Turkey Hunting Strategies for Chasing Afternoon Gobblers

The pursuit of gobblers traditionally has occurred from sun up to noon. The notion of hunting after lunch is a foreign concept in most spring turkey hunting circles. In fact, some states even have (or had) restrictions against turkey hunting in the afternoon. Turkey hunting strategies generally also emphasize morning hunting techniques. Hunters, however, were never much bothered by only focusing their spring gobbler hunts in the morning. The afternoons were then free for fishing, morel hunting, or other duties that were welcomed in the nice spring weather.
Unlike what you may think or have grown up with, there are turkey hunting opportunities in the afternoon and early evening hours that are worth considering. How to spring turkey hunt in the afternoon is somewhat tricky, and much different than chasing them in the morning hours. The three keys to connecting on a late day gobbler in the spring are:
  1. Understanding the difference in turkey behavior from morning to afternoon.
  2. Committing to areas where gobblers will be.
  3. Adapting turkey hunting strategies to afternoon birds

Turkey Behavior in the Afternoon

The first key to getting a late day gobbler is to understand how turkey behavior changes after midday. You may be accustomed to turkey hunting strategies around a first light strike approach on gobblers in the spring where you scout them to the point where you can ambush them off the roost. Likewise, later morning hunts consistently focus around feeding and strut zones where birds can be patterned and called in. The approach is similar in the afternoon in that you are hunting a pattern, although, the pattern is quite different based on afternoon turkey behavior.
Midday turkey hunting tactics revolve around loafing areas. Turkeys will seek out shady locations adjacent to feeding areas such as fields or forage rich ridgetops. Hens and gobblers will congregate in these loafing areas to escape the midday heat. Here, birds will rest to stay cool and even dust. Dusting areas in cool, shady areas are prime locations to hunt, especially on hot days. Turkey hunting opportunities in locations like these improve later in the season as the weather becomes gradually hotter and more hens enter nesting habits.

Afternoon turkey hunts can be as prosperous as sunrise action. As midday retreats to early evening, gobblers will be drifting between loafing areas on their way to feeding areas. Solo gobblers will be in search mode looking for lonely hens, which are not already spoken for or are not in nesting mode. Big toms will often patrol silently so it is important to hunt transitional areas between loafing and feeding areas and wait them out. Turkey calling is useful but responses are typically few and far between in the afternoon. Don’t get frustrated and remain patient during this time of day. If you’re in an area with birds, sit tight and wait for them to come in silently.

Finally, there is spring turkey hunting in the late evening. The closer to dusk you get the more motivated turkeys are to reach their roosting area. One of the best turkey hunting strategies for evening hunts is to ambush birds on their way to roost. That way if you blow it in the evening, you potentially will not disturb their roosting pattern and ultimately that spot for future hunts, including potentially the next morning. If you know where turkeys roost, set yourself between their feeding areas and the trees they roost in. If the property has significant terrain, your setup should take to the hill above or level with the roosting trees. Turkeys will typically favor approaching their roosts from the high side to make the fly up to the roost easier.

Commit to Turkey Habits in the Spring

Afternoon turkey hunting is difficult because gobbling activity decreases the later you get in the morning and only picks back up slightly near dusk as birds retreat to their roost. This can be frustrating for hunters since turkey calling seems useless and unproductive, much like sitting all afternoon when deer hunting. This is where committing to turkey habits in the spring comes in as the second key strategy for afternoon turkey hunting.
Preseason turkey scouting is important for committing to an area for spring turkey hunting. You have to be confident that at some point in the afternoon gobblers will be in a location feeding and searching for hens. Even the best turkey calls for spring will unlikely fire off a gobbler so you need to be prepared to sit still and ready for when that bird wonders into the area quietly. Birds tend to follow a daily circuit routine and a hunter can capitalize on knowing this routine and committing to hunting specific areas. Areas to commit to in the afternoon include travel corridors that lead to feeding areas. Look for fresh turkey scratches and pick a secluded set up location or use a blind to keep concealed while waiting them out.

Alternative Turkey Hunting Strategies for Chasing Afternoon Birds

Hunting turkeys after midday requires adapting turkey hunting tactics with the birds’ behavior. Here are three strategies to adapt for successfully hunting birds in the afternoon.
  • Alter your turkey calling approach. Reduce your calling down to soft yelps and purrs. Turkey talking later in the day is minimal so loud and continuous calling will usually not be well received by gobblers this time of day. Also, turkey calling tips like being silent and listening instead of calling as well as trying a gobbling call can all work to your advantage in the afternoon.
  • Match decoys to behavior. After the morning, most aggressive turkey behaviors are diminishing. Similarly to calling techniques reserved for morning hours, using turkey hunting decoys that mimic fighting or breeding in the afternoon is just out of place. Switch to more feeding decoy setups with multiple hens or deploy the walking harem setup in and near feeding areas to exploit afternoon turkey behavior.
  • Run and gun known turkey areas. Not all afternoon turkey hunting strategies revolve around setting up in one spot and waiting them out. Use the run and gun tactic to cover the ground between loafing and feeding areas. You’re basically looking to glass these areas from afar to see if birds are there or calling here and there to generate a shock gobble. If either one produces, sit down and then commit to the area and work the birds.

Don’t dismiss hunting turkeys in the afternoon where you’re able. The late day action is without a doubt different than the morning but can get just as hot if you know how to hunt them after lunch. The three key turkey hunting strategies for killing afternoon gobblers include understanding late day turkey behavior, committing to areas that have birds and altering your tactics. Focusing on these tactics will put you in more situations to be able to harvest an afternoon gobbler this spring season.