Troubleshooting Troublesome Toms

Troubleshooting Troublesome Toms

If you haven't had a tom hang up on you, then you either haven't turkey hunted enough or you have the keys to a top-notch turkey-hunting property. Last season my daughter and I were on our third spring hunt of the season. A distant, sunrise gobble spurred us to close the distance. When we felt like we were in the brushy neighborhood, we slipped to the edge of an opening, staked a decoy and commenced to calling. Immediately the blast of the gobbler roared from across the glade. He had to be less than 200 yards away and I felt confident that a turkey dinner was in our future.

TH1178,-Moving-on-a-gobbler-to-make-it-sound-like-the-hen-is-leaving,-copyright-Mark-Kayser

After 30 minutes of beating each other up I realized it could be pot pies for supper as the troublesome tom wasn't budging. It was time to troubleshoot this taxing tom.

Decoy Deceit

Before you even get into a troubleshoot situation, outfit yourself with the most realistic decoy available. The best decoys included real, mounted turkeys. They work for one simple reason: they're real. Instead of light reflecting from plastic, light shimmers off of iridescent feathers and those feathers ruffle in the slightest of breezes providing stimulation to a testosterone-charged gobbler. Add a few lovesick yelps to this scenario and only nearsighted gobblers would miss the flashing neon of a mounted turkey setup. A mounted tom works the same magic, but with a dominant approach.


If you're budget won't allow taxidermy, there are many new models that have nearly the same look of a mounted turkey minus the real feathers. Avian-X, Dave Smith and others have molded, and artistically painted their decoys with the iridescent colors for turkey realism.


Take it one step further and give your turkey decoys added motion on windless days. Use strong fishing line and attach it to your decoy. Run a length back to your ambush position. When a stubborn gobbler peeks into your neck of the woods, tug on the line to catch the eye of a bird in long-term parking.


Move

Traditional turkey hunters stubbornly find a spot and stay put until a turkey arrives. Toss tradition. The rules of nature actually call upon the excited hen to move toward a gobbling tom so it's no surprise that gobblers stubbornly wait for a seductive hen to arrive. Even if a gobbler begins your way, other unseen obstacles can cause a gobbler to suddenly cement its position. Steep coulees, creeks, ponds and even fences can stop a gobbler cold. If a gobbler suddenly sounds locked down, it may be time to consider moving. One tactic is to circle behind the bird.

Mark and Katelyn Kayser moved on a stubborn gobbler. After crawling, staking a decoy and calling, the parked tom came running. It also brought along a few friends to end the hunt with this double.

By circling behind a gobbler you place yourself in an area the bird has recently been. Since he's safely walked through that area, he oftentimes has no fear about retracing steps for a potential hookup. To keep track of the gobbler as you circle, use locator calls instead of turkey calls to entice a gobble. Crow caws or hawk screams can safely make a gobbler give away its position without using turkey calls. Turkey sounds could cause a gobbler move toward the call during your maneuver and before you're ready.


Another strategy to consider on a pig-headed tom is to leave and call as you slowly walk away. Turkeys have top-notch hearing and any gobbler will realize the hen is leaving. That antisocial moment could be enough to make a tom gobble and chase down the suspected love of his life

Shut Up

There's nothing wrong with aggressive calling strategies, but if a gobbler doesn't leave his parking spot you could simply shut up. Make him think he's not as special as he first thought. Think about this. If you aggressively call with nonstop pleading, you could make a gobbler believe you are on the way to him. That alone makes him think he's something special. Shut up for awhile and make him believe that there's another Tom Selleck waiting in the wings. That abrupt quietness could spark desperation and he may just stroll on over for a looksee.

If you've been calling incessantly, it may be time to shut up and make a gobbler think the hen is bored and prepared to leave.


To make the tom hunt harder and arrive within shooting range, set up inside thicker cover and avoid field edges. Make the gobbler hunt you. You'll still want to sit near a shooting lane, but choose a small opening to allow for a close shot when the gobbler sticks its head out to see if Tom Selleck is wooing his gal pal.

