For most people, a rainy forecast is a bit of a bummer. It can put a damper on our plans and force us to make other plans. For southern turkey hunters, rain on the radar might tempt us to hit the snooze button and head back to bed.
After all, who wants to wake up before dawn just to get drenched? However, turkey hunting in the rain is not the lost cause you might think. If you’re willing to switch up your tactics and be patient, the rainy hunt might just pay off big!
While many hunters will hang up their calls on a rainy spring day, there are still plenty of opportunities to make the most of the situation and not waste those precious PTO days that you’ve worked so hard for.
Make no mistake, hunting turkeys in the rain is no walk in the park. It offers mental and physical challenges that are unique compared to the pursuit of other game.
It will likely be wet, cold, and windy. It will test the will of even the most seasoned veteran hunters. You will be frustrated as hours go by without any sign of a turkey for miles.
Moreover, because of the rain, turkeys will likely be less likely to gobble and give away their location as the noisy woods makes it difficult for them to sense approaching predators. An experienced hunter should expect to change his strategy if he wants to capitalize on the wind and rain and have a chance on that elusive tom.
Does Rain Affect Turkey Hunting?
Like most creatures of the forest, wild turkeys will generally change their behavior in light of the rain. Nature has a way of taking care of its own.
Depending on how hard the downpour, it is not uncommon for turkeys to stay on the roost into the late hours of the morning where they will stay perched on branches with their heads tucked under their wings.
If it is raining particularly hard, they may return to the roost for the entire duration of the day. This keeps them out of the sight of ground predators who would make a quick meal of them.
In these situations, it is common to “bump” turkeys off of the roost if you get to close to their roosting place, sending the turkey gliding through the forest and well out of the hunter’s purview.
If the turkeys opt to remain on the ground, expect to find them in small clearings or on the edges of open fields where their vision is improved and they can browse for grasshoppers, earthworms, and other insects that will come out in abundance once the sun peeks through the clouds.
The open spaces allow them to detect a threat much better than in Oak and Hickory hardwoods or thickets of Honeysuckle. They sometimes like to strut around in these meadows to dry out their feathers and be clearly visible to hens who seek solace from coyotes, fox, and other potential hazards.
Scouting in the Rain
This is what makes scouting in the rain so important. You will want to scout to understand the habits of the birds in your area. Determining where the birds roost, feed, and loaf can give you a great idea of what these turkeys will do in the rain.
You will also be able to detect fresh tracks easier in the fresh mud that is left by a shower, giving you clues about the wandering patterns of the flock you’re after. Learning these can be the difference between bagging a gobbler and coming home empty-handed.
Can You Kill a Turkey in the Rain?
It is important to remember that there are never any guarantees when hunting anything, much less a prize as coveted as the southern wild turkey. Even when the weather is pristine for turkey hunting, sunny with little to no wind, it still takes a lot of patience and skill to successfully tag a turkey.
Nevertheless, while rain may make your excursion more challenging, it is certainly possible to take a turkey in the rain. If you have scouted and know your area well, it can even give you a solid advantage if you know how to capitalize on it.
I have done so many times, and so I can tell you that posing for that water-logged picture under an overcast sky makes every second out there worth it. You just have to get into a different mindset and be prepared to sit – and sit for a long time.
Tactics for Hunting Turkey in the Rain
Hunting in the rain will also force you to change your tactics. While the “run-and-gun” method is the preferred strategy of most spring woodsmen, your best bet for rain hunting will likely to be to post up in a blind and commit to staying put for the rest of the morning.
Since turkeys are less likely to give up their location in the rain, stumbling through the wet open woods is probably going to get you busted by a mature and educated bird and ruin your hunt. Remaining quiet in a blind will keep you secluded and unassuming (not to mention more dry and comfortable).
For extra comfort, bring along a thermos of coffee, or even a book. This can help you to remain patient while you wait out the storm in between calling.
Making yourself at home in a well-placed blind on the edge of a crop field or clearing with a couple of decoys will give you plenty of opportunities for wandering toms to stumble across your gun barrel and become tonight’s dinner.
Calling for Wet Birds
Whether or not you’re hunting in a blind, calling in the rain will also be different from calling in good weather. To be successful, you will want to shift gears and change your mindset. Think of it like deer hunting from high up in a tree stand.
Calling aggressively once every ten minutes or so is a good standard, just don’t expect that your calls will be answered very often, if at all. That is not to say a turkey will never gobble in the rain, just that it is less likely.
This is where patience is king. Just this last year, I hunted a windy, rainy, and by all accounts, miserable morning. I called every 15 minutes and heard nothing. Shooting hours are open until noon, and at 11:45 I decided to give one last series of yelps from my box call.
I waited about 30 seconds. Nothing. As I began to pack up my things to call it a day, I looked up to find three mature gobblers in full strut crest over the top of the hill 75 yards away and sprint directly to my jake and hen decoy spread.
In a startled panic, I grabbed my gun and took the gobbler at 20 yards in full strut. The ordeal happened so fast I could only sit in awe for a few moments while I tried to process what I just experienced.
The moral of the story: if you can resist the urge to get out of the blind and wander around, you’ll put yourself in the best position to be lucky.
How to Call Turkey in the Rain
For calling, diaphragm, and box calls will be your best bet, as slate calls may be difficult to operate in the cool, damp air. This goes for scouting in the rain as well. That being said, try to keep your calls as dry as possible to ensure they are loud enough to cut through all of the white-noise of the rainy woods.
A gobble-call might be your ace-up-the-sleeve here. Hitting a jake-gobble call once or twice accompany your yelps, clucks, and purrs may entice that dominant bird to silently come in to your decoy spread looking for a fight.
Thus, remaining still and limiting your movement is important. Always be scanning the horizon for turkeys to show up unannounced. If your showers are scattered, call more aggressively during times where the rain has let up.
This allows your calling to travel further as birds are moving around more during breaks in the rain. Gobblers may also become more vocal after the rain has stopped, so attempting a locator call, such as a crow call, during dry periods might also be productive to get that tom talking.
Fall Versus Spring
While the majority of turkey hunters are staunchly committed to the spring woods, fall turkey hunting has grown in popularity in recent years. While turkey hunting strategies in the spring revolve around the mating season, fall turkey hunting is concerned with breaking up flocks of turkeys and calling them back together.
If it happens to be raining on your fall turkey hunt, the admonition to keep your calls dry still applies, as a wet call is a poor mimic of a real turkey. Otherwise, because spring and fall turkey hunting tactics are so different, the strategy for fall hunting in the rain shouldn’t change much depending on the weather.
Make Your Memories
There’s no doubt that hunting turkeys during a spring shower can be greatly challenging. We might think of it as part of the mystique of the spring woods, where thunderstorms contribute to what makes spring so unique.
Many will tell you that there’s nothing quite like spring turkey hunting, and a little rain never made a turkey hunting experience less interesting, less exciting. If you are fortunate enough to take a bird in the rain, it will make the harvest just that much more satisfying.
As in anything else in life, repetition is the mother of skill. Mastering the rainy hunt will likely take time and experience, but I’d be willing to wager you won’t stay in bed anymore once you’ve taken your first thunderstorm bird.