How to lure lusty toms away from their lady loves
A tom’s springtime lust for hens can dull his razor-sharp survival instincts making him easier to hunt, but it can also keep him out of gun range if he has hens with him. In the early days of wild turkey restoration, a tom had to walk for miles filling the woods with his boastful gobbles in order to meet a mate. But these days, turkey populations are so high he’s more than likely to wake up with hens roosting nearby. And that’s where the trouble starts for the spring turkey hunter—although a tom may gobble to every call you make, he simply won’t leave the lady birds he’s with.
Unless, of course, you find a way to convince him otherwise.
If you know where a tom roosts, set up within 50 metres of his roost location while it’s still dark. If you also know where the hens roost, set up between them and the tom. Otherwise, use the utmost stealth to get in as tight to the gobbler as you dare. A tom will wake up eager for hens, often flying down to the first one he sees or hears on the ground near him. You want to be that hen. Start with a soft tree yelp when he gobbles on roost. Then flap your hat or a fake wing to simulate the sound of a hen flying down, and make some clucks and purrs when it gets light enough to shoot. The idea is to get the tom to come to you right away, before a real hen intercepts him.
Don’t call a lot to a roosted tom because he will stay up on his limb expecting to see the noisy hen come to him. Just let him know where you are with a few soft calls then make him come looking for you.
If you scare the turkeys off their roost when trying to set up close, don’t give up. It could work in your favour, especially if you’ve frightened away competing hens—at least now you’ll have the tom to yourself. If you’ve scared off the tom, on the other hand, that could also help by separating him from any hens roosting nearby. Since the tom may not know what caused the disruption, follow him quietly for a hundred yards or so and set up. After 30 minutes, or when you hear a gobble, begin calling softly like a hen. By then, the tom should still be within earshot and settled enough to start looking for hens.
A word of warning: scattering birds intentionally to separate toms from hens is an aggressive tactic that will create pressured birds, or quickly burn out an area. I therefore don’t recommend it, but if it happens accidentally, at least you can try to make the best of it.
If you get snubbed at the roosting site and see that more than one tom walks off with the ladies, a good passive strategy is to stay put and continue to call periodically. A subordinate tom that gets tired of watching the boss tom have all the fun with the gals may sneak back to check out the lonely lady at the roosting site—you.
If hens are leading your gobbler away from the roost area, or any other set-up, follow them at a distance so that you remain unseen, occasionally clucking and purring to cover any noises you may make. Eventually, the hens may leave the gobbler to go to their nests to rest or lay eggs; when that happens you’ll be within earshot and your call will be his best offer.