How to Fan a Gobbler


Crawl Up On Those Turkeys And Kill 'Em


I love to call. My favorite way to kill a turkey is to make him come looking for me.

But sometimes that doesn’t work. A stubborn longbeard strutting for his hens 100 yards away in a field can drive you crazy. You call, he doesn’t move. You reposition, he goes the other way. And those socially introverted toms — the ones that stand in a field alone for seemingly no reason, ignoring everything around them — they can be even more frustrating.

The best way to kill a stubborn field bird is often to hide behind a turkey fan and crawl to them. Sounds crazy. But I promise you it works. Here's how to do it:

  • Crawl Uphill. Use draws, drains and dips to first close the distance. Get as close to the bird as possible before ducking behind the fan. This tactic works exponentially better if you’re crawling uphill or across flat ground, too. If a gobbler is peering uphill at you, he can see your elongated body creeping along behind that fan. And that will send him running.
  • Jake or Gobbler Fan? Both jake and gobbler tail fans work. If I’m dealing with a dominant bird, I like to use the much larger fan of a longbeard. It provides more cover if nothing else. If the turkey seems more subordinate — maybe he’s in the field alone — the jake fan is a better bet.
  • Belly or Knees? If the grass is at least 12 to 15 inches tall, it’s usually OK to kneel. Any shorter than that, and you’d better sprawl out flat. Taller grass certainly gives you more cover and makes the stalk easier, but it isn’t required for success. I’ve snuck across bare dirt behind a fan. You just have to travel slower and be conscious of every motion.
  • Sit and Wait or March On? Some like to ease into the field with the fan and wait on the bird to come to them. But I prefer to be the instigator. I keep creeping close as Tom will allow, trying to press his buttons. I just stay ready to pull the trigger.
  • Have a Third Arm? Holding a fan, carrying a gun and lugging around that heavy butt of yours can quickly get laborious. There is no easy way to perfect this part of the pertinent plan. As a right-hander, I prefer to hold the fan in my left hand and the gun in my right as I scoot across the ground. An alternate option is to sling the gun over your shoulder to free up a hand as you crawl. Accept the fact that you’re going to put a scratch or two on the old turkey gun.
  • Creep and Peek or Drop and Pop? I was after a gobbler strutting in a wide-open wheat field with his harem of hens. I'd been crawling behind the fan for two hours, and was slap out of breath. The flock was moving away, but I kicked in the afterburners and finally closed to within 30 yards. I looked down to ready my gun, heard something, and glanced back up to see a red head and swinging beard bearing down. I’d really pushed his buttons all the sudden, and he charged. Now I was about to get spurred in the face. I threw down the fan, swung the gun to my shoulder and pulled the trigger. The bird fell 3 yards away. Most of the time, the best method is to slowly ease yourself into the shot. But sometimes, to avoid a face full of spurs, the drop-and-pop method is the only way to go.
  • Be Safe. I’ll keep this simple. Don’t fan on public ground. Don’t fan a bird when you know others are nearby. And don’t fan when you’re in really dense foliage. I take it one step further by notifying neighboring landowners not to mistake me for a bird when using this strategy. Use common sense and safety will not be an issue.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 5, 2013.