Hunting > Turkeys

Assertive Gobbler Tactics

If turkeys don't want to participate right off the roost there's more than enough plays in the game book to keep up the pressure.


Traditionalists roost birds in the evening, sit quietly near roosts in the morning before the dairy farmers stir, and if a gobbler doesn't strut over to calls they decide it just wasn't meant to be. This traditional method is fine when it works, but when it doesn't you have to be flexible. If turkeys don't want to participate right off the roost there's more than enough plays in the game book to keep up the pressure.

Hunt in the Afternoon
With shooting hours extending to sunset in my native land, I have all day to find a tactic that entices. Work eats up most of my mornings these days, yet the long days in the spring mean afternoons are open season. Sure it means skipping supper and tossing tradition out the window, but I soon discovered turkeys don't mind gobbling in the afternoon. By slipping in close and using enticing calls it's not uncommon to spark a gobbler into action late in the day.

My favorite afternoon hunt took place with my wife. Back then she had never shot a gobbler and wanted to experience the excitement minus the loss of sleep. We set out to capture that experience one sunny afternoon after work.

The thing about hunting gobblers in the afternoon is you have to find them. In the morning they gobble from the roost, making locating them easier. In the afternoons they are feeding or moving. If hens are nesting they'll be coming back to their man late in the afternoon; as a result, gobblers respond well to lost hen yelps.

While hunting that day with my wife I spotted a gobbler at our third spot. A single hen was working the edge of a woodlot with the gobbler. I had a good hunch of their final destination, so we used a steep creek bank to slip into position.

I staked a single hen decoy out in front and started calling with the soft chat of a hen looking for afternoon company. The gobbler didn't disappoint us. He gobbled and strutted straight to the decoy. It didn't matter to him if it was sunrise or sunset. Sharon took aim and shot the gobbler bathed in golden afternoon light.

When to Get Aggressive
I admire traditional turkey hunters who brim with patience. I don't adhere to their strict rule of sitting tight for gobblers. Not only do I move on turkeys, I take a partner with me. Two reasons exist to move on turkeys. First, it gets you closer. Second, moving makes you sound like a turkey. Turkeys don't hang out in one spot for very long. They are very mobile.

Why add a partner? It gives you the flexibility to have a shooter set up ahead with the caller lagging behind.

Several years back I was guiding a young hunter from the East to his first Merriam's in South Dakota. Several gobblers were chasing hens on a large hayfield, but I couldn't lure them to our stationary position in the woods. To tempt them we moved slowly toward the field edge, calling along the way. From the sound of their gobbles I felt they were on the way. A faint road led from the field to the forest so I quickly set up the hunter near the field edge along the road and I backed off 50 yards. Fifteen minutes later two mature gobblers bobbed down the trail looking for the ranting, wandering hen. My hunter didn't hesitate.

How to Use a Gobble Shaker
Gobble calls are taboo in most hunting camps. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be used. It just means you need to use them wisely. Sounding like a strutting gobbler in a heavily hunted public area isn't a smart tactic, even when using blaze orange markers. Nevertheless, in remote sites and on private properties the occasional gobble may prompt a dominant gobbler into coming over for a face-to-face showdown.

Gobbler-shaker calls provide a vocal challenge to a tom that's reluctant to leave hens or to move from a strut zone. They are best used after testing the waters with yelps, clucks and purrs. They can also spur a tom to gobble if other locator calls aren't working. I use gobbler shakers confrontationally. If a tom won't budge I'll begin moving toward his harem. When I feel I can't get any closer without spooking birds I gobble. This often prods a gobbler into a pecking-order scrap.

One hunt found me calling to a flock of turkeys on the far bank of a wide creek. They wouldn't budge and the water was too deep for wading. With nothing to lose I pulled my gobble call from my vest and challenged the gobbler. Seconds later I heard the flapping of wings and the gobbler landed right in front of me. I was shocked, but not as much as he was from the roar of my shotgun.

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