Sleep in ... the toms will wait

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Photo courtesy of NATURE CONSERVANCY North Idaho’s spring general turkey hunt is coming to an end, but Panhandle hunters have until Saturday to fill their tag.

Late May gobbler hunting isn’t the same as chasing tom turkeys in the early season of North Idaho’s general hunt.

Early season hunters ride a wave of anticipation as they sneak into the woods before the sun and wait for tom and hen turkeys to squirt from roosting trees with a guttural squawk and fluttering of wings.

Hunters get wet from April snow showers and shiver as they wait for the first rays of sun to warm them and they whisper a mantra that says, hold on, because it’s just a matter of time before a tom glugs and drags his wings near the decoys.

But now it’s almost June, and Panhandle hunters who have not yet filled a turkey tag are eyeing the last few days of the North Idaho spring general turkey hunt that ends Saturday, and they are considering their options:

They can forget about it. Call it a year. Better luck next time.

They can rise and shine, camo up, hunt hard in the brisk, dewy dawn as they wait to lure a tom.

Or, they can do what Brandon Kron does.

“Sleep in, have a good breakfast and then go out and hunt,” Kron said.

Kron’s theory of late-season hunting may not line up with consensus, because it’s chill, unlike the wide-eyed enthusiasm that drives early season hunts.

But Kron’s mindset is really the only difference between him and April hunters.

“Everything else is pretty much the same,” Kron says.

That means Kron, who works at Black Sheep Sporting Goods, dons camo just like in the early season, he uses the same calls that produce the same yelps and purrs and gobbles, he slams out a decoy or two and he sits tight, but often he doesn’t sit for long.

“Once they come in, it happens fast,” Kron says.

His theory of late season hunting flies in the face of other professionals who promulgate that long-spurred toms, swinging a 9-inch beard, are harder to pound as the spring season winds down.

“They are more wary,” said biologist Jana Ashling in Lewiston.

Late May toms have been called, chased, spooked and possibly shot at for more than a month, and are therefore less likely to fall for any old trick. In addition, many hens are on the nest by late May and therefore toms may have moved on, and are harder to find. Climate also plays a part.

“Warm weather can shut it off,” Ashling said.

Persistent cold and rain may prolong the mating season if hens lose early broods, she said, and this season has been an odd one, at least in the Clearwater Region where Ashling lives.

“They are quieter and people have traveled farther,” to bag a bird, she said.

Kron heeds none of it.

His theory, one that consistently works for him, is that not all hens cycle the same, and so toms are greedily looking to mate with hens, especially in the late season as fewer hens look for toms. He will locate a tom by slamming a truck door, using an owl shock call or a gobble, prompting the tom to call back. Then he sneaks in fast and sits tight.

“That’s the ticket,” he said. “Closing the distance.”

When the decoys are in place and hunters have found a good vantage, Kron says, it’s time to start calling.

“I’ve harvested most of my birds in the late season,” Kron said.

Even though he sleeps in.

“I never liked hunting them the first thing in the morning,” he said. “By afternoon, the toms are split up and they are doing their own thing.”

That’s when they are easier to bag, he said.

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