The Best Turkey Hunting Calls and Tips Throughout the Season
Whether you primarily hunt heavily pressured public lands or you’re doing some late season turkey hunting, you’ve no doubt encountered a few call-shy gobblers at some point. Sometimes they don’t respond to calling at all, and sometimes they just hang up outside of gun or bow range. It’s unbelievably frustrating to see them strutting in circles and not be able to take a shot at them. But you’re bound to run into the situation eventually. Why is hunting call-shy turkeys so difficult?
As we mentioned, wild turkeys get pretty wary towards the end of the season. After they’ve been called to and shot at by hunters in every field opening, woodlot, and food plot, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they would get a little tight-beaked and distrustful. But there are other natural reasons why gobblers get call-shy throughout the spring months. It could be that a subordinate bird had his feathery butt handed to him by a mature tom a couple times, and he’s nervous for another confrontation. Or perhaps the peak breeding period is over, which means there’s no urgent reason to respond to calls. Maybe the bird you’re trying to hunt just has a weird personality and is naturally a very quiet and solitary creature. Who knows? Luckily, there are several techniques you can use to hunt call-shy turkeys more effectively this spring.
Strategies for Hunting Call-Shy Turkeys
One of the best ways to get after a quiet and nervous gobbler is to use a deer hunting tactic. Simply sit still and wait for the bird to come to you. That’s obviously much easier said than done, but it’s not hard in theory. Spend some time getting to know your hunting property and the birds that live on it by doing some pre-season turkey scouting. Use trail cameras to gather critical details while you can’t physically be out in the woods watching and observing in-person. Learn where the birds primarily roost and where they feed, and set up in between those two areas. Try to find a place that’s closer to the feeding area than to the roosting trees, so that you can sneak in and get set up without a reasonable fear of spooking the turkeys. Driving your Bad Boy Ambush iS side-by-side to your hunting location, and switching to the electric drivetrain to sneak even closer is a proven tactic time and time again. Also, if there is a natural bottleneck or funnel location between these two areas, that is exactly where you need to be. Use vegetation and topography to your advantage by sneaking behind such structure to within striking distance.
If you’re hunting call-shy turkeys, it only makes sense that you should keep your calling to a minimum, right? Well, yes and no. There are situations when you should hold your tongue, so to speak, and times when it still makes sense to get loud and aggressive. The biggest thing to remember is to keep your turkey calling as realistic as you can for the time period you’re turkey hunting. Use wild turkeys you observe during scouting efforts as the reference point for how much you should be calling. If hens are very vocal and toms are gobbling right back to them, it would still be to your benefit to make some noise. But if it’s been days since you heard any turkey vocalization in the woods, you should probably follow their lead.
When the turkeys have gone silent, it either indicates it is too early in the season, too late, or gobblers are content following hens. In these situations, it’s best to replicate the natural patterns. If you start hammering your best turkey box call, you’ll definitely stand out and wise gobblers may avoid your location. Instead, call sparingly even if a gobbler responds. Once he knows you’re there, let him sweat it out by giving him the silent treatment. Using this approach is brilliant because you can attract subordinate toms that won’t be as fearful to inspect a silent hen, as well as dominant gobblers who think they may be losing an opportunity at a hen.
On the other hand, if the birds are still making a racket, calling aggressively may be the golden ticket. Grab a stick to scratch the leaves two to three times. Use your baseball cap to sound like wing beats. Pull out one of the best turkey calls on the market, the Knight and Hale 3-in-1 switchblade box call to throw several sounds their way. If you’re feeling extra aggressive, try mouth calling turkeys at the same time with a Loud Mouth series diaphragm call, which simulates at least two different hens. Using a box call and mouth call is a sweet-sounding combination that may be exactly the persuasion that an old gobbler needs to hear. When you’re calling, try to put some emotion into your efforts. Study and listen to natural wild turkey call sounds to hear the small inflections and try to replicate them. If you can get a mature tom to gobble back at you, make your calls sound excited by calling back faster and using a higher pitch. That should get a call-shy gobbler interested and convinced that you’re a real hen.
Even if you convince a tom to answer and he enters the field you’re sitting on, there’s no guarantee that he won’t just hang up out of range and drive you insane for an hour. You’re hunting call-shy turkeys, remember? One way to stack the odds in your favor is to use ultra-realistic turkey decoys like the Hard Core Widow Maker. To add even more realism, tie some clear fishing line to each end of the decoy so you can manually spin it in the direction you wish and in response to an in-sight gobbler. When he sees a hen on the other end of the field calling to him and moving in response, he’ll be much more likely to commit.
If these approaches and the best turkey calls you can muster also fail, you may need to resort to some unconventional turkey hunting tactics. And when we say unconventional, we mean the type of things that if you told a buddy, they would look at you and wait for the punchline. First, scheduling your field time during a light rain shower can be a great method for hunting call-shy turkeys. Why on earth would you consider doing that? Turkeys seem to prefer open fields during and immediately after rain events, where they can preen their feathers. You’ll be waiting for them when they arrive, while very few other hunters will even think about leaving home. If a turkey still hangs up out of range, you may need to get mobile. Most turkey hunters would laugh at this thought. But belly crawling behind a turkey decoy toward a gobbler is sometimes surprisingly effective. They don’t expect it because nobody really does it. That’s your ace in the hole.
As you can see, hunting call-shy turkeys has its challenges and it can be a maddening experience. But it can also be an extremely worthwhile one. If you’re able to out-fox a wary, mature gobbler during such challenging conditions, you can pat yourself on the back and know that you accomplished what very few others can do. Plus it’s just fun to tell your buddies that doubted you about the longbeard in the back of your Chevy Silverado.