What to Do When Your Calling and Decoys Attract Hunters
It started out just like another spring turkey hunt might, but things got dangerous pretty fast.
Opening day, I arrived before dawn. I parked my truck where the farmer had always instructed me to do so, walked a half-mile or so, made my setup in the pre-dawn dark, then waited, enjoying the sounds of the woods waking up.
A bird gobbled, and it was fairly close. I repositioned a bit. Not long after, I softly tree-called just once on a mouth diaphragm, and the turkey ripped back at me. The gobbler did it again, and again, and I just stayed quiet.
Dawn broke. Perfect, right? For sure, until I saw a guy creeping in from the side of the property where access wasn't allowed.
In the guy came, stalking the vocal gobbler under a 100 yards from my setup. I had no decoys out. He'd obviously heard the bird, made his move (again, coming from a direction without legal access), and the cards had been dealt.
Frustrated initially, I pondered the situation. Then I whistled repeatedly, hoping he might see me. He glassed in my direction, surveyed the scene, and kept right on coming.
A chill ran up and down my spine. I stood then, looked in his direction. Mind you, I'm over six-feet tall. At this, he turned his head my way, glassed me again, paused for a few long seconds, and continued stalking through the field, toward the gobbling bird.
Now he was on his belly, crab-crawling.
Yep, I was pretty frustrated. But I somehow kept my calm. I walked in the other direction directly.
Maybe a quarter-mile away, I softly yelped and another turkey gobbled. With my mind still on the other guy behind me, I set up, called again, and both gobbles and wing flapping could be heard. Birds flew down maybe 100 yards in front of me in the woods and looked my way, then milled about.
A minute or so passed. Suddenly the turkeys quickly looked the other way, alerted and alarmed, and ran.
In disbelief I saw the same guy walking full stride toward the running birds. He stood, looked, and don't you know he turned my way and started walking right toward me.
I froze. At the base of the tree, I watched as he came to within maybe 50 yards, and then turned back toward the original gobbler.
"Running and gunning" (and trespassing), I guess.
And then he left, I think.
That about ruined the spot for me that day, and to be honest, that entire spring season. I did manage to fill a tag later elsewhere that morning, in another location, and felt thankful for that.
In the first situation, I'd whistled repeatedly, the approaching hunter glassed me, and kept coming anyway. Maybe my camouflage did its job and the guy didn't see me.
Maybe he did.
When I stood, confirmation came. He had seen me, and kept moving on the bird anyway.
So I left, leaving "my bird" to him, secretly wishing he'd spook the gobbler and his game would be over.
Well, maybe he did scare off the gobbler, because soon after, he came striding deliberately to where I'd found the second gobbling turkey (and numerous hens).
What should I have done then? Probably spoken up loudly. Why didn't I?
Part of me didn't want a confrontation. Part of me just wanted him to leave. Another part of me didn't want to scare the turkeys even more than they had been.
I hatched a plan: After all this, I'd let the woods "rest" a bit, then try to get after either the first gobbler, or second flock of birds with the second gobbler.
But I kept replaying the events of the morning, and couldn't clear my head.
What I eventually did is just leave. And to be honest, that guy was in my head the whole way out.
Steve Hickoff is Realtree.com's editorial director and turkey hunting editor. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country.