Hunting > Turkeys

Six Tricks for Tough Toms

A "tough" tom is hard to kill but fun to hunt. He roars on the limb, flies down and gobbles like a broken record. He bellows at your calls and struts your way.

You sit white-knuckling your 12-gauge, craning to see his snowball head. That tough bird unleashes a last gobble 200 yards away, and then he is gone. Old Sharp Spurs probably has a grin creased across his beak as he whips your butt day after day. To fool him you'll have to dig deep into your bag of tricks.

1.) Don't Call, Hunt Say a bird shuns your calls three mornings in a row. Rather than moving around, yelping and cutting like mad and pressuring him more like most people do, sit back, shut up and listen. Pattern his gobbles as he walks off, and try to determine where he goes to strut. Check maps and aerials for a nearby green field, oak flat or open creek bottom. Go glass those spots at midday. Set up there tomorrow. Remember, always try to hunt and call in a spot where a gobbler wants to go.

Roost Him Missouri pro Mark Drury doesn't just try to roost an ornery bird, he practically climbs onto the limb with him. At dusk, Mark owl hoots and slips within 100 yards of a bird's gobble. Then he creeps ever closer, to within 60 yards if possible, scanning the terrain and looking for the perfect set-up tree. Mark counts his steps as he sneaks out, and then counts the exact number of steps back to that tree in the dark the next morning. He wants to be the closest "hen." Sometimes a gobbler pitches down in shotgun range. Risky? "Yes, you'll spook some birds, but sometimes getting close is the best way to kill a tough one," Mark notes.

3.) Walk Like a Turkey When a cranky bird struts down a draw or behind the lip of a ridge, Ray Eye, another famous and radical Missouri hunter, says to walk straight at him. "Shuffle leaves and snap twigs along the way," says Eye. "Creep as close as you can and set up. Now you've got him wondering if it's a hen or another gobbler. He doesn't know, because people and turkeys walk with the same 'clump, clump, clump' of two feet. When you finally stop and sit down, the gobbler might come to the first cluck or yelp you make."

4.) Cutt and Run Sneak 100 yards away from a hung-up strutter, stop and blast him with one last hard hen yelp or cutt that says, "Hey big boy, I'm out of here, you coming with me or what?" If he shock-gobbles (he probably will) jog 50 yards back toward the bird, sit, cluck and purr softly and scratch in the leaves. The tom might panic that the hen is leaving, and he might break strut to follow you a little.

5.) Change it Up If you've yelped to the same turkey for a week or more mostly with mouth calls, change to a wicked box. If you've stroked a slate, try a hollow tube or try fight-calling on a pair of push-pegs. You never know what sound will strike the right chord.

6.) The Late Shift The last week of the spring season can be the best time to fool a tricky bird. You probably won't see another hunter and you might hear good gobbling because hens have dumped the toms and gone to nest. One sweet call might bring the toughest old bird running right down your gun barrel.

Build Your Skills

Slap a turkey wing on your leg to simulate a hen flying down from the roost, or stir it in the leaves as you cluck and purr for added realism. The best wing is from a hen you kill legally in the fall. Cut it off, scissor it halfway open, pin the feathers in place on a sheet of cardboard and let it dry and set. Small and perfectly formed, it is easy to carry in your vest pouch.

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