Saturday, January 24, 2009

Show him what he wants to see – or hide

© By Othmar Vohringer

“The tom came over the crest and then just stood there about a hundred yards away and kept looking in my direction. No matter how much I called he wouldn’t come any closer.” This and similar complaints I hear quite often from turkey hunters. It’s frustrating when you call for hours and finally a big tom comes in and then hangs up just out of shooting range.

There is a simple remedy to fix this dilemma. Try to put yourself in the turkey’s position. How would you act if somebody were calling out for you but when you followed the call you found out that nobody was at the location you expected him to be? Wouldn’t you get just a tad suspicious that someone might be playing a prank on you? Sure you would! It’s the same with a gobbler, especially the ones that survived a hunting season or two.

When a tom hears a hen calling and follows the sound he fully expects to see a hen at the location the call is coming from. Turkeys have directional hearing, meaning they can estimate fairly accurately where that sound is coming from. The reason why a tom reacts to hen sounds is because he is in love and desperately wants to find a mate. In other words, when a tom follows a call he will look over every inch of landscape with his eagle-like eyes, fully expecting to encounter a hen.

Then he arrives at the location and sees nothing. There are no other turkeys anywhere near the location. The tom will instantly become highly suspicious, hang up and scan the area carefully for any movement. The worst a hunter can do in that situation is to call more. At precisely that moment all the calling will do is to rouse the bird’s suspicion even higher and eventually he will turn around and walk away. The only thing you achieved at that moment is to educate the turkey and the next time he hears a hen call he will ignore it. These birds are referred to as “call shy” and they are almost impossible to hunt.

There are two simple solutions to toms that hang up out of shotgun range. Give the tom what he came to see. Use a few hen decoys and add a tom or a jake decoy to the set up. That will make the tom so jealous he will forget all caution. Setting up decoys adds to the realism of calling. Now the gobbler can see who was calling and that will give him the confidence to come closer and investigate. It’s like calling ducks without decoys. It doesn’t work because it is unnatural. There are no invisible ducks, or turkeys for that matter.

However, decoying turkeys it not always possible, and if you hunt on crown land (public land for my American readers) where you have to share the woods with other hunters it can be downright dangerous to use decoys. But don’t despair. Even without decoys you can call a gobbler within shooting distance. The solution is to hide from the tom’s view. Set up in such a way that the gobbler will not be able to see what he expects until it is too late.

I am aware that many hunters have a problem with not being able to see an approaching tom until he is thirty to forty yards away. I used to think the same way. The urge to be able to see for a long distance is in our nature. But what good is it if you can see a tom approaching your set up a hundred yards away and he is not coming any closer? The simple fact is that if you can see the tom from a hundred yards away he can see that far too, and if he can’t see a hen at that distance then …well I think by now you know the answer to that.

If decoys are not an option for you simply stay out of sight from an approaching tom. Set up on a corner of a thicket, a woodland or field edge that will force the bird to walk around the corner to see where the call is coming from. An ambush just below a ridge or over a crest works very well too. It will force the gobbler to walk to the top of the ridge or crest to see. Just make sure you have some sort of solid background behind the turkey so you’re not firing the gun into open space. Shotgun pellets can travel quite far and even if they can’t kill a person at 60 to 70 yards they still can inflict injury. Try these tips in the coming spring season; show him what he wants to see – or hide and I guarantee you, your turkey hunting success will go up considerably.

Find more information about my turkey hunting seminars and my turkey hunting course on my website

Othmar Vohringer Outdoors
Founding Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit

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