Author’s note: Tracy Groves of Sykesville, Maryland is an avid turkey hunter, a member of Mossy Oak’s Pro Staff ( and particularly enjoys hunting public lands, something many turkey hunters find hard to do. The host of the Real Deal TV show on the Sportsman’s Channel for three years, he recently developed a camp called Heartwood Outdoors ( to take youngsters from single-parent families hunting to teach them outdoor skills and to work with special-needs children.

Turkeys have three different transitions they go through during turkey seasons in most states. If you know what those transitions are, you’ll know what calls to use and when to use them. Once you learn the transitions and the time of year they occur on the lands you hunt, you’ll be much more successful. In the early part of the season, in many states, the gobblers are in bachelor groups. The second phase is what most hunters know as a condition called henned-up, and the third phase is the peak turkey breeding time.

Hunting bachelor groups

When turkeys are in their bachelor groups, the main gobbler you will try to call in is the sub-dominant gobbler. These birds are trying to gather their own harems of hens. So, those two-year-old birds will break away from their bachelor groups to find any young hens they can stockpile in their harems. At this time of the year when a gobbler gobbles back to you, call softly, and be somewhat coquettish. Keep your calling soft, because that young two-year old will come hunting you, hoping for a date.

Hunting henned-up gobblers

This time is when the gobblers are staying with a flock of hens and waiting on one of those hens to be ready to breed. When that gobbler is sitting on the roost and hears you, he knows where you are. He may gobble good from the tree, fly down, and not gobble again, because he’s gotten with his flock of hens. However, although he may walk off with his hens, he hasn’t forgotten you. At some time in the morning, he’ll return to the spot where he’d heard you and start looking for you. So, wait him out, do some soft calling and some soft yelping, and be patient.

Hunting roosting sites

The third transition during turkey season occurs when the hens go to the nest. By this time, most of the public land hunters have gone home, the hunting pressure is lighter, and the older gobblers are looking for girlfriends. Instead of collecting a harem of hens, this gobbler is looking for any hen that’ll talk to him. He’s lonesome, and he’ll come looking for you. You just have to wait long enough for him to find you. Often you’ll take some of the biggest turkeys during this last transition.

Image courtesy John Phillips

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