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South Williamsport, PA
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In the Woods Before Daylight?

I remember when I started spring gobbler hunting years ago; I did what all spring gobbler hunters did — I got up before daylight and headed to a likely ambush point. Like most gobbler hunters I would start with a soft tree call and listen for birds to fly down from the roost. As many

I remember when I started spring gobbler hunting years ago; I did what all spring gobbler hunters did — I got up before daylight and headed to a likely ambush point. Like most gobbler hunters I would start with a soft tree call and listen for birds to fly down from the roost. As many would attest to, those gobblers were often hard to pull away from the hens especially in the early season before many of the hens began tending nests. Certainly, there were times when the tactic worked when a nice gobbler closed in on your hen yelps, and you successfully bagged a nice bird shortly after sun up. After some early rises without success; however, it got a little easier to sleep in, and many of us believed that anything but an early morning hunt was probably a waste of time — not so.

More and more spring gobbler hunters are beginning to realize that you can still nail a big gobbler later in the morning and even into the afternoon for that matter. Here in Pennsylvania, you can only hunt spring gobblers from one-half hour before sunrise until noon, but from May 13 to the end of the spring season you can hunt to one-half hour after sunset.

The biggest gobbler I have ever taken is a bird that I tried calling on several occasions in the early morning and in the early part of the season. I would arrive before daylight, and sure enough, the big gobbler would fly down and strut out into the edge of the field, but there was always several hens nearby; it was frustrating, to say the least. Finally, on the last day of the season and in spite of my serious doubts I went out mid-morning mostly out of desperation. I didn’t expect to hear anything, and in fact, I didn’t hear anything. A half-hour before quitting time I spotted the big gobbler about 100 yards away at the edge of the field. I yelped, he answered and started in my direction. Long story short at ten minutes before official quitting time I dropped my gobbler. I suspect my success had a lot to do with the fact that most hens were nesting by this time and the gobbler was still lovesick and was seeking a mate.

Last year I took my granddaughter on her first spring gobbler hunt. I didn’t want to make her get up at some ridiculous hour, so I had her meet me mid-morning. We headed out and called but to no avail. Later in the morning, we circled back around to where we started when I heard a gobble in that area. We quickly set up a hen decoy, and I yelped once on a box call. Less than five minutes later three nice gobblers and a hen came right towards the hen decoy twenty yards away — she nailed the biggest gobbler. Late in the morning and late in the season but a very successful hunt nevertheless.

Remember, many hens are in a nesting routine and may not be available to a lovesick gobbler as the season progresses and that likely increases your chances of calling in a bird that before wouldn’t leave the hens that were nearby. I’m not suggesting that you give up the pre-dawn set-up but if for some reason you can’t make that early set-up don’t think all is lost — a successful conclusion is still very possible.

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