Turkey Time

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Published on: Feb. 15, 2013

hens find nesting cover.

Conservation areas offer both newcomers and veterans habitat-rich places to hunt turkeys. To look for Department-managed public hunting areas, go to the conservation atlas at

Last spring, Scott Brant of Warrensburg killed a trophy gobbler and helped another hunter bag a tom at the Department’s J.N. Turkey Kearn Memorial Wildlife Area in west central Missouri. Public lands often, but not always, get heavy hunting pressure. Yet they can still offer good turkey hunting action.

“Patience is the biggest thing on public land,” Brant said. “I personally have had more success calling in turkeys late in the morning. Don’t give up.”

Tom turkeys usually gobble most from tree roosts at sunrise or after they glide down to the ground in the early morning hours. That’s the peak time for mating with hens and jousting other toms or young jakes away from hens. The gobbling reveals a turkey’s location and helps hunters know when and where to call to lure them into gun range. When the early morning gobbling ceases and the woods get quieter, many hunters leave the field for the day.

But after 10 a.m., as hens wander away to tend nests or feed, Brant has found gobblers are often still responsive to calls. Being still, alert, and persistent is important for late-morning hunting success.

“Sometimes they will come in quiet and show up out of nowhere,” he said.

Private lands with forest or with timber-bordered fields may offer excellent hunting. But hunters should always obtain permission and avoid trespassing. The U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also manage land open to public hunting, giving Missouri hunters even more options.

Scouting an area that you plan to hunt in the weeks before turkey season can greatly increase your chances for success. Listen for where turkeys are gobbling in the early morning hours. In the woods, look for bare-dirt ovals where they’ve scratched back leaves to look for bugs to eat. Get to know the terrain so you’ll already know good places to “set up.” That’s turkey hunter talk for a good tree, stump, or blow down where you can sit down to call and hopefully to shoot. A tree at your back gives you something to lean against and breaks your outline to improve concealment.


Old-time turkey hunters made their own wooden or slate calls and wore whatever old clothes

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