To me, there seems to be two breeds of turkey hunters. There is run-and-gun, aggressive turkey hunters that take the hunt to the bird, and there sit-and-hit, tactical turkey hunters that pattern birds into coming to them. Both are successful at filling tags, but sometimes I think we get to rooted in our ways and miss out on opportunities because we are hard-headed and unwilling to change to the conditions.
I would classify myself as a member of the more aggressive camp. I try to make my own luck when in the spring woods. Part of this stems from my job. It is my occupation to capture hunting action on film. I have only a narrow window of time to get as much footage as I can, and if the birds aren’t cooperating, I have to do everything I can to arrange a meeting with them and my Remington. Decoys, different calls, and changes to the original game plan…I am willing to try everything.
But you have to be confidant in your moves, and not just changing for the sake of changing. You have to know you're covering ground in a smart way. Every time you run that call, you have to believe you're working a turkey. Every time you put out a decoy, when you have henned-up gobblers that just aren't responding to calling, you have to trust your setup. Confidence is a huge key to successful run-and-gun turkey hunting tactics.
There’s not a book you can read to tell you the right response to every situation. It's just something you have to learn through experience, but I would say most of hunts end successful because I was flexible and willing to change the original plan.
In contrast to this style of turkey hunting is the chess match played out over days, weeks and entire seasons. I like these types of hunts, too – especially when I am not filming and I am able to hunt birds on their terms. You learn a lot from these hunts. I often run into birds that will consistently gobble at locator calls, but that is about as far as we get in our conversations. It is as frustrating as all get out but also forces you to be a good hunter and not just a good caller.
You have to hunt these birds like deer, and more and more hunters in some particular locations where hunting pressure is up and turkey numbers are down are figuring this out. Older turkeys know that the hen is supposed to come to them. Often, older turkeys have been hammered or missed at least once which has made them very cautious about coming to the call. It is hard to get some birds to work calls, so you must know the land where you hunt, understand where that turkey wants to go and depend on your hunting skills more than your calling abilities.
So as the season starts today in Florida’s “Zone A” (let’s all raise our glasses to that!), keep in mind that the best turkey hunters are not the run-and-gun types. They are not the sit-and-hit types. No, the best turkey hunters are those who understand both approaches have their place in the playbook, and it comes down to assessing each hunt, each day and each turkey on an individual basis and acting accordingly. Be willing to do this, and you will kill more birds this spring.