Imagine that nice, warm, sunny day in either late Fall or early Spring. That dream hunting day. Now let’s hope you get it! More than likely you won’t. Most of the U.S. has seen massive rainfall this year and will probably happen again. Don’t let this kill your hunting trip!
First of all, we are going to take it as a given that you know where you are hunting and have done your due diligence. You have scouted and found a good spot with turkey sign. Rain or Shine, stick to your ground. At least in a broad sense.
Second, we are going to give the best universal rules we can. If there are exceptions, they will be noted but otherwise, we are going to assume behavior based on the largest portion of the country. There are too many ecosystems to take them all into account.
With that said, hunting turkey in the rain falls into two separate challenges. Taking care of yourself and your equipment comes first. Bagging a bird comes second.
Taking Care of #1
Some days turkey hunting are just blustery cold. If you add a little rain, you can quickly find yourself in a dangerous situation. Couple this with your equipment and you can run into problems that will take you out of the hunt.
So first: Dress appropriately.
- Use layers to stay warm and make sure your outer most layer is waterproof.
- Wear waterproof boots!
- Under layers need to wick moisture away from the skin. Consider a Merino Wool base layer.
- Consider a waterproofing spray like Atsko Silicone Water-Guard for non-waterproof clothing.
Any other woodland tricks to keep dry are well worth it. You should also consider hunting with a covered blind. This will make your day more productive and far more comfortable overall.
Next, we need to keep our gear in working order. There seems to be a stigma about taking a firearm out in the rain. With any modern firearm (made in the last 100 years or so), you will be fine. These guns are made to deal with bad weather. Even if your gun is older, a little rain isn’t going to kill it. Just make sure you disassemble your gun and clean it thoroughly before putting it away.
If you use a bow, the same will apply to any modern compound or crossbow. Just make sure any metal parts are cleaned. If you are hunting traditional, you may need to take some extra precautions. Give these a shot:
- Keep your bow unstrung until you are in your blind. Rain adds weight and can add stretch to your string.
- Make sure any traditional bow has a good waterproof coating and that it is in good order.
- Get familiar with your bow in the rain, take a few test shots to make sure it shoots correctly.
Usually, you will have nothing to worry about but any bow made of wood can absorb water and cause problems. If you use a mass-produced bow, you should be golden. If it’s a self-bow, it will need special care.
Calls deserve a special note. If you use a box call, keep it dry in a ziplock bag until you are set up. If you use a pot call, opt for a non-wood striker.
Bagging a Bird
Now for the exciting stuff! How do we get a turkey in the rain? How do they behave? This is where things can change around the country. There are no universals but I have used these guidelines in at least 14 states and had good success.
Location is always key with turkey. They are finicky animals at the best of times but rain makes them more predictable. Food will always be a concern but predation is what is utmost on a turkey’s little brain.
The woods in the rain are a dangerous place, especially for animals that rely on sight to stay safe. Rain obscures vision, makes plants move erratically, and can silence movement. All of these push turkey out of cover and into the open.
If you have a field with turkey sign, this is a good bet for where they will head when the rain comes down. They will have more room to see predators coming. Room they need since they will not be able to see as well.
This is true for most of the country but some areas, turkey may head into the woods. Generally, this only happens in wide, open hardwood forests. This still grants them room to see and keeps them out of the weather. Chances of taking a turkey from the woods like this are slim. Stick to the fields.
Decoys are just as effective in the rain as any other time. Just give the turkey a little more time to get there. They may be more hesitant to approach in bad weather.
When it comes to calling, listen to the birds around you. If they are calling frequently, do the same. If they call sparsely, follow suit or don’t call at all. Rain, especially with high winds or thunder will often cause gobblers to call more often. A cold, slow rain will often shut them up, at least until long after day-break.
Some other behavioral changes to note:
- Most rain will keep turkey on the roost longer. They want better light to see by before they come down.
- Turkey prefer lower vegetation during the rain to keep their feathers dry. Mowed fields are great!
- If rain clears up, turkey will stick to the fields later than normal to feed.
- Before rain comes, turkey can get sluggish. They pick back up about the time the rain starts.
- When the rain breaks, turkey may be more aggressive about feeding or mating. These are good opportunities. Especially if you stalk rather than use a blind.
While the rain is never a comfortable time to hunt, don’t let it sit you out. You are guaranteed to get more birds in the rain than you are sitting at home. Turkey season is short, take every advantage and hunt every moment. The true hunter is never put down by a few falling raindrops. If they were, our ancestors would have given up and became vegetarian.