On the eve on my Missouri turkey hunt, I sat at the computer and turned my browser to The Weather Channel’s website, it forecasted 20 to 30 mile per hour winds, gusting to 40, with intermittent rain “heavy at times.” That was for the first three days of my hunt, on the fourth day it said to count on “fog with a steady rain.”
When it comes to chasing turkeys, few frustrations top nasty weather. Whether you’ve taken a week off from work, or plan on just hitting the woods for the weekend, you need a contingency plan if the sky turns dark gray.This season I wrangled an invitation to a southwestern Missouri 1,000-acre farm that had not been hunted in a decade. Unfortunately, the forecast was accurate on all aspects of wind and rain, creating a less than talkative environment.Here are a few lessons learned to keep on a successful track when bad weather settles in.Changing Weather
The fact is, even with such a dismal forecast, fronts move faster or slower than often predicted, and it rarely rains continually. That means you may head out in the dark in a downpour and find that 15 minutes before sunrise the rain stops for two hours giving you a quick window of time to capitalize on your situation.
Get Out There
Sleeping in while the wind whistles through the rafters may make you feel better in the mid afternoon, but you’re going to lose valuable information that only dawn provides every turkey hunter, even if the wind is howling.
Observing any slight activity can be important to establishing a hot area where you know birds will be. Even a single hen crossing a field is an indication. If you can’t hear any gobbling, glass carefully and be patient. When in doubt, get in the woods, sit down and call.
We all want a screaming tom to come running, but in these tough conditions there are often few conversations.
On my first morning, my third set-up found me in an area carpeted by scratching sign. I sat down and gave it 20 minutes of aggressive box calling and decided that the wind and stinging rain had beaten me again. When I stood up, a long beard 15 yards behind me gave me a rousing putt and scattered.
Always treat every calling episode as a “be ready” situation from the time you call, to the moment you stand up. Always move slowly, watch carefully, and stay alert through the entire sit. Remember, when turkeys don’t answer it doesn’t mean that they’re not coming to your call.
If They Don’t Hear You They Won’t Come
When the wind is on the blow, my preference is loud, classic box calling. I try covering likely looking areas where turkeys have been seen, or there is scratching. I’ll systematically work an area approximately 200 yards square, taking into consideration terrain changes that will allow me to move and not be seen. Logging roads are a sweet ticket to covering lots of ground, but in a big wind sometimes you just have to settle deep in the woods to be heard.
Often as I back track my way back to the truck I’ll get an answer from a bird in an area that I had called in previously. When the wind is screaming, you have to get close to receive a response.
The Right Gear
Foul weather forces you to look at your gear choices from a much more critical perspective. You need highly breathable rain gear, a good hat, and a pair of truly waterproof boots.It’s also critical that calls are made to work in wet weather. My regular box call choice is a waterproof call that I because of the great sound even when it’s dry, the Woods Wise Mystic.
When I finally ran across a group of lonely gobblers that worked their way to an area I had first started in, my gobbler came in using the 200 square yards technique. I finally struck a bachelor group of three birds less than 100 yards away. Due to the strong breeze and light rain I initially could just barely hear them. Twenty minutes later a two-year-old came into view, stuck his head out from behind a tree where at 40 yards I sent him to a state of table fare.
My hunting partner was also forced into covering lots of ground until he finally got a bird that just wouldn’t close the deal. He also experienced two long beards that entered the shooting zone in total silence, but were spooked.Dealing with the hand you’re dealt is just part of hunting. It’s not like turkeys aren’t going to do what they were going to anyway, you just have to exercise some strategic methodology.
Understanding your terrain, having the right gear at hand, along with persistence are some of the few aspects of the hunt you can control. And as most turkey hunters have learned, basic woodsmanship can be an effective ticket to getting a gobbler to the table.
Outerwear: Cabela’s/Space Rain Ultra Pack Rainwear Set SRP $114; www.cabelas.com
Boots: Muck/Edgewater 15”/SRP $105; www.muckbootcompany.com
Water Proof Calls: Woods Wise/Mystic Raspy Wet Hen/SRP $22.99; www.woodswise.com