Whether he’s on a private lease with his Horseshoe Hunting Club or vying for a good position on public lands near the Pearl River, Franklinton’s Mike Williams wants his back against a big tree, log or the roots of a fallen tree.
As for positioning, he wants a good view of what he calls the prettiest spot in the woods.
“An adult gobbler is looking for a place to show off with his strutting and gobbling,” he said. “Nine out of 10 times, it’s going to be the prettiest place that you know of in the woods. It’ll be fairly open with thickets close by so he can get back in a safe spot to get away from predators.
“Places around lakes, places where sun shines in through thickets, oak flats, clean ridges — basically, when you find a spot that catches your eye, the same thing catches a turkey’s eye.”
For optimal opportunity at coaxing Mr. Longbeard into range, start by looking for large, forested areas with lots of hardwoods interspersed with open patches where hens feed.
Stafford pointed out that, while gobblers avoid exposed areas most of the year, spring finds them utilizing such spots as stages upon which to show off for the hens.
“You’ll want to look for fields, power lines and rights of way because they tend to come out and strut, feed and follow hens into these open areas,” he said. “They may completely avoid open areas in the winter time, but they’ll seek them out during spring.”
Another gold mine of turkey opportunity is a forest with the telltale black char of a recent prescribed burn. That burning clears out the underbrush to allow for new grass growth, and the seeds from this native vegetation offer an irresistible food source for turkeys.
But success really all comes down to time spent in the woods — before hunting starts.
“You can’t overemphasize the emphasis of preseason scouting,” Stafford said. “Be there at daylight, listen for those birds and find out where they’re gobbling at daylight.
“If you can pattern what direction they’re going in on a regular basis, that’s worth a ton.”
Williams agreed, adding another piece of advice for public-land hunters.
“You have to find the areas where the turkeys haven’t been disturbed,” he said. “You have to go the extra mile to find turkeys that are not being pressured by people.”
Whatever region you hunt, know that the wild turkey might very well be the most neurotically observant animal on the planet.
Williams said that means concealment is everything when it comes to closing the deal.
“Brush yourself in and hide really well,” he said. “Once you sit down, you have to stay still; movement is the main thing a turkey’s looking for when he’s coming in.
“If something moves that’s not supposed to, he’s onto it and he’s gone.”