Spring turkey hunters are itching to get into the woods and call that grand game bird. Calling a spring gobbler is exciting because the hunter gets an adrenaline charge from the time of the first gobble on the limb to the time he pulls the trigger.
At the start of every hunt, the hunter has the same mental image. His mind’s eye and ear plays the drama as he expects it to happen. The big bird gobbles incessantly on the limb. His broad wings pound the air as he drops to the ground. He screams out another gobble, the hunter makes his best effort to sound like a pretty little hen, and the gobbler struts into shotgun range. When he closes to about 30 yards, and stretches his neck hoping to see that inviting hen, “Boom”!
I’ve even written a few Haiku poems to describe the hunt. Here’s one of them:
Stubborn hen won’t move
I’ll go to her, just this once
Boom. Life is over.
The trouble is, it’s usually the gobbler that’s stubborn and won’t move. We throw every call we can make at him. He won’t budge, and the hunt doesn’t end the way our minds play it.
Why doesn’t he come? The first reason — the natural order is for the hen to go to the gobbler, and we’re trying to reverse that. Then there’s the conventional wisdom. Perhaps he has been called to from that spot before — and got stung by a load of Number 6 shot. Or maybe he has hens with him — he’s not going to leave a sure thing for a hen he can’t even see. Or maybe some obstruction is in his way — he doesn’t want to cross a ravine, or a fenceline, or a logging road.
We tend to settle on one of those, but the reasons he won’t come are many. Here are six more:
- Most gobblers are not the dominant bird in the flock, so we’re usually calling to a sub-dominant tom. By the time turkey season rolls around these birds have had plenty of good times and bad times. Some of those sub-dominant birds have been beaten up by the boss. They act like the junior high kid who enters the lunch room, checks out where the bully is, and stays as far away as he can.
- Turkeys often prefer certain spots where they can see and be seen, hear and be heard. That’s where they like to meet hens. He expects any hen calling to him to meet him there, so he’s wondering why you don’t come to him.
- Turkeys hear a lot better than we do, so maybe he hears a hen you don’t hear. Maybe he’s in his favorite meeting place. Maybe he expects her to show up.
- Like people, turkeys have personalities. Or gobbler-alities (which are harder to psychoanalyze than personalities). Maybe he’s one of those guys who is all talk and no action. He’s the guy with the big mouth who never follows through.
- We tend to think that when turkey season starts the breeding begins, but he has spent weeks in the company of hens. Maybe he’s a little tired of the action. (Yes, hard to believe, but true.)
- Calling turkeys is always a balancing act. Some turkeys like aggressive sounds, some like quiet calls, some respond well to lots of calling, some to very little calling. It might be no more complicated than learning how that gobbler likes you to talk to him.
The good news is that when a gobbler won’t close the distance to your calling, there’s always tomorrow. Actually, spring gobbler season has about 30 tomorrows. So if he talks a good talk, have hope. You know where he is, and you can try again. Use what he taught you, set up a little differently, and maybe he’ll forget his reason not to come.
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 writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.