No one likes to hear a gobbler hammering deep-throated gobbles as he saunters serenely all the way to the gun more than I do. It is one of the reasons I am so passionate about the sport of turkey hunting. It is the gobbled response to my calls, calls that make a gobbler think there’s a ‘lady in waiting’ just down the woods a bit and the gobbles that make me feel confident about my calling.
A lot of times, it happens just like that and all is right with the turkey hunting world.
But there’s another part of the sport that actually transcends the gobble and has become one of my favorite ways to harvest a turkey. It is something that is vastly overlooked by most hunters and it can be a very effective way to kill a turkey. While the gobble is what we yearn for during the spring hunting season, it is not always what we get. But even on days we don’t get the gobble, we can still get the gobbler.
There are countless times when mature gobblers approach a hunter’s calling without gobbling. For most hunters, they never know that gobbler was coming, or that he left the area sight unseen. In fact, how many times have you heard the oft repeated story that a hunter, who called from a particular location, waited a couple of minutes then moved off a couple hundred yards and again called. Then, and only then, did the longbeard gobble and the gobble was precisely where the hunter had been only minutes before? It is probably the most common story told by unsuccessful turkey hunters… well, other than simply missing the shot.
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Taking gobblers that do not gobble actually speaks extremely well about your calling and woodsmanship qualities. You may miss the adrenalin rush of a bird hammering at your calls. But if you have a game plan and understand what may be happening, you can still end the hunt with a gobbler slung over your shoulder and a grin plastered on your face.
But taking a gobbler that doesn’t gobble can require much from a hunter. It has become one of my most cherished victories in the sport of turkey hunting. To take a gobbler that doesn’t gobble back at your call, but does respond to those calls by slipping in, means you have to do everything right, and then some.
The good news is there are things you can do to stack the odds in your favor to get those silent gobblers. Plus, the other really good news is that very often it will be a long-spurred gobbler. He has been hunted and he is wary. But he may honor your calling and he can be had. You will, however, have to change your strategy.
Most veteran turkey hunters who have a reputation for consistently taking long-spurred gobblers have one thing in common. They kill gobblers that do not gobble. It is a very select and honored group to be a member.
The first rule for killing a gobbler that doesn’t gobble is to see if there is a gobbler that will gobble. I rarely, if ever, go into the spring woods before dawn hoping I don’t hear a gobble. But I have become prepared to deal with the situation in several ways when it happens.
First, go about your turkey hunting business as usual in terms of trying to elicit a gobble. My routine is fairly standard among turkey hunters using owl calls, tree calls then more aggressive clucks, cutts and yelps. If none of these elicit a gobble I have to make a decision and it’s usually based on experience and the confidence I have that gobblers are present in the woods I’m hunting.
If I’ve have seen plenty of turkey sign, have heard gobbles there recently and am confident that there are gobblers within hearing distance, then staying put for a while may be the best course of action. This is better if you heard even one gobble for any reason that morning. Even if the gobbler did not gobble to your owl call, tree call or fly-down calls, he may be an ideal non-gobbling candidate to kill and perhaps kill quickly.
I do not know why on some mornings gobblers simply do not gobble or gobble once for no apparent reason and then seem to get lock-jaw.