KILL A CANYON GOBBLER
THE TOUGHEST TOMS to tag can be those that hang out in vertical landscapes—the steep slopes of Western canyons or the corduroy country of Appalachia and the Northeast. Sometimes the terrain is so vertical, you can call a gobbler to 15 yards and still not see it. When you finally do, just his red head pops up, and the rest of the bird remains hidden by the hill. Canyon crossers are another challenge. A tom might roost on one side, fly down to the other, and climb the opposite rim to strut. In those cases, you may need to ford a creek and climb 500 feet to reach him.
The best way to circumvent turkey troubles in vertical country is to look for terrain features that can help you get the drop on incoming gobblers.
glass a rim strutter Gobblers will strut and preen in the woods and glades of canyon slopes, but often they hike up to the canyon rim and strut there, especially if it borders a pasture or crop field. You can watch for this from an elevated lookout. Use a good binocular and back it up with a spotting scope. In the West, we sometimes glass rim-edge turkeys from 2 or 3 miles away, usually from the opposite side of the canyon. Move in when you’ve identified a popular edge, either using the steep ridge to hide your approach from below or finding little creases and rivulets that can hide you if you need to drop in from above.
locate roosts Like turkeys everywhere, canyon toms have preferred roost sites—for a few nights in a row at least. Listen for gobbles in the evening or before dawn to pinpoint these places, then set up on the rim nearest the bird, uphill of the roost, and try calling him to you.
deke the bench Toms will walk and strut on steep ground, but they’re easier to see and shoot when they’re on flat ground. Most canyon walls will have a few meadows on benches or gentler south-facing slopes. Some are cut with old logging roads, which offer flat but narrow strutting zones. Set up a decoy on a sunny bench and call to the gobblers.