Pennsylvania Game Commission
Late-day turkey hunting is a different kind of game, but one that can offer rewards.
It’s coming down to the finish: have you gotten your spring gobbler, or, in cases, your second?
If not, there’s time. A lot of it in one way.
The season’s end is fast approaching. The last day is Tuesday, May 31.
But right now, hunters in Pennsylvania can chase gobblers all day long, from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. It’s been since 2011 that the Pennsylvania Game Commission legalized all-day turkey hunting for the last two weeks of the spring season.
Not many take advantage of the opportunity.
According to commission turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena, only 20 percent of the gobblers taken since 2011 – one in five – were killed in the last two weeks of the season. And only 5 percent – or one in 20 – were taken in the afternoon or evening.
That’s partly because hunter participation decreases significantly the longer the season goes, she said.
Maybe it’s that hunters are still earning to chase gobblers later in the day, too. There are some differences compared to morning hunting. Gobblers are typically less vocal and more cautious in the evenings as they head back to their roosts. They are moving and feeding as they go, however.
Here are some tips for chasing late-day birds:
- Consider calling a little less, or a little less aggressively. The birds themselves aren’t terribly vocal now – they call less than in the morning – so mimic that behavior. Don’t be afraid to call “blind,” though. Just because you can’t hear a bird doesn’t mean there isn’t one around.
- Find food sources. Gobblers, while still looking for a potential mate, spend their afternoons and evenings eating. If you can find a food source they may hit on their way to roost, that can be a prime location.
- Use a blind. Sometimes, hunting afternoon turkeys is like hunting deer, where you set up and hope to intercept a gobbler, calling little if at all. It’s hard to sit still and remain concealed for long periods of time, so a blind helps.
- Consider setting up where you can see further than on typical morning hunts. Because gobblers often come in much quieter in afternoon and evening, it’s good to be able to see some terrain.
- Go easy on the decoys. Sometimes, a single hen decoy may be all that’s needed to lure in a wary tom.
- Stay late. Gobblers that are busy with hens in the morning sometimes go through a lull mid-afternoon. But they can get active again the last few hours before dark when they get their second wind. Here in Pennsylvania, Casalena said, the majority of the afternoon and evening harvest occurs between 4 and 8 p.m.
- Pack bug spray. The later in the season, and the later in the afternoon and evening, things go, the worse the bugs can be. Nothing will scare off a sneaking gobbler quicker than a hunter swatting at mosquitoes.