One of the things that I hear a lot when it comes to spring turkey hunting is the Toms will gobble every time the hunter calls, but will not come in that last 35 yards or so into range.
This is definitely a problem for turkey hunters and numerous reasons why a bird will not come in or hang up just out of range.
In the real wild world, the hen hears the Tom gobble and comes to him. Hunters need to reverse the roles in order to pull a Tom into range.
Can you imagine how hard this is on a big old Tom’s ego? He is the big boy, the dominant Tom and he has proved it, kicking the daylights out of any other Tom that gets getting in his way. Here the gobbler is, strutting his stuff, all fanned out and the hen just does not get it, she is suppose to come to him and will not play the game right.
Well, if he is going to get the opportunity to get close to this hen, he will have to forget about his ego and work his way towards her, hoping that once she sees him she, in all his glory will come to her senses and come to him. Some Toms take a little longer to swallow their pride and may not move or saunter your way, which could take a long time.
The most common reason a Tom will hang up is that he has hens with him. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out if an old Tom has several hens in his harem already; he is not going to leave two or three hens for a chance at a single hen.
When a bird will not move and are henned up, do not give up. There are several things you might try to convince him to come your way.
The first is to become vocal, call as if there are several different hens talking to him, by using a couple of different calls and changing the pitch.
Many times, this will make the bird curious and draw the Tom towards you. Do not give up or get upset if he takes his time coming your way, because he will have to bring his hens with him or take the chance of leaving them and having some subordinate Tom walk off with his harem.
There are always subordinate Toms following in the shadows or with the flock. The ones with the flock are generally the younger birds or birds that have not acted aggressively towards the dominate Tom. Those hanging around the fringes of the flock are usually the older birds that the dominate birds has stomped the tar out of. These are the birds that know better than to get to close, but are hanging around just in case something happens to the dominate bird or a hen strays from the fold.
If the dominate bird hangs up and doesn’t come in, many times the loud boisterous calling will pull one of the subordinate Toms in and you’ll be able to tip one of them over and fill your tag.
Another method that I have used to call a gobbler that has hens into range is to call to his girl friends. There is usually a dominate hen with the group and if you talk sweet enough, long enough and loud enough, she might just come over and see who or what is trying to take her man away.
I used this method numerous time; one that really emphasizes what I am talking about was a hunt years ago on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota to help Larry Myhre from The Sioux City Journal to fill his tag.
Most of the larger Toms had collected their harems and were not about to leave their flock to check out a lone hen.
This Tom was over the hill, so I set up down the hill from Larry, putting my decoy in between us.
I started calling with a slate call and immediately heard several responses from different gobblers. I worked the birds for about 10 minutes and could not get them to come any closer, so I started to call louder and more frequently to the hen. She got louder and started coming our way. This went on for another 10 minutes, but the hen was getting closer, I knew if the hen left the Tom, he would have to follow her over the hill giving my partner the opportunity for a shot.
As my slate got squeaky, I switched to my diaphragm call while I roughed up the surface of the slate call. When my mouth got dry, I switched back to the slate and kept going back and fourth or used them together to make the Tom think there were several hens on this side of the hill.
I kept it loud, because the Tom was not moving, he was hung up and I needed to bring the hen over in order to get the gobbler within range.
Fifteen minutes after I started calling, the hen appeared at the top of the hill and headed directly towards my decoy clucking, spitting and putting all the way. She was “MAD”!
Fortunately, for my decoy, another Tom had been responding to my calls and after twenty minutes of calling, she lost interest in my decoy and the Tom over the hill and headed off to looking for the other bird.
When she shut up, I backed off on the calls and waited for the Tom and the rest of his harem to come looking for his hen that had wondered off. It did not take long after the hen moved off when a blue and white head popped up over the rise. A few more clucks and purrs and the gobbler stepped over the hill and into Larry’s sights and it was all over.
It took over thirty minutes to get it done, but with a little patience and a lot of calling, we filled another tag.
Another trick I have used in the spring when a gobbler refused to move is to make it sound as if the hen is moving away. The Tom thinks he is about to lose the opportunity and heads in the direction of the departing hen, usually gobbling and drumming all the way in.
You do not have to move to fool the bird! Simply call in the opposite direction of the bird. If he is off to your left, turn and call to the right, making the Tom believe the hen is heading away. Call quieter and then wait for the Tom to respond. Many times, he will come running thinking, he has blown his big chance.
There are times when it seems that no matter what you try, that nothing seems to work and that is when I try to move cautiously, closing the distance between the bird and myself. You will need to keep your eyes open and keep alert, as the Tom might have sauntered in, and not made a sound. Generally if he has hens with him, some will follow and there will be many sets of eyes looking your direction ready to give their warning putt, informing every turkey within listening distance that something is not quite right.
Toms hung up, refusing to come in are part of spring turkey hunting, so if you find the birds continue to hang up, move to another location, perhaps the birds there are more receptive to a call or their hens are on the nest and they may work your way.
Give spring turkey hunting a shot, as the turkey populations are at an all time high, it is exciting and an excellent way to get out after our long winter and enjoy spring.