Best Day of the Turkey Strut: May 15

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While spring turkey seasons are either over or winding down in the South, there’s still plenty of good hunting to be had in the Midwest and the Northeast. In fact, this week—Wednesday, May 15th to be exact—is our next expert’s pick for the Best Day of the Strut. Vermont turkey fanatic Brett Ladeau says gobblers should still be highly active this week, and birds that might have been difficult a couple weeks ago (read dominant toms that have been henned up) should be increasingly vulnerable as hens focus on laying eggs and sitting on nests.

While seasons in Ladeau’s native Vermonth are two weeks old, the woods hold fewer hunters as tags are filled or attention is turned to other spring-time pursuits. “I hunt a lot of ground that’s open to anyone, and while there may be fewer toms to chase by the middle of the seasaon, most any bird I hear I can go after without worrying about interference,” he tells F&S. “And that just translates into a more enjoyable hunt and one that’s frequently also successful.” Here’s why Ladeau singles out May 15th, plus his best advice for filling your tag.

Related: Best Turkey Shoguns for 2024 Season

The Pro: Brett Ladeau, Vermont

Ladeau with a big northeastern gobbler. Brett Ladeau

Vermonter Brett Ladeau has been hunting turkeys since 1997, a 27-year career that has been marked by a passion that has only grown with each season. In addition to receiving the Roger Latham Award for his volunteer efforts for the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Ladeau is a competition caller that specializes in box and friction call categories.

The Strut Stage: Post Peak Breeding

While gobblers will continue to breed any available hens for as long as those hens are willing, the main pulse of the annual breeding cycle has passed. While hens can be a factor in any hunt, their tendency to affect a hunt by leading gobblers away is diminishing by the day. At this point in the season, the odds of hens roosting away from gobblers are increasing, as are the odds of hens leaving gobblers early to sit on their nests. The result is the same in both cases: lonely gobblers looking for company.

Expert Tactic for May 15: Get Tight to a Roosted Tom

The old saw “roosted ain’t roasted” is undeniably true, but Ladeau insists that now is the perfect time to kill a gobbler right at fly-down. “Due to the breeding cycle, toms are less likely to be roosted right with hens,” he says. “Even better, the foliage is really progressing here in the northeast, and that allows me to slip much closer to the roost. In my experience, the tighter you can get to a roosted bird, the less chance there is of something going wrong. I want to be the first hen that tom hears in the morning, and I don’t want him to have to walk very far to find me.”

How close is close? “I like to be about a step-and-a-half away from bumping the bird,” Ladeau laughs. “Typically I can get within 70 or 80 yards in the right situation. If I can get a bird roosted the night before, that’s a huge step in knowing right where I’ll need to be at flydown, and I like to go out in the evening and owl hoot or cutt on a box call to get one to sound off.”

A tom turkey roosts on the branch of a huge Douglas fir tree.
Our expert looks to get super-tight to a roosted tom this time of year. John Hafner Photography

Ladeau is not afraid of getting up early. “If I can get one to answer and I’m confident I know his location, I’ll be there two hours before shooting light and set up. If I don’t have a bird roosted, I go to known roost sites. While Easterns aren’t as faithful to specific sites as some subspecies, I do know several spots here that, while not a guarantee, are as close to a sure thing as I can find.”

A gobbler that Ladeau called up for his daughter Sydney last spring is a perfect example, he says. “That bird was roosted on a point with a mix of oak and hemlock, one of my go-to spots if I haven’t put a bird to bed the night before. It’s a ridge end protected from the wind and with several nice flats for toms to fly down to. We snuck in there and I owl hooted with my natural voice–I’m not that great, but turkeys gobble at me–and one sounded right off.” Ladeau and Sidney slipped onto one of those flats, and were tight to the roost when they set up.

Once settled, Ladeau gave a few soft tree yelps, and the tom responded right away. “I could tell he was interested. I like to film hunts, so I was recording his gobbling then decided it’d be awhile until he flew down so I shut the camera off.” Suddenly, Sydney turned to her Dad and whispered, “I think I saw him fly down!”

“I quickly turned the camera on and called, and sure enough he was on the ground. After a few more yelps and gobbles I could hear him spit and drum, and then that white head appeared. Sydney shot him at 15 yards, and I’m convinced getting that tight to him made everything happen. We were the first hen he heard, and he didn’t have to walk far to find us.”

Read Next: Best Turkey Calls for the 2024 Season

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