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By Steve Bemke
Heartland Hunters Pro Staff

One common debate or question that comes up a lot is; do I run-and-gun, or set up a blind, and stay put? Is one method better at killing turkeys than the other? I’ll do my best to break it down. I want to preface that in the examples to follow, we’re assuming that we are hunting an area that we know turkeys inhabit; whether from pre-season scouting, roosting and locating the night before or hunting the same land that’s been handed down for generations.

Patience is a virtue, and when it comes to hunting turkeys, it has paid off more times than naught. When it comes to committing to a blind set-up, your patience will be put to the test. Some mornings, toms will be sounding off in every direction, other mornings they will be silent. When they are sounding off, it tends to be easier to stay in your set-up, however, it’s tempting to also get out and move closer to vocal birds. When the birds are silent, maybe from weather conditions or hens in the area, things can turn slow real quickly; and you begin to question if you are even in the right spot. Suddenly, taking a stroll along some ridgelines sounds a bit more advantageous.

Why you should stay put in either situation.

Concealment and Comfort – You’re much less likely to be seen, and a good chair to sit in beats the hard ground. Let’s face it, we’re not all 20 or even 30 something spring chickens anymore. Let’s also not forget, this is a huge plus when hunting with young, first timers as well.
Safety – Let’s be honest, public or private ground, you’re more likely to be involved in a hunting accident moving through the woods than staying put in your blind. Also important to think about when it comes to those future hunters again.
The Silent Threat - I can’t tell you how many times I have had toms come in dead silent, and being in a blind lead to a dead bird. Whereas, I’ve been burned in more than one situation, with my pants down (literally); getting picked off by a silent tom that I never knew was coming, when I wasn’t hunting in a blind.
Take Cover – Hunting turkeys in the rain is a lot more productive than a lot of hunter’s may think. Stay dry and be patient. They may not gobble much, but turkeys like the rain and the food it provides as a result.
Bookworm – A good book is great way to pass the time in the blind. Read a page, look-up and survey your surroundings, and so on. It passes the time when things get slow, and keeps the ants out of your pants so-to-speak. Grab a good hunting book like Tom Kelly’s Tenth Legion, and really get the full experience. If not your thing, there are always electronic devices. I won’t judge.

Of course the downsides of blind hunting can include: boredom can set in on slow days, birds may get hung up out of range and a change of calling location is needed, and having to haul your blind and chair along with your numerous hunting provisions to your location.

And then there is the complete opposite. Popularly known as, “run-and-gun.” You get a tom to answer you by using a turkey call or a locator call like an owl or crow call. Once you determine where the turkey gobbled, you move in his direction, set-up and try to call him the rest of the way in.

Why this is a good way to go.

It’s Tradition – Let’s face it, many hunters will argue you are not truly turkey hunting if you aren’t boot to ground and then getting nestled under a wide oak with a gun up on one knee and a call in hand. It’s a bigger challenge. It’s getting up close and personal when that tom struts into your set-up at 20yards, and there is nothing but tree bark behind you.
Take a Hike –You’re on the go and exploring your surroundings. You may stumble across a new morel honey hole or find a deer shed or two along the way. The scenery is always changing, breaking up the monotony of one location.

Hot or Not - Sometimes the birds you scouted out in your area, just aren’t feeling it that day. Maybe they are feeling a bit monogamous, who knows. By moving to a new area, you may find more receptive toms. I remember a few years ago, I shot a turkey on a magical opening day when the birds where gobbling at the drop of a hat. The next day, I sent my buddy over to that same spot to hunt. Only the activity had died down considerably. Just a mile away in the very area he hunted the day before, I was crappie fishing, and the birds would not shut up. I sent him a text mid-morning to drive back over, and an hour later he filled his tag.
Time – Let’s face it, some of us don’t have the time we would like to spend a full morning of turkey hunting. Maybe you only have a few hours to fit in. Expanding your search area and remaining mobile to find a receptive tom may be what it takes to close the door on a brief but successful hunt.

However, by being more aggressive, you risk bumping birds whether they are silent or not. A windy day or a hilly pasture can be deceptive in determining just how far a tom sounded off. It’s not a matter of if you will get burned, but when. If sitting still or sometimes being in uncomfortable situations isn’t your thing, think twice about hunting this way. It doesn’t take long to figure out how easily a turkey can spot your movement a football field away. In addition, how well can you sit still when a swarm of mosquitoes that eats Deet for breakfast engulfs you, or that little pebble you sat on didn’t bother you a minute ago, feels like a knife in your backside as a tom is working his way towards you.

The fact is, both options can be very effective. It comes down to preference or sometimes hunting situation. In recent years I have found myself being patient in the blind the first half of the morning, but then on the move the later part of the morning when the activity tends to heat up again and my tag is unfilled. Last year, it rained all morning, and I was hunting out of my blind. Around 9:30, I got a group of toms to answer once not too far away over a hill, but never to appear. A couple hours later, they answered again from the same location. I assumed they may be courting some hens and feeding in the next pasture over. So I left my blind and snuck to the top of a wooded ridge that sat above the pasture we were in. When I called from the ridge, they immediately answered. Within 10 minutes they closed the distance. Three toms came in with a couple of hens. I sat just 15 yards away as the lead tom strutted in and I filled my tag on a tough opening day hunt. Without a blind, I would never have stuck it out on that slow, cold, rainy morning. And with the toms being henned up earlier that morning when they first gobbled, the run-and-gun method could easily have backfired. This spring, go with whatever method you enjoy, but don’t be afraid to mix it up and try something new as it may either increase your success, or at least add to your arsenal of hunting tactics. Whichever you choose, if time allows, hunt a full day. Turkeys are active all day long, not just the first hours of the morning. I’ve killed more turkeys after ten o’clock than I have before eight a.m.

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