Skip to main content

Turkeys After Rush Hour

Three ways to stay in the game for gobblers.

Turkeys After Rush Hour

It’s still turkey season in many places. Here are some late-season tips to bag a tom. (Shutterstock image)

Turkey hunters have a passion for the first hour of morning hunting but the result is frequently a “fly-down flyaway” rather than “fly-down and get the shot” scenario. It may be the gobbler doesn’t respond to the calls, he gets henned-up or just sets off on a mission elsewhere that simply doesn’t involve you. Don’t take it personally; it’s what longbeards do.

After the initial “rush hour” of roost hunting ends, proven strategies exist for coping with gobblers later in the morning. While no turkey hunting technique is foolproof, here are ways to keep you in the game for longbeards on the property you hunt.

DEALING WITH HENS

A common unsuccessful end to a roost hunt is a gobbler moving off in the company of real hens, even if it seems you have him on a string and he’s gobbling every breath. Part of the problem can be that you’ve convinced the hens he’s with that you are a hen — and hence their competition. When a gobbler is suddenly surrounded by multiple live hens, clucking and yelping within his sight, most hunters have more than met their match.

All may appear lost in that moment when hens arrive, but actually you’re still in the game.


>> Click here to subscribe to Game & Fish

One of the first tactics is to make a move to pique his interest. If the gobbler walks off with the hens, pinpoint where they go. That’s usually not difficult because he’ll often still be gobbling, even at your calls. If you’ve scouted the area and know the land you can make a move and put yourself in the better position. Gobblers have areas they prefer, such as strut zones, and if you can get to one of these places you have a chance to call him off the hens. Use a crow call to elicit gobbles to ensure you know his position until you reach the targeted place.


Then use hen calls, beginning with subtle sounds and getting progressively more aggressive if required.

If raising the stakes by using aggressive calling doesn’t get him to approach, it may upset a boss hen and that’s almost as good.

If a boss hen gets truly annoyed with your calling she may respond with aggressive calling of her own. If she does, give it right back to her and up the ante by mimicking her calls aggressively. A sharp sounding slate or a piercing mouth call seems to rile hens up.

This can be an incredibly exciting method because if she comes looking for you to settle the feud the entire flock, with gobbler in tow, will likely approach. Be careful with your own movement if that happens; a lot more turkey eyes are looking for you.


WALK AND CALL

Multiple versions of “walk and call” exist and another popular version is referred to as “run and gun.” In these strategies, basically the same principle applies — a hunter moves around calling, attempting to elicit a gobbled response. The walk and call is literally what it says, while the run and gun typically means a fast-paced approach. Run and gun may involve using a vehicle to move quickly to potential hotspots. It’s a matter of your style and how much property you have at your disposal.

I love the walk and call method. As exciting as hunting birds off the roost can be, walking and calling is my most successful way to kill a gobbler. When the roost hunt ends unsuccessfully I may leave that gobbler and seek another. The first bird will still be in play later and I’ll come back to catch him after the hens are gone if I haven’t tagged one before then. After the hens leave he’ll be much more susceptible to calling.

In the meantime, I’ll slip through the woods quietly, often using an old logging road for stealth or work from a ridge top to have better listening posts. I move slowly, listening for any natural turkey sounds. It’s common to hear a turkey gobbling without you having to call at this time of the morning, and that’s one that may be eager to respond to your calls. If that doesn’t occur, I’ll stop about every 200 yards and I’ll slip behind some form of cover and make a couple series of calls. The first series will be a subtle run of yelps with clucks and purrs often with a mouth call. If that gets no response, I’ll use a friction call to send out louder yelps and even cutts.


>> Read more about Turkey Hunting

If no immediate response occurs wait an extra minute or so before moving. Often a gobbler will hammer back immediately. But occasionally he’ll simply walk into view without gobbling. If I’m already walking when the gobbler shows up silently, the bird almost always wins.

If I see the gobbler before being made, that’s a significant edge in my favor. At this point it’s truly the one-on-one matchup turkey hunters live for. But often when I first see him he’s already in range.

My theory is that a gobbler that’s close may gobble, but he’s also very prone to simply walk in unannounced. He’s already close and willing to come the rest of the way, so from his point of view there’s no need to gobble. On the other hand, if he’s some distance away he might be more motivated to gobble to let the hen know he’s interested.

As I course through the woods, I’ll use most of the calls in my arsenal, varying them at each stop. I’ll use an assortment of mouth, slate, box, scratch, push-pull and tube calls. Each call has distinct sounds and on certain days for specific gobblers one of those calls may ring his bell when the others don’t.

