It’s a gobbler ploy as old as the hills you’re hunting in: That bird is answering calls, but just won’t commit close enough for you to pound his red noggin with a load of No. 5s. “Hung up” is what we call it. “Frustrating” is what it is. So close, but yet so far.
Who knows why a tom does it? He could be with hens. Perhaps he’s not as hot-to-trot as you think. Maybe he’s just lazy. In some way, he’s suspicious of the situation. So what are your options?
Be conservative. Stay put and call (perhaps trying some new kinds of sweet talk) while praying and hoping his mood changes.
Get aggressive. Leave your setup and move in, easing into his comfort zone, setting up again and calling some more so he commits a little farther … or just sneaking right in and outright bushwhacking him.
Both scenarios are tough. If you sit tight, do you really think he’ll magically change his mood and obstinate mind? If you sneak closer, you’re taking a big risk of spooking that paranoid bird when he sees or hears you.
But there’s another option: Back off.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, this tactic makes sense when you consider that real, live turkeys seldom stay put in one place for long. They feed, turn, move, walk … but you’ve been holed up calling from one spot for an hour. Moving in a direction other than toward the gobbler mimics natural bird movement and could get a tom jittered-up that you (the hen) are leaving. Either way, backing off encourages that bird to break his stand and come looking for you. There are three ways to do it.
It’s worth mentioning if you’ve never tried it. If you’re hunting with a partner, leave him or her set up and silent, gun at the ready, as you move away and call. This can get that gobbler to break out of his rut and enter the kill zone, because he thinks he might be losing the target of his affections.
If you’re hunting solo, you don’t have an assassin to leave at the original setup spot. But you can still get the job done.
Backing off works on your own, too. It adds that element of movement that makes you seem like a real bird, and it can get under a gobbler’s skin to think a once-interested hen is getting away.
Get up and sneak away. Yes, just do it. What do you have to lose? Call a couple times as you retreat. See if you can get that gobbler to break. Pick a good setup spot and back up against a tree again—maybe 30, 40, 50 yards or more away.
A great trick now is to throw a gobble call or two into the mix. Sometimes that’s just what you need to get that previously lukewarm gobbler all worked up over a competitor horning in on the action.
Don’t be afraid to make a couple retreats. Once that gobbler is moving, he’s more likely to keep going.
Sometimes a gobbler starts drifting off. Rather than sit there and plead, you need to get up and make a move. A gobbler just will not turn around and retrace ground he has already covered, but sometimes you can get him to veer off course. That’s where a flanking maneuver comes in.
Of course, the gobbler has to still be sounding off so you can keep track of him. Back off and get moving parallel with that bird. Make mini setups as you go, seeing if you can get him to veer off course and swing a little bit your way.
It can be difficult to get ahead of a moving bird, and sometimes flanking him is the best you can do. Once again, don’t be afraid to toss a gobble call into the mix to tempt his aggression.
Summing It Up
What’s that old definition of insanity? Continuing to try the same thing but expecting different results.
Yeah, you need to work that gobbler hard at your original setup and give him plenty of opportunity to come in. But when you sense it just isn’t going to happen, it just might be time to back off, buddy.