The Tom is gobbling at your every call but just not coming any closer, it’s maddening and honestly quite often ends with the bird walking away unscathed. Unfortunately, it’s also a very real part of hunting in today’s highly competitive turkey woods. This happened to us just last week here in Wyoming and we came out 50/50 on the deal, one bird we never saw and another we loaded in the cooler. The question is, what are the tricks to getting those stubborn or shy gobblers to commit? Well, let’s take a look at a couple of my favorites that have worked time and again over the years.
Less Is More
That’s right, going quiet on a hot and bothered but stubborn bird is quite often all it takes to make him come looking for you. All too often we succumb to the need for affirmation from a big Tom and wind up over calling and blowing it. The key here is patience. Once you get a bird interested in you and he’s come a little way but has locked up it’s most likely that unless he’s run into a physical barrier he doesn’t want to cross, he’s waiting for you, the hen, to come the rest of the way to him. Of course you as a hunter cannot do this so it’s time to fray his nerves for a change and frustrate him with a lack of responsiveness.
I’ve found that most times a hot gobbler will hammer repeatedly after I quit calling. It’s almost as if he’s being demanding and this is how the frustration begins for him. Last week’s harvested bird did exactly this. He was taking his sweet time coming in, over an hour, but was gobbling constantly. I initially thought he was henned up but he kept getting a little closer every few minutes. I called so sparingly that he finally couldn’t take it and stepped out of the brush in range where I smacked him with a load of Federal Premium TSS 9’s.
So what calls did I use? Nothing special really, just some soft purrs, clucks and short quiet yelps. When he got really close I just scratched in the leaves and pine needles with my left hand as he was on the right. I wanted him to truly believe a hen was there but that she wasn’t going to come to him.
I’ve done this so many times to stubborn gobblers that it’s my go to play anymore; strike ‘em, get ‘em interested and then play it coy… almost always works.
Play The Terrain
I love to use ridges and ravines to trick a big Tom into peeking over the edge only to meet a load of shot in the face. It seems turkeys are suckers for a hidden hen over the backside of a ridge or in a ravine, they just cannot help themselves from sticking that long neck out and peering over the edge.
This tendency has put a lot of birds in the bag for me and this is how I like to do it. First, you need to be hunting where this type of terrain exists, second you need to locate a Tom in a position where this is feasible and third, you need to hide yourself just over the edge of the terrain feature opposite his position. Start calling to him and get ready. Just make sure you know what’s behind your bird before pulling that trigger!
The most vivid instance where this has worked for me was on a particularly call-shy bird whom I had tried to kill for almost a month but was too wary to come anywhere near my setups. He’d hang up where he either thought he could just see my decoys or actually just see them, strut and gobble but never take a step closer. He was an old bird who’d survived a lot of hunting pressure and had learned to keep his distance from suspiciously still hens.
One afternoon I found him loafing along the edge of a deep and steep ravine that I could slip into and sneak to almost within range of him. I dropped in and snuck as close to him as I dared and tucked myself behind a tree while still standing before letting out a soft yelp. He gobbled at me instantly and I yelped back one time. Within five seconds he was peeking over the edge of the ravine looking for me and he was close! I knew what lay beyond him and didn’t waste any time tipping him over. He was and still is the largest Merriam’s gobbler I’ve ever killed but not the first or the last I’ve taken using that exact same method.
My point in all of this is that thinking outside the box or hunting different than what you see on YouTube or TV is quite often what it takes to be successful on big wary gobblers. Don’t fall into the trap of doing it like so and so or getting stuck in your ways. Be flexible, be sneaky and be quiet and you’ll kill more birds.