hunting doesn't work, the best thing to do is to go into an area where you know turkeys frequent, set-up, and do a little blind calling.  I have had some success doing this, and it’s a more relaxing style of hunting.  I admit that I have fallen asleep while doing so, but luckily didn't get caught napping! 

The key with this tactic is a good initial setup (make sure you can see a good ways, can move around the tree if you have to, and maybe post up on or near a travel corridor such as a road or fire lane).  When I call, I try to sound like turkeys feeding and walking around in the woods.  I rely heavily on soft, feeding calls (clucks, purrs, whines, soft yelping) in addition to scratching in the leaves and broadcasting my calls in different directions.  Realism is the key, as with every hunt, and being fluent in turkey talk can only come through years of observing turkeys in the field.  Besides soft calls, I will try to sound like a flock that is getting fired up, and many times this will provoke a gobble from a longbeard that may be trying to silently sneak in.

When I was in college, I spent the better part of an mid-March Sunday afternoon posted up on a large pine tree within shotgun range of a logging road.  The turkeys had been quiet in the mornings, so I decided this was the safe play. As the sun began to set, a subtle yelp interrupted my day dreaming.  A group of gobblers soon waltzed up the road, and tag number one was filled with a flopping turkey at 27 steps.

The action you experience in an afternoon hunt may not be as reliable as the action at daylight, but turkeys can still be killed, and great hunts can be had.  Try these approaches to afternoon hunting this upcoming season and see if they will work for you!
Wild Turkey Report Staff
Wild Turkey Report is the internet's new destination for information on the sport of turkey hunting. Follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wildturkeyreport and on Twitter @wildturkeyreprt!
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