The two gobblers sounded off on the roost, and I responded with sleepy tree yelps. When they flew down, I softly repeated the tree yelps, then gave a short fly-down cackle followed by few yelps to assure them I was on the ground too. I purred to mimic a feeding hen, and offered a classic three-yelp series to suggest I wanted company. As they continued toward the field, a courtesy gobble answered my every call. Would I join them for a romantic breakfast of crickets?
Crickets don’t suit my palate, so I ignored the invitation. One bird gobbled when they got to the field, then they commenced feeding in the emerging clover. The morning dew kept the crickets and grasshoppers sluggish—easy pickings for turkeys.
No matter what call I tossed their way, nothing worked. Each time, one of them fanned out and gobbled, then went back to feeding. We repeated that charade five, six, seven or more times, and they stayed fixed in place like a filibustering congressman refusing to leave the podium.
What was I to do? I was running my homemade call, and I had sent every message I could send—multiple times—except one. I hadn’t tried the fighting purr. I was afraid it would scare them off to never-gobble land.
This went on for a half hour. It sure seemed like more. My mind tracked back to another hunt when gobbler was much closer, just out of sight down over the hill in front of me. He gabbed back at me for four hours but wasn’t gregarious enough to commit.
I thought of other gobblers that waited me out as I waited them out. It seems like the longer the conversation goes on, the less likely the gobbler gets a ride home in my truck. One of the things that makes turkey hunting frustrating is they have all day—but for me, I throw my hands up when both hands on the clock point straight up.
This time it was still early, but I was already at my wit’s end. With nothing to lose, I launched into the raspiest, snappiest, cacophoniest conglomeration of turkey sounds I could make. The kitchen sink was even in there. To my surprise, the strutter gobbled, folded his feathers, and both longbeards started running my way. I had read that other hunters were successful with the fighting purr. Before this I was always afraid to try it. Now, I can tell you it works.
They stopped at the edge of the field and the one bird gobbled and fanned out again, as if to say, “Look at me, honey!” They were at least 80 yards away, much too far for a shot. Would they come closer if I did it again?
Yes. He folded his feathers and both birds entered the woods. This time they stopped at 50 yards, across a steep ravine. Still too far.
I hammered out that raucous sound a third time. They hurried down into the ravine and I pointed my shotgun at the spot where they’d appear, 25 yards away. When I fired, one big bird became the load I carried out. The other safely lifted himself with powerful wings to gobble another day.
What did I learn? First, the fighting purr works. These birds are like junior high bullies. If they think “Hey, let’s check out the fight!” they come right in. Maybe to steal away a hen, maybe just to strut their stuff. It doesn’t always work, but when it works, It’s almost magic.
The second lesson? I have nothing to lose. How so? If I’m doing what I say I’m doing—hunting for the pure enjoyment of being out there, for the opportunity to interact with wildlife, for the refreshing sights and sounds of the spring woods—I’ll go home happy even if all I’m packing out is my unfired shotgun.
So, when turkeys get obstinate, hunt like you have nothing to lose. Try something that might be unconventional. Throw a call you might think is risky. Set up in a different spot. Give ’em the kitchen sink. Shut up and let ’em wonder. It won’t hurt a thing. And it might be a game changer.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He is a field contributor to Deer and Deer Hunting magazine, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.