To Call or Not to Call

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 13, 2010

Or you are dealing with a gobbler that seldom answers calls. Some toms are like this. Often, they are older birds. They still might work in to calling, but often they do so silently, and it might take hours.

When you have competition with hens. This is a common problem for turkey hunters. A gobbler answers your calls eagerly, both in the roost and when he flies down, but hens quickly join him. A gobbler with three or four hens around him is tough to budge. His interests are satisfied. But there is a possible answer to this problem: try to call in the hens. If you call in the hens, the gobbler might follow.

Hen turkeys, like jakes and gobblers, have a pecking order—a sense of who is boss. If your calling functions to confront the dominant hen, she might come in to challenge the upstart, with the gobbler in tow. What calls work to prod a dominant hen? Loud, aggressive calls work best. If a hen answers back, cut off her calls—call before she is finished making hers. If she approaches, be ready. The tom might not be far behind.

To draw in another gobbler after the shot. Sometimes more than one gobbler comes into your calling. If you are hunting with a buddy, and two toms work into range at the same time, you both might walk out of the woods toting turkeys. But often, when two or more birds work in, one comes within range before the others. In this situation, directly after the shot, loud, aggressive calling might settle the other birds down and quickly draw them in. Turkeys typically don’t associate gunfire with humans. It’s simply a loud noise. Immediately after the shot, loud, aggressive calling, simulating a turkey fight, will sometimes draw another tom back into shooting range.

To stop a gobbler and make him stretch to look. When everything works as it should—a gobbler answers your calls and approaches to within good shotgun range—you need an ideal shooting opportunity. That’s a gobbler standing still, in the clear, looking with neck stretched. Shooting at a tom while it is walking is a bad idea. While tracking a walking turkey as you look down your shotgun’s barrel, it’s easy to overlook brush that might ruin a shot pattern. Moreover, as a turkey walks, it bobs its head, making that target far easier to miss. For the perfect shot, you look to where you want the turkey to stand before you squeeze the trigger. When the turkey arrives at that point, you make one last call—a loud putt or alarm call to stop him.

Every Hunt is Unique

The calling tips shared in this article are important turkey-hunting principles. Yet with turkey hunting, seldom does a principle always apply or prove infallible. Turkey hunting plays out with seemingly limitless variation in hunting situations. Through experience—time spent in the turkey woods—you learn to modify hunting strategies to accommodate these situations. It’s one reason why turkey hunting offers a lifetime of challenge and fascination.

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