- Fall Calling
- Teamwork toms
- Weathered Toms
- Confidence calls
- The Unintentional Scatter
- Calling late spring toms
- The Decoy Advantage
- Shock calls and follow-up
- Back Off
- Too much yelping?
- Get closer
- Calling in the Wind
- Favorite Fall Tactics
- Odd Turkey Sounds
- The Finer Points of Pot Calls
- Choose a Setup
- Start Early and Stay Late
- Roadblock Toms
- Perfecting the fall scatter
- Turkey call locators decoded
- What's in your vest?
- Gobble up a tom
- What Now?
- God Bless Late Season Toms
- Mouth calls simplified
- Track Them Down
- Call Inflection
- Try it all
Photo by John Higley
After trying everything else, Tom Stone gobbled with a box call to bring this California longbeard into shotgun range.
Try it all
Uncertainty is a big part of turkey hunting. With so many factors at work during every hunt, it’s hard to predict the outcome of an encounter with a tom, even when he seems committed to your alluring calls. In truth, textbook calling results — you make a few hen yelps and a completely fooled tom comes looking for her like he’s being reeled in — don’t happen that often. It’s the unpredictable nature of the pastime that keeps turkey hunting interesting and fun.
We’ve all encountered toms that react favorably to our calling only to hang up, sometimes tantalizingly close, but out of sight. Typically, such toms continue to gobble while refusing to budge. Toms acting like that may not want to lose sight of nearby hens. Or they’ve reached a favorite strutting place and are waiting for the strange hen (you) to come to them.
The question is what, if anything, can you do to turn things around? Nothing you do will always work, but as long as there’s a chance, you’ve got to try something. That’s why you should have an assortment of calls in your hunting vest.
Do what you gotta do
Sometimes a few yelps with any type of call are enough to bring a beard-swinging tom almost to your feet. But, there are other times when a few yelps are not enough.
During his 40-year career my buddy and frequent hunting partner Tom Stone was a game department biologist involved in the turkey program in California. An avid turkey hunter, Stone tells of a hunt that demonstrates why you should be prepared to try anything.
“It happened two years ago,” he said. “I was working a hung-up tom that gobbled at every call I made but refused to show himself. I used my box call, a slate pot and peg and even a tube yelper, and still he stayed put and taunted me with his gobbles. I mulled things over and came to the conclusion I had to do something different. My old box had rubber bands on the lid, so I shook it like mad and produced one of the most pitiful gobbles you ever heard, but it worked. The minute I gobbled, the tom puffed up and stormed into view 25 yards away. That’s as far as he got before I fired.”
Become proficient with several types of calls and have a few of them on hand during every hunt. My own carry-along collection includes slate and glass pot and peg calls, a standard box call, several diaphragm calls, and even a gobble call.
I usually start calling with a box or diaphragm call I can trust. I make subtle, nonaggressive calls, which often work like a charm. When that approach doesn’t work I up the ante by trying other tactics.
Photo by John Higley
Sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to convince a tom he ought to come looking for your bogus hen.
Some toms prefer the dulcet tones of a box call hen or a slate. Others may react best to a diaphragm and still others may not respond favorably to anything but gobbler yelps, throaty clucks and outright gobbles that question their pecking order.
Another thing that can change a standoffish tom’s attitude is the thought of a hen losing interest and walking away. To mimic that, I back off slowly, yelp softly as I go, and make sure I’m ready to set up in a hurry if the tom starts coming my way.
You also can take a chance and move to a new location to figuratively throw your pitch from second base instead of the pitcher’s mound. To become a different hen, use a call you haven’t used before and keep your fingers crossed. The idea is not to sneak up on the tom, which isn’t a safe practice, but simply to change positions and give him another choice.
Take his temperature
The main thing is to try and ascertain the turkey’s mood at the moment. When a tom is coming to your basic yelps with whatever call you are using, there’s no reason to change. But, if he hangs up or otherwise loses interest, pull out the stops and give him something new to consider. You have nothing to lose and you might strike the right chord, which will make your day and ruin his.
Even if you don’t succeed you’ll know you tried to make the most of the encounter. — John Higley