Last year I had something strange happen while hunting for spring turkey. After an unproductive morning, my partner and I walked down a road after lunch and set up on a hillside. It was a warm afternoon and we were doubtful about our success but we decided to sit and see what happened.
After about an hour of unproductive calling, we were about ready to give up when off in the distance we heard a faint gobble. After few more scratches on the slate call, the tom seemed to be coming closer and we got excited. Along with the return gobble, we heard what sounded like a very annoyed hen. She became more boisterous the closer they got.
The tom finally decided to come close enough for me to get a shot and in an instant, he was down. That darn hen stayed right by us for about 45 minutes before she wandered back into the woods. I later learned what we had done and it all had to do with our calling technique.
There are a few general rules for calling that have worked well over the years for me. It all has to do with the disposition of the flock and subtle changes in calling methods often make a big difference.
In the first scenario, you get an immediate call back from the tom. After a few calls, he seems to be working in but suddenly he decides to veer off. Chances are that you are calling too loudly as he approaches and he clues in to you. Turkey are very smart and spook easily. Try calling very softly and then follow it up with some purrs. You can even scratch leaves where you are sitting. He is apt to calm down and come to investigate.
I’ve had a lot of experience with the second scenario and it definitely tests your patience. You get an immediate gobble but the tom seems to be wandering back and forth, coming closer then moving from side to side but staying a safe distance away. You know he’s near, you can’t quite see him but he’s not leaving. This is the “free strut” tom and he’s just wandering around trying to get a date. I’ve sat and called for an hour and he never came in. This is when you need to start moving up on him. Chances are slim that you’ll be able to trick him but if you’re really patient and stealthy, you might catch his curiosity.
The next scenario always makes me mad but it happens frequently and I’ve spent lots of time trying to get dinner to no avail. You get a gobble and you hear a bunch of hens yelping. The more you call, the more the hens yelp and all of a sudden the sounds get more distant. You decide to move up and the same thing happens. After a couple of hours, you realize that the darn hens are leading the tom away from you. Time to give up, go have a beer and come back later if you’re still under the legal limit.
The last scenario has only happened to me once, (the experience I talked about at the beginning) but still happens. The hen that stayed around after the tom was down was the boss hen and we managed to piss her off. looking back, we did everything right to get the tom to come in.
What made the difference was that my partner sat and mimicked every sound that the hen made and the more he mimicked her, the more pissed off she became. At first we didn’t realize what happened but it was very clear that she was in a call off with my partner.
Remember that the tom will stay with the hen and if you get an aggressive hen coming in, try to outcall her and mimic every sound she makes. She will lead the tom right to you. It worked for us!
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