Ahh, the age old question of “when’s the best time to hunt?” It doesn’t matter whether you’re turkey hunting, deer hunting, goose hunting, whatever… there will always be different camps of people that think different times of the day give you the best shot.
Usually, what the debate comes down to is a combination of things including hunting location, personal preference, and weather conditions. While those dynamics still exist when turkey hunting, the best time to spring turkey hunt becomes a little bit more clear if you break the day down into segments and analyze what occurs during those segments.
Early morning is hands down what most people would consider the best time to spring turkey hunt.
Birds are just coming down from their roosts, toms are trying to locate hens, and once they do they lay low for a few hours and breed. The scenario that this sets up is one where the odds are stacked in the hunters favor.
Early morning hunting gives hunters the ability to sneak in before sunrise and get set up. Better yet, if you’ve roosted a bird you may even know where to go. Once set up, hunters will wait for toms to leave their roosts and begin calling in attempt to lure in an unsuspecting tom.
There’s also a ton or bird movement in the early morning hours, which really helps stir things up.
In fact, there are some states that only let you turkey hunt early in the day – although not necessarily just the morning. Take Virginia for example, in the Old Dominion State you can only spring turkey hunt from one half hour before sunrise to noon during the prime season.
When it comes to most types of hunting, people tend to discount the middle of they day. This is also true when turkey hunting. The general assumption during this time is that the toms have flown down from their roost, found a hen, and are shacked up breeding that hen during the middle of the day.
Outside of the fact that there’s less movement during the middle of the day, you also lose you chance to sneak in early and surprise the birds when they come down from their roost. While this does make for a more difficult hunt, it doesn’t mean that it’s a complete lost cause.
Sure, the transition from early morning to mid day (think 10am – 12pm) may be tough. Toms and hens will still be tight with each other which will keep movement and calling to a minimum. As the day gets later and later though, toms will eventually tire of the hens and move on.
When the toms start to move on from their hens it can create an opportunity. Usually during this time you can find toms strutting around either by themselves, or out chasing another hen. That creates a great opportunity for you to lure one in.
The afternoon is usually pretty challenging. Toms have spent most of the day seeking out and breeding hens, which means that they are usually laying low in the afternoon before heading to roost. For that reason, most hunters reserve the afternoon for trying to roost a bird that they can then set up on the next morning.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful though – you just need to be aware of the turkey’s mindset during the afternoon hours. Generally speaking the afternoon is about feeding, resting, and roosting. If you’re going to have a successful afternoon hunt, you’re going to want to focus on food sources and roosting areas.