Know-How: Be Bossy With The Boss Hen

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posted on March 23, 2020
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Have you ever noticed the more you raise your voice, the more your antagonist raises theirs? Before you know it you’re in a face-to-face, chest-bumping standoff. That shouldn’t be your goal at the local brewpub, but you can make it your goal during spring turkey season. You want to attract a tom blinded by testosterone, but to do that, it oftentimes hinges on ticking off the boss in an ever-increasing lead-up to a fight.

In most flocks, one hen leads the group with the “boss-hen” designation. She leads the flock after fly down. She starts a new course after feeding, and she steers everyone back to an evening roost. She’s the one in charge and the one you need to target in addition to the tom. Catch her attention and increase your odds of catching him.

Turkey hunter using slate call


Despite going up against the best in bossiness, you shouldn’t begin this overbearingness at daybreak under the roost. This is a time of day when a little goes a long way. Soft yelps to direct a tom to the landing strip in front of you could seal the deal. Nevertheless, as limb chatter increases you can slowly match the tone of the lead hen. This gives the tom something to think about. Should I glide over to a sure thing or wait up here with a loudmouth? Your antagonistic approach could lead to notching a tag before sunrise.

Of course, your bullish attempt may cause the lead hen to fly another direction. No worries. Shut up, reconnoiter the possible next pit stop and circle ahead. Once you feel you’re in the general area of where the flock is heading, consider switching calls to sound like a different hen. Then start again with a subliminal hello. If the hen responds you now have the green light to converse with a freelance approach. If she maintains a friendly demeanor there’s no reason to ratchet up the rhetoric. You can, however, tempt her with the sounds of a more jovial crowd.

Employ multiple calls and mimic the chatter of a loitering flock. Soft yelps, clucks and purrs, plus the sound of scratching, could sway the hen your way. Tone your response accordingly and continue the watercooler chat. She may show up out of curiosity with the boys in tow. Of course, your happy home could also amplify her anger as the conversation continues. Stay ready to match her mood.

Female hunter setting hen decoy
Lightweight and compact decoys are easy to haul into the field, and hens can be just as effective as a jake or tom.

Louder yelps and lengthy cadences from the matriarch signify your unappreciated presence from the boss. If you sense irritation, it’s time to once again turn up the volume and add a touch of arrogance to your answers. In addition to intensifying volume, consider interrupting her yelps and add in the excitement of cuts to the dialog.

Staking decoys ahead of your conversation starters provides a visual provocation. A lone hen decoy has plenty of power at the crack of dawn if your yearning yelps muster enough lust in a roosted tom. On subsequent setups, two hens in the presence of a tom or jake could charm a lustful longbeard watching from the sideline. It also could infuriate the boss hen into a fuming frenzy.

This spring, keep your attention on the tom prize, but keep a focus on the boss hen. If honey doesn’t drag her your way, browbeat her into a chest-bumping brawl. 

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