A late-season turkey hunter is often best served by finding a spot to hunker down and trying to get the gobbler to come to you. Beau Leyse/Shutterstock

Pre-dawn began much as it had over the previous four weeks, albeit a minute earlier each day.

Birds sang vociferously and a barred owl boomed somewhere in the dim light. Only this time, there was no resounding response from the lone longbeard I knew was perched somewhere in a nearby grove of tall pines. I’d seen him fly up to roost the previous evening, yet despite the owl and my soft, pleading tree yelps, he seemingly refused to gobble from the limb … until just before launching from his perch and sailing down. He landed with three quick steps, glanced around, then tucked in his wings and walked indifferently away from my serenade.

Maine has one of the longest and latest-running spring turkey seasons, five weeks lapping over into the first week of June. Seasons in southern states have long since ceased, and even those in the north have ended, prompting all but the most dedicated or desperate turkey hunters to abandon the chase. Fewer birds remain and those that do have waning interest in seeking a mate. The grass is tall, the leaves are dense, and all of the above make late-season turkey hunting more challenging.

It might be time for a change in tactics.

The aggressive run-and-gun approach is less effective now. Patience prevails, and a better option might be to go “old school.” That means settling into an area you know still holds birds and waiting them out. Aggressive calling also might do more harm than good, and a better approach is to yelp three times on a box call, then wait an hour. It’s not for everyone, but it does work.

Of course, you can improve your odds by selecting the right location. With fewer hens to display for and less interest in doing so, gobblers spend less time in open fields and more in the woods. Fresh scratch marks in the leaves will tell you if you’re in the right place. Most of last fall’s remnant acorns are gone, but there might still be a few pockets. Meanwhile, the most nutritious green growth is often in low-lying areas with damp soils.


Feather maintenance is an important part of a turkey’s daily routine. Over the course of your earlier hunts, you may have come across dust bowls – small depressions in bare, dry soil where the turkeys roll, presumably to rid themselves of parasites like feather lice. They visit these sites on a somewhat regular basis, often later in the morning after filling their crops, making for great ambush spots.

Trying to roost a bird the evening before a hunt is still a good approach. However, seeing or hearing them fly up might be better than simply hooting like an owl and listening for a gobble that never comes; just because they don’t answer the door, doesn’t mean they’re not home.

It’s more challenging, but at the same time, late-season hunting is also more relaxed. There’s less competition, so you don’t necessarily need to race to your spot an hour before dawn. Arrive in dim daylight, listen for gobbling, and if you don’t hear it, stroll into the woods, pick a strategic spot and make yourself comfortable. Give a few casual calls, then watch, wait and listen to the woods waking up around you.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

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