Mid-Season Strut Zone

Posted on May 15, 2018



“Every old hunter knows that a great chance comes just when apparently all chances are over and gone.” – Archibald Rutledge



The alarm was blaring way too early, at least that is how it seamed at an hour that no one should be awake. The morning ritual had now become all too frequent, rising two hours prior to dawn, day after day in order to march into the turkey wood, set up, and hopefully secure a bearded man.
Why is it so difficult to get up early in May, when there isn’t the least bit of resistance in jumping out of bed come November? A mystery for sure. The lady I sleep next to becomes a bit more agitated with each passing morning. Her eagerness for me to fill my turkey tags has nothing to do with bragging rights. She is tired (no pun intended) of her sleep being interrupted by me and my “stupid” alarm clock.


Opening day excitement is now in the rear-view mirror, along with the sure-fire set-up that was destined to bring a bird to the dirt. While seeing multiple hero shots each day on Face Book is inspiring, and rewarding for the successful turkey hunters, but for those whom are still trying to kill one, reading “tagged out, gone fishing” is especially irritating.


So, by now you are tired, irritable and have spilt part of your morning joe (a beverage you’ll probably regret drinking due to…) in your lap for the third time this season as you drive to your hunting destination. It is a good thing turkeys cannot smell us!
Along with early risings being unappealing during turkey season, limiting myself to one cup of coffee each morning is also debilitating. Why only a single serving you inquire? Coffee is a diuretic, which produces frequency in urination. In a game where our movement must be minimal due to a turkey’s eyes being incredibly sharp, and the fact that we are primarily seated makes for a poor recipe for success. Add in a bladder the size of a peanut shell and now you know why the java is limited.


Once a Tom hits his strut zone, it becomes difficult to break his almost trans like psyche. This zone is usually on a piece of high ground where he is most visible, and where he will strut back and forth, gobbling with the hope of attracting hens to his location. Being in the strut for a male gobbler is similar to being in the rut for a buck.
Confidence, regardless of past success has waned a bit. Those calls that emanated notes resembling the Sound of Music in February and March now seem stale and flat. We’re left with the nagging question each morning as to what note from which call is going fire up a gobbler? And once we get a response, do I pour it on or play coy with the walnut sized brain of this bird?


We need to remember, these long beards have been fanning, gobbling and pursuing hens since mid-February; at some point they have to be getting tired of this gig. More often than not, their advances are rejected regardless of length of beard, spurs and fan perfection. He can get beet red in the face, gobble loud and long, but unless she lays down for him, it is all for not. Day after day, for three months this performance has been undertaken. So, if we think our seduction doesn’t sound enticing enough, or is met with little-to-no reaction it just might be, he’s been there way too many times at this point.
“The truth of the matter, according to legendary turkey caller, Ken Morgan, is that there is no certain way a hunter can be assured of calling up a gobbler anytime. Even when you know where the gobbler is located and know what his pattern is, the bird has a way of escaping cleanly. More specifically, he may shun your calling attempts completely.”
We, at this point in the season must also refrain from giving the bird more credit for our empty sack than it deserves. Noted scribe and life long turkey hunter Jim Casada prophetically proclaims,
“Turkey hunters have a tendency to endow their quarry with almost supernatural powers or to ascribe qualities to the bird which no gobbler really possesses. They do this, more often than not, as a result of their own failure – a humbled hunter’s exercise in self-justification. Yet there is an element of accuracy in descriptions regularly encountered in the sport’s literature: “hermit gobbler,” “call-shy bird,” “wary warrior.” Terms of this sort offer a measure of insight, for the uninitiated, into just how difficult it can be to bag a mature tom. And visions of devilishly difficult toms that repeatedly outwit hunters, sending them home with empty game bags and dragging footsteps, add to the narrative romance that most readers welcome.”


Excuses, calloused buttocks, sore joints, sleep deprivation, wounded pride aside, it is only half time in a season that can be rescued with a single shot. It is of my opinion that turkeys should be hunted, not just shot. It will now take a more determined and resilient approach to the task at hand; a sacrifice many who fail during the early days of a season are unwilling to make.
Take heart if you’ve found yourself in this unenviable position. You can go fishing, but you probably won’t. You could sleep in, however that is highly unlikely. If you are anything like me you will dig in your heels, and stubbornly continue the course in the quest to rob the old man of his beard.


And because it is turkeys that are being hunted, anything can and probably will transpire that may not match any text book. “Turkeys get notions, Rutledge warned, and for no discoverable reason will suddenly leave good, quiet territory and wander for miles. They sometimes act as if they had something on their minds that they can’t figure out. Sometimes they act as if they were just plain goofy…”


As we exit the locker room for the second half, let’s take heed to the sage words as he continued, “…this sport exacts from the woodsman the maximum of patience, endurance, intelligence, and woodcraft. And I believe that any sport that lays down these exactions is a mighty good type of recreation to have in these days when too many men expect to get their game with no more effort on their part than to pull a trigger with a lazy and effete finger…As is the case with most other things in life, the pleasure and sport derived are in proportion to the energy expended, but more especially to the degree of mental craft employed.”

Until the last moment of the last day, let us optimistically parlay towards the ole bird we wish to slay.

All images and text on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier
© 2018 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.

Posted in: Turkey