Hunters across North Carolina await the April 11 opening of turkey season on with eagerness that rivals children on Christmas Eve.  While the peak gobbling period is more likely to produce a tom within earshot, filling your tags is met with challenges. To make sure your season starts off with a bang, utilize these tips from a Bear Creek hunter with more than 30 years of experience and 49 birds under his belt.

·        Use a locator call. “The best-case scenario is to go out the evening before and use a locator call like an owl hoot and try to roost one,” said Brent Phillips, president of the Chatham County Limbhangers, a local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. “If you hear him gobble one time, you’ll know where to go in the morning.”

Phillips uses locator calls to provoke a “shock gobble” that gobblers make in response to non-turkey sounds, revealing their whereabouts.      

·        Search for pine trees near water. “They like to roost in tall pine trees near a swamp, river or creek,” he said. “The ideal situation is to find hardwoods with pines on one side of a ridge.”

According to Phillips, turkeys will roost in the same area if not spooked. Dogs or thunderstorms can move them around.

·        Set up between a roosting area and strutting zone. “If there is a field close by, they will be in it; they love to strut and show off for females early on,” he said. “If I have one roosted, I will try to get between him and that field.”

Phillips said turkeys will go to any type of short, green field first thing after fly-down time to feed on the soft shoots and bugs and to strut.  

·        Add extra distance in bare woods. “You’re better off to set up 50 yards farther away, than to be 50 yards too close,” Phillips said. “If you bust him of the roost, it’s over.”  

In addition to excellent eyesight, turkeys have a keen sense of hearing, and sound travels much farther in bare woods.

·        Call softly and sparingly. “You should start out with a tree call, which is the natural call of the hen when flying down from the roost,” he said. “If he answers, I won’t call any more until I know he’s on the ground. He’s more than happy to sit in his tree and gobble every time you call, expecting you to come to him.