I’ve never called to a turkey that wouldn’t come in within gun range. When I’m doing a turkey hunting seminar, this statement always is when the crowd breaks into laughter. But I think these words are true. That turkey may not come to me on the day I’m calling to him, but that ole gobbler will come to me or someone else on another day. My number one rule is when a turkey won’t come to you, back out of the woods, and try to call to him on another day.
My second tip is to not get too close to a turkey. I believe when you’re really close to a gobbler, and you’re calling to him, that gobbler thinks, “If you’re already this close, baby, come on.” However, if you set up a little further from the gobbler and start getting him excited, but aren’t coming to him, he’ll get fired up and come running to you. On many occasions, I’ve called to turkeys from 100 yards away and then backed up and called again like I was a hen leaving the area and had success.
If you’re calling from the side of a hill, and a turkey is gobbling from the other side, move to the top of the hill. If you’re yelping like a hen and he’s gobbling back to you, he’ll come to the top of that hill to see you. Old gobblers know that every coyote, fox, and bobcat in the woods can hear him gobbling and can hear you calling, so he wants to see any predators that may be between him and the hen he thinks is calling. If a turkey is going up a hill and spots danger, he knows that his legs are the number one thing that helps him fly. All he has to do is push off, jump up in the air, turn downhill, spread those big wings, and sail out of harm’s way in two heartbeats. If you try to call a turkey that’s below you, he probably won’t come. If he does, he’ll try to circle around and get on your level or come in behind you.
Everyone gets fired up about calling turkeys. I make turkey calls, so I want hunters to call to turkeys. But sometimes to get a gobbler within gun range, you don’t need to call to him; you just need to scratch in the leaves like you’re a feeding hen. Another tip is if you hear a hen calling, call back to her with the same call she’s making. That will make her mad, and if she has a gobbler with her, she’ll bring him in while she’s trying to run you off.
Sometimes you’ll have a better chance to take a turkey if you don’t call at all. The first time I ever went to Missouri to hunt turkeys, I went through a low place on a ridge where the terrain was mossy, so the sound of my walking was quiet. I had heard a turkey gobble in the direction I was traveling, and once I came out of that mossy place, I stepped into some dry leaves. I only took two steps before the gobbler started to gobble. He wasn’t 50 yards from me on the other side of the ridge. I didn’t move or sit down. I took the safety off my gun and scratched in the leaves with my toe. The turkey gobbled, came up that ridge straight toward me and never gobbled again. Turkeys have two feet just like humans. When you’re walking through the leaves, that sound may be misinterpreted by a gobbler, and he’ll think you’re a turkey.
Image courtesy John Phillips