How to Hunt Turkeys Off the Roost
Despite their tendency for showing up on roads and in fields on the days you aren't hunting, finding turkeys when they are actually in season can be very difficult. One of the best ways to ensure the presence of birds on opening morning is to establish where they roost.
What Is a Roost?
A Roost refers to the place in which Turkeys sleep. Since a sleeping turkey is an easy target for predators, mature Toms spend their nights up in trees where they are safe from predators and right nearby the ladies they had gathered during the day. After spending the night on a limb, Toms will spend the early hours of the morning making their presence known to all surrounding Hens, listening for responses before deciding which direction to fly down based on his determination of his best chance to meet a mate. This process will be repeated day after day in the same tree until the mating season has ended or until harsh weather or stress pushes them off the site.
Locating and Setting Up on the Roost
Locating these roosting sites typically takes place the night before the hunt, using locator calls such as an owl or a crow to force a shock gobble and reveal their location just after dark. This process was discussed in our previous article and can be found .
Once you have established the roosting tree, your setup location needs to be considered. I typically like to set up between 100 and 200 yards from the roosting site. Setting up on the edge of open areas is key, giving the bird plenty of room to fly down and providing a good view of his location and behaviour once he lands. This will also give him a good view of your decoy which may further influence his fly down direction.
Try to arrive at your spot well before sunrise to avoid spooking birds that have already woken up. While it is not foolproof, from my personal experience, turkeys will often begin to send out their first few gobbles just after nautical sunrise. This time period is when everything in the field first begins to reveal itself and can be found on most weather apps. Once you establish when this period will occur, aim to be at your tree at least half an hour before to keep yourself hidden while you set up.
Calling Off the Roost
In terms of calling, it is very easy to be over-aggressive at this time of the day. While it may be tough to sit quietly while the gobbles thunder across the field, a few soft tree calls and a bit of the silent treatment will be more than enough to let the tom know where you're at and send him chasing after you once he flies down. These tree calls are essentially just soft yelps, slightly picking up the volume as the sun begins to rise. These calls can be made on both box and slate calls, however, diaphragm calls are preferred due to their ability to control call volume at more precise levels. Having two hands free is also a bonus as these birds can fly down very quickly and be in your lap before you can even get the call down.
Identifying the Pattern
Despite their reputation as flightless birds, turkeys can fly surprisingly great distances when leaving the roost. While it would be nice if Toms always flew in the direction we are expecting, these birds are anything but predictable and will often end up in distant fields, over fences, or deep in the woods when they land. Although the Toms landing in another field or on the wrong side of the property can be frustrating, this does not mean that all hope is lost.
Even if you are unable to call him back after his unfortunate landing, you have now identified his pattern that he is likely to repeat for multiple days. This can make for a great afternoon hunt, moving closer to the roosting site a few hours before sunset and waiting for the bird to return home after a long day of chasing Hens. This strategy can also be used the following morning, setting up along the path you saw him move the day before and ensuring you have a better position when he decides to fly down. While it may be tempting to set up right on the roost after a frustrating morning in the woods, keeping your distance remains essential as spooking these birds near the roosting site will likely cause them to abandon the tree for the rest of the season.