One of the frustrating parts of targeting gobblers is when birds lock up out of range. Next time that happens, try these turkey hunting tips to bring him to the gun.
By Heath Wood
As the 2016 spring turkey season drew near, my confidence level was through the roof. I had spent the previous three to four weeks scouting and listening for birds, and figuring out which path they would take once they flew down from the roost.
With a predictable pattern from a group of toms, I knew exactly where I was going to be on opening morning.
The first morning I made my setup with three toms gobbling on the roost exactly where they had been in the weeks prior. An old logging road connected a nearby underground pipeline to a wooded ravine where the toms had roosted, making for a perfect setup for calling them.
Once the gobblers flew down, I began making a few yelps. It wasn’t long until I witnessed movement coming over a hill. A line of hens led three gobblers past me and onto the next hill, never presenting a shot. Over the next week, I made many setups on the same gobblers.
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Each time I was either in the wrong place at the wrong time or in a battle with a multitude of hens.
The overflowing confidence level from before the season had changed to trying to find a way to close the deal. Even though I eventually filled my tags, it still amazes me how after only a few days of unsuccessful hunting, confidence quickly becomes nonexistent. However, there are some good tactics that can bring confidence back into play.
GET IN THE BUBBLE
One of the most aggravating moments for a turkey hunter is when a gobbler is coming to the call only to realize that he is sitting in the wrong spot because the shot can’t be made, or because the gobbler takes a different route, staying out of gun range.
To avoid that, make the first setup as close as possible when a gobbler is still on the roost. This is done so that when a gobbler flies off the roost he has fewer distractions.
A lot of hunters describe it as “the bubble” — an imaginary circle that often guarantees the bird will come in, as it reduces the chances of a hen stealing the gobbler away. Go into a stealth mode, and get inside that bubble.
Different Types of Turkey Calls
CALL TO THE HENS
Hens can be the turning point in bringing a gobbler those last few steps into gun range. Every turkey hunter has had a gobbler on its way, when a hen came in and took him away.
However, vocal hens can be beneficial when calling to a gobbler. Instead of calling to the gobbler, try calling to the hens by mimicking what the hens are saying.
When a gobbler has a lot of hens with him, I know that calling him away is going to be almost impossible.
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However, when this happens I stay quiet until I hear the first hen make a call. Once she begins, I do the exact call that she does. Many times this will make the dominant hen mad and she will try to find the upstart hen, which in turn brings the gobbler tagging along.
It is so easy to want to call when a tom sounds off with a gobble. However, staying quiet when he gobbles and only calling when other hens call will result in the discovery that a “henned-up” gobbler isn’t so bad after all.
MAKE DECOYS IRRESISTIBLE
Decoy placement is crucial to make them effective. A lot of hunters have decoys, however, they do not use a strategy when placing them, or don’t put them out at all. When placing decoys, I will use a half-strut jake, an upright hen and a feeding hen. I want a gobbler to see the decoys and want to come check them out so I place them where they are irresistible to a gobbler.
My favorite setup is putting the upright hen directly on the ground in a breeding position. Directly behind her I put the half-strut jake. This setup simulates a hen that is ready to breed. When a gobbler sees the jake in position to breed a hen, he will come into this setup ready to fight; this tactic obviously makes him come in quickly, without hesitating.
The feeding hen is usually placed 5 to 6 feet from the breeding pair. The only reason I place the third decoy is to draw more attention; at longer distances the third decoy provides a bigger grouping for turkeys to see. Remember to place decoys in an open area, such as a field, logging road, or on top of a hill. If turkeys can’t see them from a longer distance, it defeats the purpose.
One of the most talked-about tactics over the past few years is turkey reaping, also known as turkey fanning. This is when a fan from a strutting gobbler or a full-strut decoy is used to crawl toward a gobbler. While this can be effective, it can also be dangerous if not done properly.
Most turkey hunters have been in a situation where a gobbler is in an open field with other turkeys. And even after making every call known to man, the bird just won’t come in. That is the time for this tactic, but it is not my favorite. In fact, the only time I recommend trying this is on private land in an open field, and only with a partner for safety.
Turkey hunters are after gobblers so if not in an open area where other hunters can identify the target, the risk of another hunter mistaking you for a real gobbler increases dramatically. Reaping will work in the right situation; just be sure to think safety first.
One of the most frustrating moments in turkey hunting is putting in the scouting and getting up early every morning to hunt, only to come home empty-handed.
It is easy to blame an unsuccessful hunt on hard-to-hunt gobblers, or henned-up gobblers. By using these few turkey hunting tips your “hung-up” gobblers should become a thing of the past.