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How To/Pro-Tips

Hung Up or Henned Up

Henned-up gobblers are one of the toughest challenges in turkey hunting. Hung-up gobblers are a close second. A gobbler with hens may answer your calling but will seldom leave them. Many times the hens will try to lead the gobbler away. When a gobbler answers but moves away, it indicates he is with hens.

A stationary gobbling bird that simply won't budge is truly hung up. Often he is across a creek or some other obstacle he doesn't want to cross. Sometimes he is in his favorite strutting area and doesn't want to leave. Frequently the hunter unknowingly encourages the gobbler to stay put by calling too much, convincing the gobbler the "hen" is on the way.

One strategy for versatile hunters is to change calls or style of calling. Another is to simply shut up and play hard to get right back. The third, and most risky, is to try to change calling positions to shake the hung-up gobbler loose.

Patterning a Tom

Most hunters are every bit as much an advocate of patterning a gobbler as a trophy buck. That means a real and ongoing study of that gobbler as an individual rather that the general knowledge gained by regular pre-season scouting.

Of course it must all start with scouting. However, once you have located a gobbler (or gobblers), you should keep on learning their particular habits, movement patterns and preferred places.

Be cautious about this in the pre-season. Just as with a big buck, too much of your intrusion will alert the gobbler, influence his pattern and make him more wary. Never practice calling a gobbler before the season. You will teach him a lot more than he will teach you.

As the hunting season progresses, note which way the gobbler travels when he leaves his roost, where he normally meets up with hens and his preferred strutting grounds. By knowing the gobbler's routine, you considerably raise your chances of bagging him.

Don't Stretch Your Barrel

When you hear a turkey hunting tale where the shooting range is 50 yards or more, you might want to take it with a grain of salt.
With today's super-tight turkey chokes and highly developed ammunition, we have added some reliable range to modern turkey hunting. Once, 30 yards or a bit more was considered the "average" practical limit for most guns and loads. Today, if you seriously pattern to find the right combination of choke and load, a reliable 40-yard turkey gun is quite possible.
However, most of even the best patterns begin to suffer at 45 yards and are skimpy at 50 -- usually too skimpy to be really reliable for a clean kill. Of course, you will continue to hear of kills at 60 yards and beyond because one lucky pellet happened to hit in the right place. Don't count on that happening on a regular basis, but do count on wounding a lot of gobblers if you try to shoot too far.

Stop, Don't Stalk

Experienced turkey hunters have always advised beginners not to try to stalk a gobbler. The simple truth is that it is nearly impossible to do successfully.
It also is terribly dangerous -- both to the would-be stalker and other hunters in the area. Many turkey hunting accidents occur because someone tried to stalk a gobbler and was either mistaken for or mistook another person for the bird. When moving about the turkey woods walk out in the open, preferably on a trail, and display some fluorescent orange. Never carry a turkey decoy out in the open when walking through the woods.
"Mistaken for game" is a leading cause of all hunting accidents. Don't wear the gobbler-head colors of red, white or blue and don't try to signal another hunter with your turkey call or waving your hand. Speak out in a loud, clearly human voice before you make a single move.
Safe turkey hunting is as simple as "Be absolutely sure before you pull the trigger."

Head Him Off

When a gobbler answers your calls but continually heads away, it usually means that he is with hens or he is going where he expects to find some. His gobbles are his invitation for you to tag along and he may even slow down or stop to let the laggard "hen" catch up. However, he is unlikely to turn around and come back.

A strenuous but effective tactic is for the hunter to loop around and get in front of the moving bird. This takes both stamina and a very good knowledge of the terrain. A gobbler moving purposefully is moving pretty fast.
If you know the country and that gobbler well enough to have a pretty good idea of his destination, such as a preferred strutting area, you have a considerable advantage when trying this tactic.

Remember, ties don't count (for you). You have to get in front of the traveling turkey, find a spot and get set up before he arrives.

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