Gobblers with girlfriends require some different strategies
Every year we hear the whining in turkey camp: “They’re all henned up!” Here are some tricks to getting that gobbler all to yourself.
1. Rise Up
You've found a gobbler but that turkey is with a lot of hens. In this kind of situation, you need to rise earlier than ever, and slip into the woods toward roosted birds you’ve located. You should know where they are positioned the evening before the morning you hunt them.
You should know the number of hens and gobblers in the group if possible (including jakes), and seat yourself based on where each bird is likely roosting. Sometimes hens roost apart from toms. Get between those birds and the gobbler.
3. Zone In
You should know where they like to fly down before gathering and moving off. Is there an indentifiable strut zone? Wait there, or between the roost and that area.
4. Girl Talk
Call the boss hen to pull the whole group in. Your gobbler might follow right behind.
Sometimes you can time it so that you hear the bird you want gobble early — especially if the light is just coming on in the morning. If so, slowly rise, and quietly move in his direction, knowing you might be walking right past a hen or two. Make your silent setup.
6. Map It Out
Use terrain if it helps your approach to get close. Study maps. Your goal is to get close to the gobbler. Hens may fly down and slip toward that bird's gobbling. Be there when your tom turkey flies down.
7. Bust 'Em
Scatter the flock. Typically a fall tactic, it works in the spring as well. This separates hens from the dominant gobbler. Sometimes the action is fast, as birds begin to call, regrouping. Get yourself close to the gobbler and hen yelp it in.
8. Stay Still
In tight? To avoid hand movements, if you must call, make it a mouth diaphragm. Still, if there’s ever a situation when you shouldn’t call, this might be one. Simply let the turkeys fly down, and if you’re lucky, that tom might do so in range.
To put yourself in a situation where it’s you and the gobbler without his hen(s), pace yourself during the season — you’ll hunt better for it. Later on, hens will nest, leaving your gobbler. That bird might strut right in to your calls.
10. Think Tank
Each turkey is different. Vary your approaches to isolate the longbeard you want, or the gobbler you don’t know about that might be cruising away from the main action. Try them all. Think like a turkey.
Realtree turkey hunting editor Steve Hickoff has chased gobblers all over the United States and Mexico. He was born and raised in northcentral Pennsylvania, and now makes his home in Maine. Hickoff was named the NWTF Tom Kelly Communicator of the Year for 2019, a prestigious award reflecting his longtime work promoting hunting and conservation as a turkey hunting writer, editor and book author.