For the “run and gun” scenario the technique is essentially the same except you’ll cover much more territory. Many hunters with ample property at their disposal will move via vehicle from one tract to another, stopping and calling at good listening posts.

THE BUDDY SYSTEM

Often two calls are better than one and the buddy system actually has two advantages. First, the sound of multiple hens is deadly on a solitary gobbler.

This works whether you’ve set up at place where gobblers frequent, such as natural feeding areas or a food plot, or one of the hunters strikes a gobbler. It’s best if both hunters know exactly where the other is located. My turkey hunting buddy and I like to be close enough to be in sight for safety reasons as well as to communicate by hand signals. We’ll alternate calls, using different types of calls, with soft and subtle sounds at first. If that doesn’t produce, then one will elevate the calling and we’ll often mimic hens fighting, literally cutting one another off.

When we get a gobbler headed our way we’ve already set parameter on who takes the shot based on the turkey’s approach angle. If two hunters work in unison and are not greedy, this method is lethal on mid-morning gobblers.

A second advantage is on a hung-up gobbler. If a bird responds but will not approach, one of the hunters can begin to slip away, calling as they go. It’s crucial for the slipping away caller to continue to listen for gobbles and keep the turkey and shooter in as much of a direct as line as possible.

Often this is more than a mature gobbler can stand and he’ll make his move. He may approach gobbling and the shooter will know he’s approaching. But if he’s been gobbling then suddenly gets quiet, he’s likely on his way and the shooter needs to be eagle-eyed. Odds are good the bird will walk very close to the shooter on his trek to the caller.

In this “win-win” turkey hunting strategy etiquette calls for the shooter to buy the caller breakfast.

If all this doesn’t produce, go back to where it all began and give that fly-down gobbler another try. If he’s in the area and the hens are gone, he may be eager to hook up with another hen.

When you can, get in the woods before dawn and hunt birds off the roost. But if you can’t make it early or don’t kill that rush-hour bird, the rest of the morning can provide exceptionally good hunting.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Tackle Test 2020: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel

Tackle Test 2020: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel

Tackle Test 2020: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel

Daiwa J-Fluoro Samurai Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Daiwa J-Fluoro Samurai Fluorocarbon Fishing Line

Pro angler Cody Meyer calls Daiwa's J-Fluoro Samurai the best fluorocarbon he's ever fished. Meyer spoke with In-Fisherman associate publisher Todd Ceisner as part of the 2020 ICAST New Fishing Gear Guide.

Bowfishing from the Bank (Video)

Bowfishing from the Bank (Video)

There aren't many better ways to spend a summer night than skewering fish in the shallows.

Penn Battle III Spinning Reel

Penn Battle III Spinning Reel

Jeff Weakly talks with Mike Rice, Product Manager at PENN Reels about the relaunch of the Penn Battle III Spinning reel.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? You'll need a cartridge that lives up to the expectations demanded at ranges up to and beyond 500, 600 or even 1,000 yards. Try these different loads until you find the one that thumps steel at long ranges consistently.10 Best Long-Range Rifle Cartridges Ever Made Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Rifle Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? You'll need a cartridge that lives up to...

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies can be profound, even when fishing the same lake or river.How to Catch Catfish Day and Night Fishing How-To

How to Catch Catfish Day and Night

Terry Madewell

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies...

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish time after time.10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About Catfish

10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About

Anietra Hamper

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish...

See More Trending Articles

More Turkey

A tom's response sometimes tells you what they're doing and—if you listen closely.Read What a Turkey is Gobbling About Turkey

Read What a Turkey is Gobbling About

Paul Rackley - April 24, 2020

A tom's response sometimes tells you what they're doing and—if you listen closely.

A thorough knowledge of the travel patterns is key to success.Don't Make These Turkey Ground Blind Mistakes Turkey

Don't Make These Turkey Ground Blind Mistakes

Al Raychard

A thorough knowledge of the travel patterns is key to success.

Midwestern turkey hunters and others are hitting the woods. So are a variety of harmful tick species.Tick Talk: What You Need to Know Pre-Hunt Conservation & Politics

Tick Talk: What You Need to Know Pre-Hunt

Patrick Durkin - May 14, 2020

Midwestern turkey hunters and others are hitting the woods. So are a variety of harmful tick...

The wild turkey is a triumph of conservation efforts in the U.S. But, while populations decline in the East, flocks have often become nuisances in the West. What's next?Next-Generation Turkey Management Turkey

Next-Generation Turkey Management

Andrew McKean - May 14, 2020

The wild turkey is a triumph of conservation efforts in the U.S. But, while populations...

See More Turkey

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now