Sometimes one sweet note from your turkey call is all it takes to make that ole gobbler puff-up and sprint straight in on a dead run. Then there are those other times when it seems like you can’t persuade him to budge an inch regardless of what you try.
Let’s face a cold-hard truth; safe and conservative hunting strategies aren’t always your best bet when dealing with hard-to-handle longbeards that don’t play fair. If you find yourself facing tough hunting conditions and stubborn turkeys during the spring season, try breaking-away from conventional tactics and hit them with something bold, daring and a little more aggressive.
Crowd the Roost
Playing it safe and setting up too far away from the roost can be a major mistake, especially when hunting henned-up gobblers. During the early segments of the season, longbeards will often roost with multiple hens and this can be an absolute nightmare for turkey hunters. After the early-morning fly-down, there’s a good chance the ladies will get jealous of your calling and lead the gobbler off in the opposite direction.
In this notorious situation, go into stealth mode and sneak as close as you can to the actual roost. If you utilize the terrain and carefully plan your route, it’s possible to get into a good calling position before daylight without bumping turkeys. Once you’ve setup, allow the longbeard to start gobbling on his own from his roost before hitting him with some soft tree yelps and purrs to make contact.
Depending on the terrain and visibility, you may even want to throw a fly-down cackle at him and frantically beat your hat against your chest to add some realism to the setup. A well-placed hen or half-strut jake decoy might also be enough to pull him straight off the limb and into close range.
Challenge a Hen
When lovesick longbeards are surrounded by multiple hens, it can be almost impossible to convince him to break away from his harem. However, it is possible to call aggressively and get the lead hen fired-up and agitated. If you’re able to hit a jealous nerve with your calling, you might be able to pull the boss hen and the entire flock straight to your setup. The trick is to mock the boss hen by matching her call for call, but try to be louder and more assertive to really ruffle-up her feathers.
When mocking or challenging a hen, occasionally interrupt her right in the middle of her calling sequence. It’s also not a bad idea to setup a single hen decoy, especially if you’re hunting fields or open woods. This gives the hen a visual confirmation and helps takes the focus away from you. On approach, expect the longbeard to be strutting and following the boss hen extremely close.
Stage a Fight
Utilizing calls simulating the sounds of an intense fight can be a deadly calling strategy for tough tom turkeys, but you need to be ready to shoot in a hurry. Gobblers and hens will often run directly to this type of calling, which means you should be in a shooting position to minimize movement. It’s also important to exercise extreme caution and safety when using any call that replicates gobbling.
The key is to use a combination of calls simultaneously to make the fight sound authentic. A variety of friction-type calls can reproduce the loud sounds of fighting purrs and agitated yelps. Running a mouth-diaphragm call or a tube-style gobble call at the same time will enable you stage an authentic-sounding brawl that is sure to get the attention of any nearby turkeys in the area. Setting up a full-strut gobbler and half-strut jake in plain view is a good idea to help get the focus off of you when curious birds are rapidly approaching.
Fan Out and Get Close
One of the most exhilarating techniques to deal with uncooperative turkeys is to apply a super aggressive spot-and-stalk strategy. Once you’ve spotted a henned-up gobbler or nonresponsive longbeard, utilize a full turkey fan or full-strut decoy to slowly move into shooting range. With this daring technique, you’ll need to hide behind the decoy or tail-fan to shield your presence and movement. It’s also important to keep constant eye contact on the gobbler to read his body language and reaction.
In many cases, the gobbler will swell-up and run straight toward the intruder ready to spur-up and throw-down. This is why it’s so crucial to keep a close eye on the longbeard and be ready to shoot at a moment’s notice. With an extra-full choke, you better take good aim and gently squeeze the trigger, because the super tight pattern of your shotgun is almost like making a head-shot with a rifle at close range. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to switch over to a modified choke when using this up-close and personal strategy.
Hunter safety is another major concern that should be considered with this technique. Always exercise extreme precaution and you may want to add a little orange on the decoy, tail-fan, or your body to alert other hunters.
With turkey hunting, it’s really easy to get complacent and stick to textbook strategies which are conservative and ultra-safe. For good reason, this train of thought obviously fills tags and has a pretty good track record. However, when things get tough during the season; don’t be afraid to take risks, push the envelope, and attack longbeards with aggressive strategies that will create shot opportunities when all else fails.