Wild turkey gobblers clearly frustrate hunters during the first month of the season. Sure, occasionally there is that perfect scenario where the hunter yelps a few love notes and a long-beard walks straight in on a suicide mission. This cooperative bird is usually a subordinate gobbler that is all alone and allows hormones to overrule his common sense. After all, its natures way for the hen to go to the gobbler. We hunters actually reverse nature when the gobbler comes to us.
The frustration comes when the gobbler answers our every call but either stays in one place -- out of gun range -- or walks away in the opposite direction. This bird is usually the dominant gobbler and is enjoying the presence of several hen turkeys. Savvy hunters refer to this phenomenon as being henned up.
If the old gobbler stays in one place and gobbles away, that is normal and very understandable. Why should he consider coming to you when he already has more female companionship than he deserves? If each responding gobble has a little less volume, he is moving away from you, but he does not have control of the situation. There is almost always a boss hen in the group. She not only controls the gobbler who will follow her every footstep, she also controls the rest of the hens. She does not wish to share Big Tom with any more girls, so she moves away from your seductive calls.
If Big Tom gobbles at your calls but does not come to you, then why does he even open his big mouth? Its a combination of courtesy, along with his love of hearing his own voice.
Is there a remedy? The boss hen is often the key. If you can make her angry enough, she will often come to you, looking for a fight. Its a low percentage effort, but well worth trying. It probably works about ten percent of the time. If you can get the old hen worked up, you will be able to determine if the ploy is working because she will get more vocal -- and louder. rather than yelping, she will begin to cutt and putt. The secret is to mimic her every sound. Give her back the same notes with the same volume. If she takes the bait, the gobbler will follow behind her, as will the other hens. Just remember that the gobbler will be at the back of the line and all those hen eyes can easily bust your set-up.
If this doesnt work, leave that gobbler and go looking for another one, but return later in the day. The hens will leave the gobbler at some time during the day to lay an egg. When he finds himself alone, he panics and then he is vulnerable. He remembers your earlier calling and now he is glad you are still interested. If he is of limited intelligence, he will come right in. If he has survived three or more springs, he might still demand that you come to him -- which is near impossible.
Emory Josey is a freelance writer who has a weekly column. Send questions for him to The Telegraph, P.O. Box 4167, Macon, Ga., 31208-4167, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org