Last week we revealed the Best Days of the Strut—seven dates when you need to be out there (assuming your season is open)—and it’s just about time to kick things off. The first of our seven best days is this coming Sunday, April 2. If you’re not already planning to hunt, it’s time to make a plan, and we’ve lined up one of the country’s top gobbler hunters to help you. Mark Drury of Drury Outdoors hails from the Midwest, but he has hunted the Rio Grande turkeys of Texas and Oklahoma for three decades and picks Sunday as one of his favorite days to kick-start the year.

You’re not chasing Rios in the Southwest? No problem. The info and tactics Drury lays out below will work for any early-season gobbler, whether it’s an Osceola in Florida or a tight-lipped Eastern tom in the Deep south. For hunters in the Midwest and East, who are chomping at the bit to get going, just bookmark this page and follow Drury’s advice once your season opens and your birds are in a similar stage. So, let’s get the 2023 strut started.

The Pro: Mark Drury of Drury Outdoors

photo of Mark Drury with Texas gobbler
Mark Drury with a Texas longbeard. Drury Outdoors

Mark Drury has won more calling titles with his natural voice than most people ever hope to do with a mouth or friction call. Pairing with his older brother Terry, Drury put his calling and hunting talent to work when he created M.A.D Calls in 1989, and his Drury Outdoors brand has been a force in the hunting industry ever since. Drury has killed gobblers all over the map, but he counts on Texas as one of his favorite spots to kick off the annual spring gobbler hunt; he’s been tagging Rio Grande toms there for more than 30 seasons.

The Strut Stage: Early Breeding

When the season opens in his Texas hunting area, most Rios are just kicking off breeding, Drury told F&S. “It can sometimes appear that you’re actually ahead of the breeding, because it’s not unusual to see birds flocked up now. But that’s more a function of limited roosting habitat, at least where I hunt. There are so few trees that it forces birds to roost together in pretty big numbers, which in my experience makes the roost hunt pretty frustrating and low odds. There are just so many birds and so much happening. But after that gets sorted out, toms go off with available hens, and because it’s early in the breeding, it doesn’t take long, and there are enough gobblers without a hen that it can get really good, starting about mid-morning.”

Expert Tactic for April 2: Work the Midday Strut

photo showing how to turkey hunt with decoys
Drury uses either a strutter or jake decoy paired with a hen this time of year. John Hafner Photography

While Drury occasionally dives into the chaos of fly-down, most of his Texas turkey hunting success comes during late morning or early afternoon, when frustrated toms start looking for the next willing hen. “We kill most of our birds in that window from around 10 a.m. through 1 or 2 p.m.,” he said. “Rios are famous for having their track shoes on, so if you know some favored midday areas, it’s best to get ahead of them and be waiting there.” Drury’s camp focuses on known strut zones—which the birds are often faithful to year after year. “We’ll also hunt any green fields, just off cattle lots, and water if we can find it.”

In areas he knows well, Drury likes to set up with a strutter or jake decoy paired with a hen. If he’s running-and-gunning, he relies on a good compact binocular, and he works into the wind while he hunts. “Our area is pretty wide open country, and it’s important to glass ahead to spot birds before they spot you,” he said. “And working into the wind just lets you hear distant gobbles better. Never be afraid to use aggressive calling with Rios. It’s usually easy to call in hens—which drag gobblers with them—but you’ve gotta call hard and really lay it on ‘em. If you bring subtle techniques to Rio country, you’re usually on the outside looking in.”

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