Whether or not you embrace Al Gore’s view of global warming, you can’t ignore the fact that at some point in the turkey season, you’ll be in the field during warmer than normal temperatures. This is particularly true late in the season. Don’t stay at home cooling with the AC on high. Instead, have a plan ready to make the turkeys sweat.
First, determine likely locations hot turkeys will seek in extreme heat. Two obvious hotspots are shade and water. Shade abounds in a woodland setting, but a heavy canopy in a deep coulee or draw stays cooler longer on a hot day. Shade-covered rocks also limit increasing temperatures, so keep a watchful eye out for rocky outcroppings in the woods. Turkeys may land in open fields after sunrise fly-down, but they’ll likely move to shade quickly as the mercury rises.
In open country, shade becomes a valuable commodity. Great Plains and Western gobblers often return to the same shady hangouts day after day during a heatwave. Scout around old farmsteads, islands of timber, brushy thickets and even tall grass for overheated gobblers. I once found a flock of turkeys resting on the shady side of a stack of large round bales. One amorous gobbler didn’t get to enjoy the shade for long.
With dark bodies that attract the sun’s heat, turkeys require water as well as shade. Look for both in the same neighborhood for your best chance to meeting a panting tom. Small streams, rivers, springs and manmade reservoirs lure gobblers throughout a heat event. Because turkeys don’t require liters of fresh water, don’t overlook puddles and pockets of rainwater in the woods.
If you find abundant tracks, droppings and scratchings near water and shade, you’ve stumbled onto a surefire turkey setup zone when the heat is on. For insurance, place a blind in the location to use in case an ambush is required for a gobbler in a steam-shower setting at a later date. Great blind locations include consistently visited waterholes, funnels in shady draws and canopy-covered edges leading to either location.
One of the craziest hunts I ever participated in took place during a Texas heatwave. Not only was it hot, but we also jumped an illegal alien (not the UFO kind) in the hot brush. The man was sleeping and awoke to the sight of a camouflaged person holding a firearm. I think he made it back across the border in record time.
An hour later, the temperature peaked at 105 degrees, but a lonely gobbler in shady timber didn’t care and lit up. My hunting partner hammered at the gobbler, which finally gave in and followed a creek edge to my location. A cloud of smoke from my CVA muzzleloader signaled an end to the hunt and a quick return to the camp for some much-needed AC.
Images by Mark Kayser