Decision Time: Moonlight Musings

In this interactive feature, Editor Brian Lovett shares a scenario from his 20+ years of turkey hunting, asking "What would you do?"
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Brian Lovett
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Decision Time: Moonlight Musings

Postby Brian Lovett » August 9th, 2010, 4:45 am

In "Decision Time," Editor Brian Lovett will share a scenario from his 20-plus years hunting turkeys. Each hinges on a critical decision. Post what choice you would have made, then see how things actually turned out.

Moonlight Musings

It was one of those mornings. The moonlight illuminated every corner of the night, and you couldn't have fit another star in the sky. Flags drooped on their poles, and the mercury had dipped just enough to let you know it was spring in Wisconsin.

I was hunting a turkey-rich farm for the first time and couldn't wait to start. I'd only scouted the place once or twice, so I was essentially going in blind. Still, I knew the farm's timbered ridges were filthy with gobblers, and a buddy had assured me I'd have plenty of close encounters.

After traipsing up a field road, I stopped at a small ridge near a grove of planted pines to listen. If nothing else, I wanted to make sure I didn't spook birds. Even if I didn't get tight with them at flydown, I could move on them later.

Within minutes, a booming gobble shattered the morning stillness. I walked a couple of steps farther up the field road and listened for the next gobble to pinpoint the bird. The gobbler hammered again, and I quickly realized he was right where my friend had said turkeys roosted in autumn: in a cluster of big oaks about halfway up the opposite side of a large draw.

Because the gobbler was on a fairly steep incline, I expected him to fly down to the "short side" of the terrain -- the nearby northern ridge. Trouble was, I was on the southern side of the draw. I could reach the northern ridge in five minutes if I slipped up the field road. However, that would also take me right past the open bottom of the draw and within 100 steps of the longbeard. Because of the bright moonlight and still conditions, that was risky.

My only other choice was to crest the southern ridge, slip into a good set-up area and hope for the best. I didn't like that option. When a loud-mouthed hen joined in with gobbler across the draw, I liked it even less.

But with fly-down time approaching, I needed to quickly formulate and execute a plan.

What would you have done? Post your decision below.

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RE: Decision Time: Moonlight Musings

Postby BigBuckeye » August 9th, 2010, 8:32 am

I would have made the walk w/o a light and as quietly as possible.  It would have been worth the risk given the unlikelihood of them pitching down on the steep sloped side.
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RE: Decision Time: Moonlight Musings

Postby Gobblerman » August 9th, 2010, 10:33 am

"...a turkey-rich farm....filthy with gobblers..."   Hmmm,...I don't think I would be too concerned, one way or the other.  However, if I was to follow one of the mantra's we preach when trying to teach others to hunt spring gobblers,...which is to never approach a gobbler on the roost close enough to risk being seen....I would have been tempted to move closer, but not put myself out in the open where wary eyes might detect me.  There are at least two turkeys there, and probably more, so the chances would be good that you would spoil this hunt by moving through the open field. 
In addition, based on the scenario presented, there are likely gobblers around that have not started up yet,...and that may be in a much more approachable location.  I would be inclined to stick to the cover at hand, wait a while to see what else develops, and if no better option presents itself, I would then move closer, if possible, and try the birds from my best approachable location....even if it is not ideal. 
Going in blind on a roost hunt, without knowing the birds or their morning patterns, is often a crapshoot anyway.  The best bet will likely be a mid-morning hunt after the birds have taken care of their morning business, so I would take my time, stay unseen, and enjoy the mornings hunt....however it unfolded.

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RE: Decision Time: Moonlight Musings

Postby Bobbyparks » August 9th, 2010, 10:59 am

As always there's wisdom in what Mr Bates just said.

Brian I always asume if it's your first day on a hunt that you'll have another day or two to adapt to what happens the first day. If this is the first day I definitely would not walk out where I thought I'd be seen unless I had a cow suit on. The last day I might throw a rock behind em and run across while they're not looking. lol

The first day I'd make myself lay back and crest the southern ridge and see what ahppens. You've already been told you'll have multiple encounters so in a way you could go either way, get aggressive and bump him before light and move on or stay patient and move on knowing where he'll be in the morning. Not using a light probably won't make a differnce in bright moonlight unless you have shadows to stay in. I NEVER use a light anyway

With this one I go the patience route
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RE: Decision Time: Moonlight Musings

Postby Cut N Run » August 9th, 2010, 4:31 pm

I'd be inclined to see if I could tell the direction that bird preferred to travel and look for an accessable decent set-up that provided the most cover without giving myself away. From the sound of things, there might be other birds willing to cooperate if that one didn't want to. If you got impatient and tried to force the issue, it might backfire on you and cost you a chance at one that could perhaps be had easier at some point in the future. The Moon changes its phase by about :40 minutes every day and you would have some shadows to play with not too far down the line if you needed it.

Since I am used to hunting on a relatively small piece of land where you can put yourself in the right place if you play it cautious and limit your mistakes, that's how I'd try this one too. If you have the chance to hunt him again without him ever knowing you were there, you still have a good chance at him. A few shadows where there had been none is sometimes all it takes to cover your way to the best set-up.

When I have busted gobblers off the roost by getting in too close on a moonlit night, it has never worked out well on that individual bird. I have taken some other gobblers who worked that same ridge later in the day.

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RE: Decision Time: Moonlight Musings

Postby Uncle Nicky1 » August 10th, 2010, 5:17 am

It's risky, but I'd try & get up the field road...make sure I had my gloves & mask on, no flashlight, walk slow & quiet & try to stay close to cover if possible. Even if you bump him, it's probably not the end of the world, there's a good chance he'll forget what spooked him & come back at light & look for his hen. May be other gobblers around, if it's a turkey rich area.

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RE: Decision Time: Moonlight Musings

Postby WillowRidgeCalls » August 10th, 2010, 2:46 pm

I would ease down to the open area, and set up close enough to see into it. Chances are if that bird is only roosted a 100 yards from that open area, a sub tom or other hens will be roosted close to it. If you could hear that hen talkin back to that tom and if she is roosted close to him, chances are that's the boss hen, and if she's less then a 100 yards off the opening I'd forget about calling to the tom and go after that boss hen. She'll come a 100 yards easy and when she does so does ol'tom.

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