Success Happens When You’re In The Zone
There are few things on this earth that get a spring gobbler hunter more excited than the sound of a gobbler; heck even if you are not a turkey hunter when that bird sounds off, you get excited.
For many of us, hearing that sound or actively calling in order to get a tom to make it is considered essential to success in the turkey-hunting game. No doubt, calling is a crucial part of most successful hunts, but the setup itself is what actually creates or takes away opportunities.
Over many years of experience, through both successes and failures, I’ve learned the importance of being in the right place at the right time when setting up on gobbler. Think of it as a zone or what we like to call “killing zone.”
When we are inside that zone, your chances of you being able to call a gobbler in and make the shot increase significantly. Outside of that zone, he’s much more likely to hang up or hen up. Hunters often debate how big the circle is before a gobbler locks in and commits to coming to a call. Some say 100 yards, while others swear the circle is smaller at around 50 yards. Either way, one must complete a proper setup to have a chance at entering this bubble of opportunity.
One of the easiest ways to get inside a gobbler’s circle of influence is setting up on him while he’s still on the roost.
Some hunters scout and observe birds the night before the hunt to determine where they may be roosted in the morning. It’s often possible to actually observe roosted birds, leaving no question where they’ll be. Either situation results in knowing where a gobbler will be either generally or specifically, so that the hunter can set up as close as possible.
Getting close to a gobbler on the roost allows the hunter to not only determine where a gobbler may pitch down to in the morning, but also a gobbler’s mindset and attitude before he does. Calling can then be optimized to suit his mood.
Whether sneaking into an area where you know a tom was roosted the night before, or working your way toward a roosted bird you just heard in the morning, the No. 1 goal is to get as close as you can without being seen. To avoid being spotted, you must get there early and move slowly.
I have had hunters tell me that they will try to move after they get the tom to gobble to confirm his location. Each time he gobbles, I ease my way closer until I feel like I could almost see him on the roost. This is a very risky way of doing things, but if one is looking for a challenge it’s your hunt and your birds so go for it. Every year folks kill gobblers this way.
I prefer sneaking in under the cover of darkness, personally.
After you are set up let the tom gobble a few times without making any calls. By staying quiet, I can determine if he has hens with him. If you’re close enough to see him on the limb as the morning starts to brighten, you can verify which direction he is facing. If he has hens with him, they will be making a few sounds themselves. At this point, make one or two soft calls like a tree yelp or soft purring. By keeping calling low key, we are simply letting him know that there is another hen roosted in the area. If the nearby roosted hens begin calling back, make a few clucks, followed by a fly-down cackle call. By making the fly-down sound, we are trying to create the illusion that we are the first hen on the ground, making him eager to fly down in my direction.
If the tom seems to have more interest in the hens, begin calling a bit louder and mimic the exact sounds the hens are making. This often aggravates the hens enough to come to check you out, allowing the following tom to wander into shooting range.
When getting close to a roosted gobbler isn’t an option, or things didn’t seem to work out, don’t worry; there are still ways to get in close after birds are on the ground.
Using a locator call is a great way to get into position without the gobbler knowing your location until you are set up inside his imaginary circle, ready to begin calling. The key is only to use a locator call such as an owl hooter, crow call or other types of natural sounds to create a shock gobble from a nearby tom.
Using a locator call can make the tom gobble, giving up his location so you can move closer. While you can accomplish the same thing with a turkey call, that might cause him come to the call at the same time you are moving towards him. This places you at a higher risk of spooking the bird.
Make sure you are dressed from head to toe in suitable camouflage clothing and don’t forget the head cover and gloves. Once you’re completely set up as close as possible, it time to make a few soft calls with a turkey call to let him know where you are at. He’ll think a hen has slipped in toward him and since you’re so close, it’s an easy decision for him to come check you out.
It would be nice if calling in a big tom was as easy as simply making a few calls, but in most cases it isn’t. When a gobbler has too many hens already with him inside his circle, or is an older bird that is harder to hunt, getting him to move to you is challenging. We need to move to him and infiltrate his bubble to get his attention.
Creating a turkey decoy setup and using a ground blind can be the perfect way to create a circle that nearby toms cannot resist.
Knowing where turkeys like to go throughout the day can be beneficial when hunting dominant gobblers. Many times, turkeys go to fields or open areas during the mid- or late mornings during the spring. The open areas tend to be where they will strut and show off for the hens while also having the opportunity to feed. These areas are great locations to have a ground blind set up before hunting.
It’s no secret I am a ground blind hunter when it comes to spring hunting. Set up a jake decoy along with one or two hen decoys, sit back and wait. Being in a place where turkeys naturally go makes for one of the best turkey decoy setups, if you trust your location and have patience.
Try to choose high ground where your decoys will be visible from multiple directions and maximum distances. I will place a jake close to one of the hens as if he is interested in breeding her. The other hen decoy is sitting off to the side few yards away. This helps get the attention of any turkey that comes into the field. This setup creates a new circle that any gobbler entering the field maybe eager to join. When he comes into the field and sees the young jake with a couple of hens, he may break his current circle and join yours.
It’s true the beautiful gobble from a tom is music to a turkey hunter’s ears, but instead of focusing on calling back to him, concentrate on making the proper setup to bring him to you. That may mean infiltrating his circle while he’s still on the roost, sneaking in on him with the help of effective concealment and a locator call, or creating a powerful new circle of influence he’ll be eager to join by using a compelling decoy setup and a ground blind in a popular location.