Have a problem turkey? We have solutions, courtesy of renowned turkey hunting writer Steve Hickoff.
Turkey Won’t Fly Down
Last night’s roosted gobbler might be waiting for the talkative daybreak hen you’ve been imitating to walk to his limb tree. And waiting some more. You each want something different.
As a result, the gobbler won’t fly down. You’ve one option, which basically involves doing nothing. Shut up — especially if your bearded bird is alone. Next, be patient. Sit tight.
If you’re behind terrain and unseen but heard by the turkey, rake some leaves with a free hand to imitate a walking bird. He might think it’s a hen. Then shut up again and wait, shotgun or bow ready.
Turkey Won’t Come to You
Got a hung-up gobbler that won’t budge? He’s on the ground, but it’s much like when a turkey stays limb bound. The bird wants you to go to him.
He’s sure enough easy to see and hear — loud and proud. If it’s clear you’re in a stand-off situation — he won’t move, and you can’t slip closer — do the opposite. Walk in the other direction, softly calling as you ease away. Be the fickle hen. With any luck, the gobbler will panic and move closer. The trick is to remain undetected as you ease back toward the interested turkey.
Wait him out, as with the roosted tom that won’t fly down. There’s a fair chance if the gobbler comes, it could be silently. Listen for his footsteps in the leaves — or behind you. The turkey might circle, looking. Stay ready, still as a stone — until you need to shoot.
Turkey Doesn’t Like Decoys
It’s difficult to beat some of the hyper-realistic turkey decoys available today. Still, that doesn’t mean all real gobblers approve.
Why do realistic decoys sometimes cause an epic fail? Sometimes, it’s a matter of the fake not moving. Sometimes, it’s the positioning of the deke. Sometimes, as with subdominant longbeards or jakes, a full-fan decoy might keep them at a distance. They aren’t looking for a fight. The fake has fooled them, but they want no part of it.
As much as you consider yourself a turkey hunter who favors decoys, leave them bagged in your truck for the skeptical gobbler that isn’t buying the marketing hype. Other turkeys surely will.
Turkey Needs to See Decoys
Ever been in a situation where you’ve called the gobbler in and he’s arrived in a field or wooded opening? The turkey looked and studied your position. Seeing no hen, it alarm putted, did the exiting wing flick and walked the other way.
This is a tactical situation in which you needed at least one fake if not several. The turkey wanted to see a decoy. In an open wooded situation, make your setup where you can kill a turkey the instant it steps out of cover. Put the decoy nearby so the gobbler has a visual reference, and then close the deal.
Turkey is Henned Up
It’s a gamble, especially for spring turkey chasers who don’t hunt the fall season. Scattering, a traditional strategy during autumn hunts, relies on separating flocked turkeys. When scattered, single birds — turkeys with a strong desire to regroup — can be called back to the gun or bow. This approach can be as effective in spring.
If a gobbler’s been tough and surrounded by hens, separate them. Scatter them off the roost the night before your hunt — or even the morning of — as false dawn breaks. Try to think tactically.
Flush your gobbler to fly in one direction. Scare the hens another way. Set up between them but closer to the gobbler. When he starts firing up, begin calling. You can also call to simply get him to gobble. You’ll likely also hear lost yelping around you as hens try to regroup, too.
Turkey Has Patterned You
Gobbler beat you twice the same way? Trade up tactics.
Whether we like to admit it, sometimes our turkey hunting strategies are predictably limited. Calling the same way on the same gobbler from the same setup position might be the definition of a stale game plan. Maybe you favor one kind of caller over another. Trade in your mouth diaphragm for a sweet-sounding custom box. Maybe hen yelps won’t work. Try raspy three-note gobbler yelps to work on that tom’s territorial urges.
Turkey is Feeling Pressure
Do nothing but sit in the woods or on a field edge, watching.
You can get a little frustrated with hung-up, hard-gobbling turkeys that won’t come. Waiting patiently is the trick. The gobbler is out there, and so are you. Maybe you’ve worked a bird in the morning and had him walk off. Maybe you thought it should have come fast — on your watch. Wait, especially if the turkey seemed fired up.
Sometimes, not calling is the best approach, as yelping hard can make a gobbler strut —and stay that way. So put your calls down. Take a nap. Scratch leaves as the time passes. Cluck now and then. An approaching tom might hear this — the sounds of a hen, it hopes — and come right in after a long drought.
Turkey Needs Double Trouble
You’re the yelping hen. That gobbler wants you to come to the strut zone. Play hard to get. Call in one location and then walk away. Better yet, have a buddy do this as you stay in the original spot.
If the gobbler comes closer but not the full distance, slip back in that direction — or wander to one side or the other. That strutter wants action. Acting like you don’t might just make him break strut and come to you — or your buddy.
Then again, the gobbler might bust either of you as you move, but that’s part of the challenge. For safety’s sake, hatch a buddy plan, and stick to it.
Turkey Needs One More Day
If that gobbler has hung up all day, strutting but not coming, think hard about the strut zone the bird has favored. If you know the land well, and especially where the turkey roosts, be there the next morning, right on the edge of it. Chances are it’s an open area, say a wooded clear-cut or pasture corner.
Don’t know where the turkey sleeps? Watch and listen for the gobbler going to roost at fly-up time, or use locator calls to pull a shock gobble from it before flydown. Then again, if you’re certain you’ve nailed the strut zone, simply get in there early and set up. You might not even need to use your calls as he hammers his way to that strutting area.