Written by Dan Donarski, a noted professional outdoor and travel journalist.
The weather report on WYKX out of Escanaba called for a cool morning, somewhere in the low 30s, followed by a day of increasing sun and light winds. Even though the temperature was only supposed to get into the low 40s, it seemed promising.
At least better than the last few days when the temperatures were considerably warmer but heavy rains and high winds slashed through the tall timber of the Escanaba River State Forest. Three days and no real hunting. Three fun-filled mornings of extreme suffering was all, nothing you could call a hunt, and it was back to the cabin for coffee and the mindless stare out the window towards the bird feeder. Maybe read a Reader’s Digest from 1967 for the umpteenth time. The July issue was a good one that year.
Heck, during the last three days I didn’t even see more than a single chickadee taking seeds from the feeder. Turkeys were only a cruel dream, laughing at me while I slept. There weren’t even enough tracks in the wet sand along the sandy road I was hunting near to make weak soup. Tomorrow would be different.
Woodcock were dancing in the dwindling night sky as I set up on the edge of a small field between an oak ridge and a swamp. Both the ridge and the swamp had turkeys roosting in them. The field was a good strutting ground. There were even three dusting bowls in the field, now more like swimming pools with the rains from the last three days.
The field had turkey written all over it.
Then again, turkeys can’t read.
Gobbles rang out when the sun finally kissed the sky. First from the ridge, then the swamp. Lots of gobbles. Close gobbles. Turkey heaven.
As fast as they started they just as quickly quit. Silence. Not a hint of a fly-down. Not a yelp, purr, cutt. Nothing. Not for the entire three hours I sat there.
Only one day left in my season. Prospects were dim. Make that dark.
Fast forward to 4 a.m. the next morning. See the mighty hunter shut off the alarm and lean back into the warm bed for a few minutes. See mighty hunter fall back asleep and be thoroughly ticked off with himself when he looked at the alarm clock and it said 9 a.m.
Yup, overslept. Big time.
What to do? Make a hearty breakfast, watch the feeder, and continue to kick yourself for the utter stupidity in allowing yourself to think that a few more minutes in bed was a good idea.
Then again... why not go turkey hunting?
Why not indeed!
You may not realize it but except for the first season that a very good percentage of the long beards taken comes after 10 a.m. That’s right, after most hunters have folded their hands and headed back to the cabin. Don’t be one of these fellows.
Hunting the midday periods will not be as vocal as the crack of dawn but you’d be surprised by the raucous gobbling that often erupts from the woodland edges for a couple hours surrounding the noon hour.
Where you plan to hunt the midday is important for success.
For my money you should definitely get yourself within a quarter mile from known roosting areas. Gobblers, once they fly down from the roost in the morning are on the lookout for hens. Hens, being more numerous than gobblers in most areas, will be yelping seductively to attract the Tom to them. Not every hen will get a visit. But gobblers certainly remember.
They remember where they heard that other hen who sounded sweet but, at daylight, wasn’t quite his cup of tea. Now, after a couple of hours of courting a different hen Mr. Gobbler is going to come looking for those others.
Start by calling softly. A few soft yelps is generally all that is needed to determine if a gobbler is in the area. Don’t be surprised to be answered by a thunderous gobble. And, don’t get all flustered.
Assuming that a hen isn’t close by, keep calling, yelping softly every few minutes. You’ll know if a gobbler is coming. During the noon hours the gobblers go for broke and really let it roar. They also come in with little fear, or at least with a considerably lessor amount of caution than they do at first light.
In other words, when you oversleep, which you most certainly will at one time or another, don’t give up the ghost. Instead, enjoy a good breakfast, have an extra cup of coffee, and head out into the turkey woods without fears of tripping over fallen logs.
And, while this was written about last years hunt, in years past I’ve ventured below the bridge. The Au Sable State Forest near Mt. Pleasant is one place where mid-day gobblers squawk readily. Yet another area is the Mackinaw State Forest in the Petoskey area.
It just makes no sense to give up before noon. From what I’ve seen, it has been the best time of the day.
As turkey hunters in Michigan know, our hunts are regulated as to specific areas and specific seasons. Hunt No. 234 offers the widest range in areas and the longest hunt dates possible. Hunt 234 opens up the northern two thirds of the Lower Peninsula and all open areas of the Upper Peninsula to turkey hunters. For information on specific areas and the population of turkeys in the area we suggest calling the local DNR field offices in the area you wish to hunt, or log on to michigan.gov/dnr.