How Important is it to Roost a Bird?

Pat S. asks:

Pat found a great bird for his son Noah on a "Plan B" property that he didn't get a chance to roost birds on the night previous.  

Pat found a great bird for his son Noah on a "Plan B" property that he didn't get a chance to roost birds on the night previous.  

How much stock do you put into putting birds to bed?  Very calm out right now, clear skies, but no responses to an owl call.  What does it mean?  Should I hunt a different spot in the morning?

It's a question that turkey hunters are faced with every season.  First off, how important is it to roost birds in general, and then what if nothing responds?  For the most part, I tend to hunt with more confidence when I know where my target is sleeping, but the age old adage "Roosted Ain't Roasted" really rings true.  In looking back at my journal over the years, I'm seeing about 15-20% success immediately off the roost for all the birds I've played a part in killing over the past 20 years.  That's a pretty small number in the grand scheme of things.  I know later in the season after I'm worn down from week after week of turkeys, sleep can be more important, but it is nice to have a good idea where they're at first thing.  

As far as a response or not, and then switching properties, that's when you need to fall back on your scouting, and maybe more importantly the characteristics of the area you tried to roost them.  Is it a perennially favorite location with numerous toms seen through your scouting, or is it an isolated hail-mary to begin with?  I always let that make my decision if no birds play ball the night before.  Last night for example, I blew an owl call right around sundown and heard nothing.  Just as I was leaving however 15 minutes later, I heard 3 different toms sound off, one time only for each bird.  Had I not stayed that last little bit, I probably would've thought there was nothing going.  They don't always gobble well on the limb, and sometimes they get to bed late, so use your best judgement regarding habitat, history, and recent scouting to make the right call.

UPDATE - Pat went with Plan B and found a great longbeard for his son Noah.  Congrats to the both of them!    

Peak Gobbling Activity in the Midwest

Brad Uitdenbogerd writes:

Hi, I attended your seminar at the deer/turkey show in Minnesota last weekend, and enjoyed it. You briefly had a slide up showing a graph of a few years of peak gobbling times in Minnesota. Where can I find that graph on your website or elsewhere, I would like to look at it closer.
Good hunting,

Hi Brad.  That information was adapted from some years of data collected by author and guide T.R. Michels, here in southern Minnesota.  His Turkey Addict's Manual is a great read!  Attached is the graph, but as I described in the seminar, more important is what it tells us.  Keep in mind, the red line is the general trend for most years and does vary season to season.  That said, it helps us understand the progression through the breeding season and what it means for our hunting.

In the early season, gobblers are willing to breed but hens are not and toms do a great deal of gobbling for a variety of reasons.  This peak can and usually does happen just before the season opener in MN.  Then comes somewhat of a lull, similar to the "lockdown" phase of the deer rut, with toms staying in close visual contact with ready hens at all times.  There's less of a need to gobble under these circumstances.  Then another peak happens in early May with the majority of hens going off to nest.  My experience has shown that while gobbling doesn't necessarily pick-up in the morning hours only, it continues well into the middle part of the day, this time period is great for hunting whenever you have a chance to hit the woods.  Then the late season decline happens as hens' interest declines. While toms are still ready and willing, food is plentiful and the breeding season is winding down so they're not as likely to come a great distance or gobble with the same gusto they did earlier.  Of course there are exceptions to every part of these phases, but they've held mostly true for as long as I've hunted in the Midwest.

Keep these in mind as you select seasons and head out there to hunt birds, but remember, there's never a bad time to hunt turkeys!


What's Your Favorite Turkey Call?

Photo Credit - Ben Brettingen

Photo Credit - Ben Brettingen

Dylan from Hayfield, MN asks:

I've used a box call and slate call before, but I was at your turkey seminar last year and saw you use a mouth call.  What's your favorite type of call and what mouth call do you use?

Thanks for the question Dylan.  The call types you listed are all ones that I carry in my vest no matter what, but there are definitely some I use more than others.  There's a pile of simply personal preference that goes into answering this question too.  They're all my favorite, but mouth calls and box calls in that order are two types I don't know that I would want to do without.  The mouth call because of how versatile it is, and the box call for the sheer volume and rasp I can get.  

There's plenty of good calls on the market, but I've been blowing one for a few years that's a cut above as far as I'm concerned.  Jeff Frederick is a 10-time WI state champ and calling aficionado who builds and hand-stretches his own.  His Champion's Choice call is the most versatile call I've ever used, and also happens to be the easiest to blow from any I've ever tried.  

The key is to try a few and figure out which one you have the most confidence in.  If you sound best on a slate call, then use that one above all others!