There’s a mad scramble to hunt as soon as turkey season begins, but some expert hunters look forward to the middle and latter parts of the season.
One of those is turkey guru and guide Jamie Pritchett from Marietta. Pritchett, 46, hunts in the Upstate from the piedmont and into the mountains.
“Because of the cold winter and based on my annual tracking of the turkeys pre-season, I think we’re setting up for an excellent late-season,” Pritchett said. “I think there will be a good number of easy gobblers taken late in April.”
Pritchett (864-238-3811) said regardless of whether the weather sets up right for this situation, as it has this year, he employs some different tactics as the season progresses to ensure his odds of success soar.
Pritchett has six tactics as he changes from early season hunting to adapt to how gobblers respond to both natural seasonal patterns and hunting pressure.
“These are things I certainly recommend on public lands, but they will help even on private lands where hunting pressure is managed,” he said.
“The first big change is I stop all types of shock calling,’ Pritchett said. “As the season progresses, I’ve seen a huge difference by letting things just happen naturally. This includes owl calling early, but mid-day crow and other calls used to get a shock gobble. Once they’ve been pressured a few times right after being shock-gobbled, they get educated. Let it happen naturally. Just leave the shock gobble stuff at home.”
Pritchett said the next change is when a bird gobbles on his own while on the roost, he won’t call until the gobbler flies down.
“It takes great patience but particularly on public lands where many hunters have to hunt, these birds have been hammered on the roost day after day,” he said. “They develop a tendency to actually fly down away from that calling. If he hears a hen call to his gobble, by mid-season he expects that hen to come to him when he’s still on the roost. Once he flies down, I’ve seen my odds of calling him soar.”
“Realism is also essential and by the mid- to late season, I make a short move right after my first call back to a gobble,” he said. “I don’t move toward or away from the gobbler, I move laterally left or right. I only go about 30 to 50 yards, just enough to give the gobbler the sense that the hen is moving, and that’s realistic sounding to the gobbler.”
Pritchett said he also tones down his calling from the early season.
“I stop with the aggressive calling in most cases, unless it’s an unusual gobbler,” he said. “I don’t cutt aggressively at this time of the season. I primarily use soft yelps, clucks and purrs, and this enables me to see more turkeys once they’ve been hammered for week or two.”
Pritchett said the turkey’s natural timetable will prompt some changes too.
“Beware of sneaky gobblers,” Pritchett said. “As the hens begin to stay on the nests, the gobblers will often be more responsive later in the season. Give a gobbler plenty of time to work in because this is the time of season when they will often sneak in.”
A final tactic of Pritchett’s in to hush the calling and only use scratching.
“As the season progresses and gobblers get wiser, I’ll often get a response with a very soft call and then only scratch the leaves until he comes in,” he said. “This is a vastly underutilized tactic for big late-season longbeards. They’re smart, savvy and super-sensitive to overcalling. Just scratch the leaves and it can be the most realistic and lethal call in your arsenal.”