Guide Karl Helmkamp said many hunters who don’t have access to private lands will give up on game lands after the first couple of weeks of turkey season, and that is a mistake.
It’s far easier to control access to private lands, but often hunters think game lands are burned out, and few go late in the season. This helps hunters willing to change tactics and not get in a rush.
One of Helmkamp’s favorite tactics for private or public lands is to hunt during the middle of the day. He enjoys an early morning hunt as much as anyone, but if it isn’t productive, he takes a breakfast break, lets the woods settle and heads back out in late morning or around noon.
“Gobblers that respond to a call around mid-day are still looking for a hen and can sometimes be easy to lure in,” Helmkamp said. “They are still looking, and if you don’t make any mistakes, they occasionally will walk right in. They aren’t used to seeing hunters during the middle of the day. Hunter traffic drops off a lot after the second or third week of the season, especially on game lands, and turkeys aren’t being spooked and have calmed down from the full-on assault of the early season.”
Helmkamp also switches his calling later in the season. One of his favorite tactics is to only answer after a gobbler calls back a few times. If a gobbler won’t come in, move laterally — even only a hundred steps — so it thinks the hen is moving away. If he’s looking around during the middle of the day, he is getting desperate and may come right in.
Once it’s obvious a late-season, mid-day gobbler is moving in, Helmkamp said it’s important to get set up quickly. Occasionally they come in slowly, but often they are trying to get there before another gobbler and close the distance very quickly.
Helmkamp believes late-season turkeys present different challenges, but hunts can be fun and productive, even on game lands.