Turkey Hunting: Thunderstruck Toms

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Doesn’t it seem like sometimes those "Good gobbling days" are few and far between. You know the ones - the sun is shining, high pressure, there's little to no wind and the toms are all fired-up! After weeks of getting up at 4:00 am and just when you “need” one of those "virtuous gobbling periods" it seems they come too infrequently. With the volatile weather spring ushers in and the period’s fast changing weather, you'd better be prepared to hunt turkeys in the rain, wind and sometimes even snow if you go further north.

 It helps to understand how the turkeys respond to each of these weather events. With rain, it really depends on the severity of the storm. With drizzle or a light rain the turkeys really don't seem to change their habits much at all. But when it comes to a downpour they will head for cover…just like you want to. They seem to know ahead of time when harsh weather is going to hit. They can probably sense the barometric pressure change.

Once the grass, brush and foliage are wet, turkeys will frequent open fields, meadows and pastures. Probably for no other reason than so their feathers don't soak up the water and so they can dry off. In this situation they probably aren’t going to be gobbling much so you’ll need to use your optics to locate them.

When it comes to wind, where do you want to be? Turkeys don't like cruel winds either. They still go about their daily routine of feeding, breeding and all the other things that make a turkey's life busy, but they'll be doing it out of the wind somewhere. They won't be far away from where you usually find them. Look for thick parcels of timber or search for a drainage or gully that runs perpendicular to the wind. Just use your common sense – wherever the wind isn’t blowing within their territory is likely where you’ll find them.

You may even need to combat snow. During a South Dakota hunt several years ago we received three feet of the miserable, soaking, freezing, white stuff in two days. The landscape was beautiful, but it made getting around a pain. However, it made fresh sign very easy to see. Snow doesn't seem to bother them as much as rain does. Here again, if it's harsh, they'll go to cover. Unlike rain, afterwards they don't seem to search out the open fields and pastures, unless they are wet.  The snow doesn't bother them that much but the severe temperatures that sometimes accompany snow can often make them so quiet it seems like they’ve disappeared. If it’s later in the spring and the hens are nesting this may also cause the hens to abandon the nest.
With all three of these weather phenomena the gobblers can become very quiet. They might still react to your calling, but there’s a good chance that they’ll come in totally silent. The key is to know for sure that the birds are there. This is why scouting is so important. If the birds aren’t answering you because of one of these weather occurrences, how do you know whether you should leave or stay? Scouting will give you the confidence to stay-put even if the birds aren’t vocal.

While pursuing turkeys during bad weather you’ll definitely use your optics more than at other times, obviously because they aren't gobbling as much. Also, because after a rain they'll be out in the open fields and pastures and can be seen at greater distances.    

You may need to change your calling habits a bit, or simply change the calls that you're using. If you can't hear as well in a wind or rain, even with their superior sense of hearing, neither can a turkey. I like to use louder calls like a box call or an aluminum slate when hunting during bad weather. At least make sure you have the option of some louder calls. While locating birds the old owl hoot or crow call may not cut through the elements. You may need to switch to louder, more piercing locator calls like a coyote howl or hawk screech.

Make sure when you’re locating birds that you try to use the turkey's excellent hearing to your advantage and position yourself downwind of a given parcel. More than likely they can still hear your locator call, but now you can hear their response much easier. If you're hunting with a partner make sure you stand a fair distance apart from one another when you locate so you can better triangulate a position on an answering tom.

Blinds can also come in handy during bad weather of all kinds. Why? They keep you out of the elements. You can also get away with much more movement. I have several different blinds that I like to use for various situations. Most of these are easy to carry, they set up fast (less than 10 seconds), and they are very comfortable to hunt out of.  If you’re going to hunt with a bow, I highly recommend the use of a blind.

A hunter should be prepared for the worst. With limited time to hunt you need to make the best of it. If you experience bad weather on your hunt, don't give up. The turkeys are still there somewhere and persistence does pay off!
Todd Amenrud
Todd Amenrud is currently the Editor in Chief for GameKeepers-Farming for Wildlife magazine. In addition he writes columns in over 60 outdoor and general circulation publications as well as taking on numerous assignments each year for several larger outdoor magazines. A noted authority on both whitetails and wild turkeys, he conducts over 80 seminars annually.
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