By Steve Hickoff
Find it. Sit near it. Wait.
While scouting one Vermont spring afternoon (legal shooting hours closed at noon), I found turkeys for the next morning’s hunt: three gobblers and four hens in the exact center of a huge farm where I had landowner permission.
A sanctuary of sorts, they lingered there the rest of the afternoon. By studying the lay of the land, I determined a setup within range of that strut zone was possible the next morning. Finding the strut zone paid off.
Yes, I called a little, but I don’t honestly think my yelping mattered much. I actually needed a wheelbarrow, with one no-longer-strutting gobbler in my vest, and another on my shoulder (legal in Vermont). They’d returned to the same location.
Sounds simple right? For starters, try to locate the roost site first. Study the surrounding terrain. Figure out the dominant gobbler’s favored pattern of movement in this habitat. Hens may influence it. This understanding may lead you to that strut zone: the gobbler’s center stage.
Basically a strut zone is a place where a gobbler feels comfortable strutting for nearby hens — either visually present or those yet to show up.
In my experience this location is sometimes slightly elevated (by analogy it’s not unlike a theatrical presentation), and the strut zone often provides a 360º panorama for the gobbler; that is when the full fan isn’t obscuring the turkey’s broad view. Strut zones vary geographically.
The strut zone can be a forested opening, the kind of place Eastern big-woods wild turkeys establish their presence in. It can also be a high ridge in the middle of a northeastern Kentucky pasture where I once saw a full-fan gobbler with several hens, isolated and safe for the moment with a view on all sides. Approach that strutting spot? Forget it by daylight.
A strut zone might be a dry island in the center of a gator-filled swamp inhabited by a lone Osceola longbeard like the one I once watched framed by water on all sides. Nope, never did kill that turkey. It might be no bigger than a golf course’s putting green, much like the cliff-sided shelf where I once dropped a strutting Wyoming Merriam’s. In Texas, I’ve seen Rios select flat runway-like patches of habitat bordered by prickly pear and live oaks.
Think like a turkey. Find that strut zone, whatever terrain it includes. Set up nearby within gun or bow range. You might be carrying a gobbler home later that day.