How to Triangulate a Roosted Turkey

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Tips to help you sneak close to a gobbler’s limb.

Knowing how to pinpoint a turkey based on sound alone is a very important turkey hunting skill. Image by John Hafner

In the dusky predawn one April morning, a turkey sounded off a mile away, his lonely gobble barely audible. I pumped my fist, pointed east and took off. But where was my hunting buddy? I looked back and he was pointing like mad and walking west in the opposite direction. The tom gobbled again and danged if he wasn’t right.

Terrain, distance, leaves and foliage, rain and fog, road noise… Many things can play tricks on your ears as to the exact location of a turkey’s gobble. First off, when you hear a gobble but can’t determine exactly where it came from, stand still, strain your ears and wait for him to bellow one or two more times. Then draw the line and go after him. Here's how.

Listen Up

My friend Ron Jolly, turkey-hunting wizard from Alabama, says, “My daddy taught me that the key to hearing is how you listen.” When Jolly hunts alone, he stands in an open area where he can listen out over a wide swath of woods. “If I’m hunting with a friend, we don’t talk at first light,” he adds. “I walk 20 or 30 yards away from him to a spot where I can hear well in all directions. That way I can hear and course a gobble better, and he can too.”

When a turkey bellows for the first time in the predawn, you’re jacked. But don’t get too excited and barrel off through the woods after him. Chill and keep listening.

“After hearing and zeroing in on couple more gobbles, I look out through the dark woods and visualize a line to the turkey, and to the exact tree he’s sitting in,” Jolly says. “Sounds weird, but visualization will help you draw the line to a bird.”

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Make Your Move

When a tom is roosted close, course his thunder and go to him. But when a bird gobbles 150 yards or more away, walk 30 yards or so in the general direction of the first gobble, stop, and wait for him to bellow again. Then home in and go, quietly as you can and always listening. You want a turkey to gobble a few more times as you approach so you can get a better read on exactly which tree he is in.

Keep in mind that when a gobbler roars from high in the roost and facing in your direction, he often sounds closer than he really is. Conversely, a bird that turns on the limb and gobbles facing away from you may sound farther away than he really is, or off to the left or right.

Topography can fool you, too. A bird that gobbles on a high, open ridge may sound 150 yards away when he’s closer to 300. Gobbles can bounce off slopes or echo away down hollows, making them tough to course. Thick leaves and foliage can muffle turkey talk. Just keep easing along, ears alert and coursing gobbles as best you can.

The Final Yards

Using hills and swales and foliage for cover, you should have little trouble sneaking to within 100 yards or so of a roosted turkey. Find a good tree, sit, ready your shotgun and float out your sweetest yelps. With luck, Mr. Tom will draw the last line right into shooting range.

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