By Mike Roux
The April sun just dipped below the western horizon in central-Illinois. The slight breeze had died completely and the spring peepers were singing.
I made a single barred owl hoot with my voice and not one but two gobblers responded from their roosts. These gobbles allowed me to know without doubt exactly where these toms were for our round the next morning.
There are lots of opinions and just as many methods on roosting spring gobblers. Let’s take a couple of minutes to look deeper into this very interesting topic.
Before we get into the “hows” of locating toms on the roost, let’s talk about the “whys” of this process. If you hunt the same property every year and have for many seasons, then roosting birds the night before may not be a top priority. These are creatures of habit.
You no doubt have your favorite spot already picked out. You know where the established strut zones are located and you have previously determined the best routes to get to those spots.
All that having ben said, how depressing would it be to bump a tom off his roost on opening day heading to your best spot? Roosting is easy and quick. Why take the chance?
The other great “why” to roost the evening before is if you are on a property for the first time. These days many of us travel from place to place and even state to state chasing spring toms. Getting to a new spot the evening prior to opening morning to locate the birds can make all the difference.
Now we will discuss the best methods to use as you put your gobblers to bed at night. My preference is the call of the barred owl. Both at dusk and at dawn, this call will entice a shock gobble. Often a single, drawn out note will generate the desired response.
Other experienced turkey hunters prefer louder, more alarming calls with which to scare a tom to gobble. Crow calls and coyote calls are often used. Remember, you are not trying to call these birds in. All you need to know is where they are spending the night so you do not bugger-up your hunt the next morning before it ever begins.
My good buddy and turkey hunting Professor Emeritus Ray Eye swears by using turkey calls to find roosted toms. His methods are proven and he is about the best “rooster” I know. He yelps and cuts very loud, gets the information he requires, and starts the next morning with the odds stacked in his favor.
Obviously there are circumstances that prevent you from roosting the night before. Most often it is simply a matter of not having the time. Many of us work the day before we start hunting and either get to turkey camp too late to roost or drive in that morning. Always remember that the exact same methods used to roost a bird at sunset can be used to coax a shock gobble just before sunrise.
And, as with everything else turkey related, roosting does not always work. I have stepped out of my truck at dusk and hooted, howled, cawed, cut and yelped to absolutely no response. Then I get there the next morning and with a single hoot rattle 3 or 4 toms. But that, my friends, is turkey hunting. Have fun this spring and be safe.