If hunters out West waited for good weather to go hunting in spring turkey season, they might not set foot in the woods. I don't know how many turkeys we've taken over the years in the rain, but I can say it's 100-percent more than we've shot while staying home.
While rain isn't the most comfortable of conditions to hunt in, it presents some great hunting opportunities. Mainly, rain quiets the forest floor and helps hide movement.
Early in my turkey-hunting career, I used to believe turkeys hated the rain and ran for cover anytime a raindrop fell. But the country I hunted was big timber interspersed with oaks.
In some of the Rocky Mountain states, I spent most of my time in areas with big trees and low growing Russian olive and willow groves. In these areas the habitat limited visibility which made it difficult to interpret what was really going on.
As I began hunting turkeys in other, more open habitats, I found that when rains fell, the birds simply hunkered down in the open. A turkey's waterproofing system is surprisingly efficient for an upland bird its size. They like the open as they can more easily keep an eye out for approaching danger.
If huddled in the brush, falling rain causes foliage to move and impedes their vision, making it tough to decipher predators. Today, the majority of turkeys I see during heavy rains are in the open or along the fringes of openings, places I love to hunt when it's wet.
My favorite condition to hunt in on rainy days is when there are sporadic breaks in the weather and the sun briefly pops out. During these quick breaks, turkeys often ignite in aggressive behavior, complete with fighting, gobbling and breeding. These are great situations for calling call.
As the blue sky closes and the birds start to shut down with another approaching rainstorm, move in fast and offer some hen chatter. Often, the toms will remain interested, even when the rain starts to fall.
When it's raining and temperatures drop, that's when the birds really shut down.
My best success in these situations has come by way of spot-and-stalk, a great approach to use out West, where I've gone entire seasons and not seen another hunter afield.
These don't have to be early morning hunts, as the birds usually leave the roost later than usual when such conditions prevail. When it's raining hard, I've seen birds stay in the roost up to two hours longer than usual, though that's more the exception than the rule.
If a rainstorm subsides prior to darkness, I think turkeys will keep feeding longer than usual before going to roost in an effort to gather food they missed getting during the day.
If there's thunder in the hills, this can be one of the best times to locate birds, as toms often shock gobble with each boom.
When the barometer is falling, turkey movement slows and they'll often find a place and hold tight. As soon as that barometer starts to level out or begins to rise, get out there, even if it's raining.
When it rains, don't be afraid to hit the woods. What you'll learn about turkeys, and how tough the really are, might impress you.
Besides, you can't fill a tag sitting at home.