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How To/Pro-Tips

When To Back Down

A prime calling tactic for old boss gobblers who have heard it all and are tired of hearing it is less calling. Loud, aggressive calling, including cutting, cackling and even loud yelping, has a place in turkey hunting, but so does the "change-up" pitch. After dealing with heavy hunting pressure, gobblers get fed up with loudmouthed "hens" that lead to trouble. Old-time turkey hunters called softly and cautiously to take the wary toms of yesteryear. It works just as well today. Late in the season, gobblers really can get call shy after a few bad experiences. For a wary old gobbler, just seeing a hunter in the woods is a very bad experience. They also have heard a lot of loud, raucous calling. A few soft yelps or a series of simple clucks might be just what a shell-shocked old gobbler wants to hear but not much of it. Knowing when to tone down the calling is a great "late-innings" play for wary, hunter-wise gobblers.

Turkey Calling Tactics

If a turkey hunter could competently perform only two of the basic turkey calls --the yelp and the cluck -- he could hunt turkeys effectively. In fact many of the more advanced calls are based on these two basic sounds. The assembly call is a long series of yelps and it is not hard to master. It is a good call to use in the mid-morning to locate a gobbler. The cackle is a rapid series of yelps and cutting is loud, staccato clucking. They indicate high excitement and can really get a gobbler fired up. Both take a bit of time and practice to get right but they can pay dividends in excited gobblers and exciting hunts. The purr is a low, trembly, quavering sound. It is a "confidence" call and is useful when the gobbler is in close. The so-called "fighting purr" is much louder and more aggressive. It is used more like a cackle or cutting to increase aggression and stir up a gobbler.

Don't Overshock Gobblers

Using an owl, crow or hawk call to elicit a "shock" gobble is a useful turkey hunting practice. Getting a gobbler to sound off early reveals his position and gives you more time to get there and set up. However, as much as we all love to hear Mr. Tom do his spring thing, there can be too much of a good thing. A gobbling gobbler gets lots of attention. If there are other hunters in the woods, they will head for him too. At best this can foul things up and at worst it sets up an unsafe hunting situation. Hens naturally go to the gobbler. Thus a lustily gobbling bird may attract a flock of very effective competitors for his attention. Hens almost always win this calling contest. Finally, you can "gobble him out". After a while, the gobbler may ignore the owl, crow or hawk call and shut up -- just when you may need that one last gobble to really pin him down.

Hung-Up Gobblers

A "hung up" gobbler is one which answers your call but refuses to come all the way in. Most often this happens when there is a creek, ravine or other natural barrier between you and him. Gobblers also hang up because you are sounding too anxious and he thinks the "hen" is coming to him. Sometimes, the hung-up gobbler is call-shy. Sometimes "the silent treatment" does the trick. Sometimes, changing caller type will break him loose. A flurry of loud, aggressive calling often excites the gobbler enough to make him come across a barrier. Try all these tactics before you give up or move. Don't move until you have the gobbler's position positively located. Slip out to the rear and move in a big loop to a new calling location. Stay alert while dueling with a gobbler. Very often another gobbler will be attracted by the calling and walk right in. However, it also may attract other hunters. Be cautious for safety's sake.

Strutting Ground Set-Up

In the middle part of the turkey season, gobblers often get accustomed to meeting their hens in a certain place. If, morning after morning, a gobbler answers you from his roost and then flies away, he is probably going to where he usually finds hens. If you can find that spot, your chances of finding him are good. Watch where he flies and then later in the morning slip into that area. If the season is getting along, perhaps you can catch him alone after the hens have left. He may not gobble so much now but he is likely to respond to your calling. Stealth and caution are required to play this game. Gobblers like to strut in open areas, often on a small rise of land. You can often find gobbler tracks in a circle with wing-drag marks paralleling them in a strutting area. Their visual display is the final courtship act that leads to actual mating.

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