What do you do to prepare, how do you decide when/where to go, what is your routine on the hunt? What do you do when you first hit the fields?
First off, let me remind y'all that I'm turkey hunter that hunts his own 200 acres. I can go out on my front porch in the morning and owl and have gobblers sounding off a full 360 degrees.
When the alarm goes off, I usually take my bag of calls out onto the front porch and put them out on the table, and then go in the house and start getting ready. I put on the coffee, and grab the latest weather report. I suit up and then go out on the porch and try out a few calls.
To me this step is important. I want to know how my calls are going to sound after they've been exposed to the current conditions. Some calls, especially box calls, sound great in the house, but can go bad as soon as you hit the woods. It takes me only a couple of minutes. The guesses I made the night before usually are right. Once in a while I still need to swap out a call, usually due to a change in the weather.
I've usually done my strateme-gizing the night before, sipping scotch at the thoughtful spot. Usually I balance two things in my head: 1) where will the birds be 2) How often have I been busted in a given spot. It is really easy, even on 200 acres, to get the birds wise to you. If I've been someplace the day before, I'll try another place and rotate my favorite spots. If I've managed to slip in and out without a turkey seeing me, I may or may not hit it again the next day. After all this time on the same plot of ground, it's hard to be surprised. The terrain and the buildings haven't changed in a hundred years. These turkeys have been in somewhat the same place for generations.
There are a bunch of things at play here:
1) The turkeys may or may not be utilizing a given spot. Even some of my favorite honey holes have off weeks or even off years.
2) The weather may or may not be conducive for the turkeys to show themselves. Example: I have one pasture that is a sure fire place for turkeys to go sun themselves on ultra-cold mornings.
3) The season itself may be advanced or retarded from what I'd be expecting. One year we had 90F+ days during opening week, and the turkeys were as fired up as I've ever seen them. Another year we had snow and 26F for the Opener, and I did not see a receptive gobbler until the last week.
4) Some days I just feel like going somewhere and being in the woods. We talk about taking the turkey's temperature. There's also taking my temperature: do I feel like being intense about my hunting or do I want to go out and yelp a little every 15 minutes and see what happens? I've been known to be successful either way.
My routine is usually to go somewhere I know turkeys roost and try to arrive where I'm going well before they start sounding off. I don't play the flydown all that hard. I try and hang back and just witness it. I try not to be the first to call; I don't try and be the first or last to fly down. I'm also not the first to crank up the energy. As I've matured as a hunter, I've become more of a "me too" caller. That's not to say I don't get aggressive, and I'm more than happy to crank it up, but I'm never the type that a hunter standing on the edge of the property would say: "Hmmmmph! That's a hunter for sure."
Once in a while, I get a gobbler hooked on the roost, and he lets me know I'm going to be his. I had one this year that did that-- first time in 8 seasons I've closed the deal at flydown. The vast majority of my birds have been taken mid-morning and a surprising number have now been taken in the afternoon. We've had a lot of cold Aprils over the past decade. The KY season starts off in the Lull anyway, and if you pile on low morning temperatures, it often takes the gobblers until afternoon to really get themselves warmed up enough to be thinking about love.