Neighborhood Brawl

Some of the best hunting calls mimic fights. Rattling for whitetails, bugling for bulls and even coyote growls have a fighting atmosphere that attracts curious sideliners. Gobblers also have a fondness for fights. Whether they believe toms are fighting for breeding rights or they just want to see a Rocky Balboa blowout, consider faking a fight to bring a gobbler running.

Imitating the sounds of two gobblers fighting within a flock may spark a parked gobbler to move.

To mimic the best gobbler fight mix cuts and yelps with fighting purrs. For additional authenticity, use a wing to create flapping noises and scratch at the leaves to replicate the sound of prizefighter turkey feet in action. A strutting tom decoy also adds into the dominance theatrics if a tom arrives.

The road-blocked gobbler my daughter and me were dealing with in the article opening still hadn't budged, so I hatched a plan to crawl across the opening and see if we could spot the bird behind a small rise. The crawl worked and in a hidden, prone position I staked a hen decoy in front of us. It only took a series of yelps for the gobbler to scream back. Tail feather tips told the story of a bird on a mission and in less than a minute Katelyn tipped that turkey over with a load of Hornady 5s.

Before we could celebrate three more toms charged in to put the wallop on the flopping bird. With a tag in my pocked, I whispered for Katelyn to hand me the CVA single-shot before reloading and taking aim. The morning ended with a pack load of more than 40 pounds of turkey dinner thanks to successfully troubleshooting troublesome toms.

Recommended for You

Having just the right amount of lightweight gear can make or break a hunt. Find out the best way to pack for a backcountry trek! Camping

What's In Your Backcountry Pack?

Tracy Breen

Sponsored By
Outdoor Sportsman Group
Every hunter needs a rimfire workhorse for varmints and predators. Guns

Best Rimfire Rifles for 2019

Keith Wood - April 23, 2019

Every hunter needs a rimfire workhorse for varmints and predators.

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians. News

The Ticks Making Hunters Allergic to Meat

David Hart

A new wave of allergies threatens to turn hunters into vegetarians.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 11: Wheelgun Buffalo

Host Craig Boddington lays claim to hunting more than 100 Cape Buffalo over the course of his 40 plus year career, but he never took one with a handgun. That changed in South Africa when Craig faced down "black death" with a magnum wheelgun.

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 7: Beginner's Luck

Host Kali Parmley takes first-time hunter Danae Hale of CZ-USA to Wyoming for a mule deer hunt. After covering all the basics with Danae, the girls head into the field and what happens next goes way beyond either of their expectations!

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 12: High Plains Elk

David Draper teams up with Fred Eichler to hunt elk on the high plains of southern Colorado.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Looking for a great gun for the young hunter in your family? Here are eight favorites. Guns

8 Great Youth Guns Designed for Growing Hunters

Brad Fitzpatrick - July 18, 2016

Looking for a great gun for the young hunter in your family? Here are eight favorites.

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study. Ammo

Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber?

Mike Schoby

We evaluate the 6.5 in a real-life case study.

Are predators really to blame for declining deer numbers? The answer might surprise you. Conservation

Do Coyotes Really Affect the Whitetail Herd?

Jeff Johnston

Are predators really to blame for declining deer numbers? The answer might surprise you.

See More Stories

More Wing Shooting

Kevin Steele highlights his weapon of choice for an Osceoloa turkey hunt in central Florida. Wing Shooting

Gearing Up for an Osceola Turkey Hunt

PHTV Adventures - June 26, 2015

Kevin Steele highlights his weapon of choice for an Osceoloa turkey hunt in central Florida.

Kali Parmley heads to Pike County Illinois to chase turkeys. Wing Shooting

Pike County Turkey Chase

PHTV Adventures - August 07, 2017

Kali Parmley heads to Pike County Illinois to chase turkeys.


Kali Parmley teams up with youth hunter Lauren Carney in Illinois to see if they can't nab Lauren Wing Shooting

Youth Season Gobbler Hunt

PHTV Adventures - August 07, 2017

Kali Parmley teams up with youth hunter Lauren Carney in Illinois to see if they can't nab...

See More Wing Shooting

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.