Pittsburgh-area hunters plan around rain for spring turkey season

John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Outdoors

PITTSBURGH — Wild turkeys are often given too much or too little credit. Their ability to perceive the world around them is seen as nearly magical, or they are considered dumb animals with brains the size of a pea.

There's no magic in a gobbler's ability to see a finger twitch at 100 yards, no absence of intellect in being startled when a supposed hen responds to a low-toned cluck and soft purr with an inappropriate fly-down cackle.

The truth is, wild turkeys are very good at being wild turkeys. Spring gobbler season opened Saturday, and turkey hunters are planning through predictions of rain for much of the next week.

The issue doesn't concern the common myth that turkeys drown by looking up at the rain and opening their beaks — they don't. It's how gobblers respond to the instinctual mating urge in wet weather and how hunters can use that to their advantage,

Turkeys are put at a disadvantage when their natural defensive abilities are restricted. When they can't see as clearly in a rainstorm or hear as well when every leaf is being struck by raindrops, they maximize defensive skills by getting out of the forest and putting some open-field distance between them and predators.

In the rain, hunters should set up as deep into pastures as possible without giving away their position. Understand that the soil underneath soaked fields forces bugs and grubs above the surface, where they become easy pickings.

Gobblers don't have to call in a harem when hens are already gathered, or are gathering, on muddy farm roads and wet lowlands to find food. When the rain is falling, and especially when the rainstorm is making the most racket, hunters should keep calling to a minimum and find comfort in knowing they've set up in the right place and at the right time.


The National Wild Turkey Federation concedes that most hunters want to stay indoors in wet conditions, but it offers some tips for those who recognize the advantages brought on by rain.

Rain gear will keep hunters dry but that won't help when shiny plastic reveals their positions. Keep covered using non-reflective materials.

Slate and box calls don't work as well when they're wet. Diaphragm calls and waterproof slate strikers made of plastic or carbon work best. Some companies sell calls with waterproof coating on the lid.

Popup blinds can be heavy and hard to carry, but they're worth their weight in inclement weather.

Quietly move to a new location when it's raining hardest and the birds can't tell a footfall from a shaking bush. When the rain stops or slows, the hunter can be set up in a new blind.

Avoid lightning storms for obvious reasons, but thunder often triggers toms to gobble. The advantage moves to the hunter when longbeards give away their location. It's great to be the only hunter in a particular neck of the woods, but for safety don't bank on the isolation. Hunters who stay put in the rain can present a danger.

(c)2024 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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