A successful hunt hinges on where you plan to get the jump on your turkey
Some gobbler hunts are doomed to fail the minute the hunter's backside hits the ground. There are many poor places to set up in the turkey woods-the trick is to not plunk your butt into one of them. Instead, when a lustful long beard gobbles to attract hens, take the time to think the situation through before deciding where to set up. Here's what you need to consider.
1. Get close
Toms have an easy time finding hens early in the season because the gals come right to them, and they're not shy about it. With that in mind, give the gobblers what they're used to-and make it easy for them to find you-by setting up before sunrise as close as possible to their roost without getting detected. This will also help prevent your tom from being intercepted by a real hen, or by another hunter. In open country or in the bare hardwoods of spring, try to get within at least 150 yards of the bird. And where terrain and foliage allow, try to move to within 50 yards.
2. Stay hidden
A mature tom will try to visually confirm what he suspects is a hen calling. If he can see your calling location, he'll expect to see a feathery babe in that exact spot-if he doesn't, he'll hang up or walk off. The deadliest set-ups, therefore, prevent toms from seeing your calling location until they step into shotgun or bow range (within 40 yards). On a trail, set up just around a bend from the direction you expect the bird to come from. Since the tom won't be able to see around the bend, he'll have to venture around the corner-and into range-for a look. In hilly country, set up below the crest of a hill with the gobbler on the other side. That way, when he comes over the hill to investigate, he'll be in range as soon as he appears. Likewise, you can use any wrinkle in the terrain-a saucer-like depression, a hillside bench, deadfall, a clump of bushes or a large tree-to block his view of your calling location. Cover such as a large tree will also muffle your calls, making it harder for the gobbler to pinpoint your exact location. The set-up should allow the bird a clear and easy approach, yet deny him a look at the alluring caller until he's close enough for you to see his beard swinging with each step.
3. Stay high
Turkeys prefer to walk uphill when investigating a call. That way, if they run into a predator they can simply turn around and leap into the air to escape on wing. If they're walking downhill and meet trouble, however, it's much more difficult for them to turn and run uphill or get into the air. Therefore, try to set up on a higher plane than a gobbling bird, or at least on the same level as him.
4. Don't wait
Toms will often approach a fence, then walk back and forth along it looking for an opening to walk through to the other side. I suspect they're reluctant to fly over because they only use flight as a last resort to escape, just as grouse, woodcock and pheasants do. And turkeys probably know that when they do fly, they're suddenly more visible to sharp-eyed predators. Whatever the reason, it's better for you to cross the fence, road or creek rather than expect the bird to. If you can't hunt on the other side of the obstacle, however, you're better off moving on to find another gobbler-a hot tom may cross over, but you shouldn't count on it.
5. Go dark
Don't set up in direct sunlight or any spot the sun may later reach during the time of your hunt. If you stay in the shadows, you reduce the odds of a tom making you out or seeing a suspicious glint from exposed skin, metal or glass.
6. Blend in
With eyes on the sides of their heads, turkeys are good at detecting movement all around them, but they have poor depth perception. When you sit against a solid object, such as a wide tree, therefore, you appear flat to turkeys, as though pasted onto the trunk. This makes it difficult for them to figure out what you are and, as a result, much less likely to spook or walk off putting. That's why it's a good idea to set up in front of large tree, positioned so the tom approaches you straight on once he's in range. If a gobbling bird begins to approach from an unexpected angle and you can move around the tree to face him without being detected, do so. To enable the best range of swing with the muzzle, point your left shoulder to where you expect the tom to appear (do the reverse if you're a southpaw).
7. Blind call
When you don't have a gobbling bird to work, set up near a strut zone and blind call. Such an area will have fresh tracks and droppings, and offer good visibility for a tom to strut for hens. There should also be good nesting cover and/or a nearby food source for the hens. Toms follow the hens in the morning until the ladies go to their nests, then they move to their strut zones. So, be sure to set up near these sites before the toms arrive late in the morning. Note that boss toms seldom travel far from their strut zones, because they know that's where they'll have the best chance of getting an afternoon date once the hens leave their nests. One way to find strut zones is to listen for toms gobbling for hours at a time from one location during the pre-season-find them and you'll probably find their strut zones. And a good chance for success.