Things you learn to land that spring gobbler
By Shirley Grenoble
For the Mirror
When spring gobbler season opens May 1, we are wondering if it could possibly be snow or rain to we will have to contend with this time.
One thing we all know is that if gobblers are as stubborn and close-mouthed this season as they were last year, we are going to wonder how to contend with that problem. It was the question of the day last year, everyday,
One thing I know is that most gobblers are burned out with all the calling and habitat-intrusions they suffer with by preseason scouters.
To make a savvy, call-shy gobbler pay attention you’ll need to do something different! Anything! Anything sabotage-prone preseason scouters did not do.
New and different
Tote along a wingbone, snuff can, boat paddle box or whatever seldom used call you have to produce yelps in pitches he may not have heard. Try a single reed diaphragm call to make ultra-shrill yelps or a four-reed diaphragm for ultra-raspy.
Make them in a location from which he never heard a call in the preseason. Avoid ever setting-up on a gobbler between a well-used road or trail and his roost. He’s learned long ago about the counterfeit calls and activity from that direction. So many scouters stand on a road or trail to do locator calls and the birds soon learn not to go in that direction.
It’s all fake news in that direction. That is why I never set up between a road or trail and the the direction from which he is gobbling. I circle around to the rear of his location and then I let out some soft tentative tree yelps, trying to imitate the call of a hen that is also reluctant to call too loudly. He’s much more apt to be lured by those sweet yelps than by anything coming from the direction of the road.
Learn the pattern
Learning a gobbler’s daily habits will pay big dividends. If you stick with a gobbler three or four days, not calling, not betraying your presence, but noting which direction he goes when he flies down you’ll ahead of the game.
Come season, naive hunters can stand on the road and bombard him with their best calls but if you know the direction he’ll head at flydown, you can set up to be in the way he wants to go.
You may have to offer him some soft clucks/purrs to get him to edge within shotgun range and he’ll likely listen to them.
If you know which field he and his harem prefer, you can be set up and decoys placed before he gets there. Soft persuasion may be all the needs to check you out. A new direction and sound will be sexy to his ears.
Add to the routine
One late-season dawn, I heard a gobbler down over the mountain. He ignored my calls. Tired of this standoff, I began to walk away and when I did, he gobbled ferociously. I set up again and called some more. Nothing. When I began walking away the second time he gobbled again.
I got the message. He’d heard my footsteps in the leaves and thought I was a hen walking away. I sat down again and did nothing except scratch the leaves occasionally. In 15 minutes, he topped the ridge and was in my game bag.
Scratching in the leaves is an old hunter’s trick. Try adding the wing-flapping sound to the flydown cackle in the mornings to add realism. Try the fly-up flapping to the evening roosting scenario. If you flap up at night then flap down in the morning, it will go a long way toward convincing a chary gobbler that you really are a hen.
The famous hunter, Wilbur Primos, once wing-flapped at exactly the right moment to convince a gobbler he was a hen that had flown across a mall creek. It worked!
Change your decoys
Just as gobblers get call-shy, they also get decoy-shy. Next time you set-up in a field you’ve already hunted three times, stake out two or three different decoys than you used before. That may be all it takes to change your luck.
In short, to spark the interest of gobblers that have been ignoring you, change your tactics, set-up spots, calls and/or decoys. Do something different!
Shirley Grenoble writes an outdoors column for the Mirror bi-monthly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org