When I first hunted with my husband John more than a decade ago, we agreed that I would turkey hunt after he had killed a bird that season. I made all the mistakes beginning turkey hunters do and probably invented a few of my own. Unfortunately, I walked out of the woods that day with only an imaginary gobbler over my shoulder.
In the years since that failed attempt in Indiana where John did his best to get my first bird, I’ve learned when and how to use double-team tactics that actually work.
Open-Woods Setups Turkey season in many places arrives before Old Man Winter loosens his grip. The woods are far from green, and you can see forever. Unfortunately, the bird you’re hunting can, too. Because the eyes of a gobbler are its first line of defense, hunting open woods can be difficult since a turkey’s vision is comparable to a hawk’s.
Many of you know the scenario: You call to the bird, he answers and expects the hen to come running. But when he can’t see that girl approaching, it’s “Katie, bar the door,” so to speak. Start double-teaming and put the shooter a short distance in front of the caller, though, and it’s good-bye gobbler much of the time.
I remember one bird John and I hunted. We worked the turkey 30 minutes or so; it talked occasionally. John finally suggested that I sit against a nearby rock, and he sat far behind it. When the bird gobbled again, it was only about 60 yards away. I lifted my gun. Big problem, though; the bird never made another sound. It came in quietly, instead, and showed up on a hill 15 yards away. Bigger problem; the gobbler also heard the gun safety click, and the hunt was over.
Jungle Setups Familiar with the expression, “so thick the devil himself would not go there?” Those of us who’ve hunted turkeys for years have heard that turkeys don’t trust thick areas because they know whatever’s out there wants to eat them. It’s true that turkeys aren’t curious birds and would rather run than “ask questions.” But it’s also true that, once in a while, gobblers will traipse through some pretty dense stuff to get to their hens.
I’m not sure I believed it, either, until a gobbler John and I were hunting found us after he had flown down from his roost. The upside of sitting near thick foliage is that a gobbler can’t see as well and will take chances to find his girl. It also enables the caller and shooter to sit closer and in opposite directions to watch for the bird to come within range. I witnessed it when a 23-pound tom sporting an 11-inch beard cleared the bramble and walked into a field.
Pressured Gobblers Turkeys are more cautious as time wears on. Many have been spooked; others have been shot at — bad news for a hunter who is trying to fill a late-season tag. Double-teaming might be the solution.
In many cases, pressured turkeys stop gobbling and refuse to come closer. When that happens, it works out better if the shooter is at least 40 yards in front of the caller because even if the gobbler hangs up, it’s still within shooting range. Oftentimes, a gobbler will circle and come in from behind. The shooter may not get a crack at the bird, but the caller probably will. In these instances, both hunters should practice safety and know exactly where each is sitting before he or she takes a shot.
When you hunt in hilly country, position the shooter near the top of the hill and the caller farther down. When a pressured gobbler hears your calls and persuades himself that a hen is on the other side, he sometimes will top the hill for a closer look. If the shooter is less than 40 yards from the hilltop, the gobbler will be in gun range when it looks for the hen.
Double Talk & Call Shy Hunting call-shy birds has always been a challenge. They’ve heard it all, seen it all, and we have taught them well.
Educated gobblers usually don’t budge. Or, they only come part of the way and never cross that imaginary line separating them from life and death. You have clucked, purred and hit on all cylinders, but nothing has worked.
The imaginary line between shooter and gobbler can sometimes be “moved” to the hunter’s advantage when double-team tactics are put into place!
A tactic that has worked for us is to have the caller at least 30 yards behind the shooter. If both hunters alternate calling, the turkey sometimes can be tricked into thinking that at least two hens are in the area. In the instance that a gobbler is hung up with a hen, try to bring her in with aggressive yelps and cutts. If those calls don’t work, try imitating the sound of two turkeys fighting.
Two Is Best For Beginners Some of us are still learning how to call and have calling strategies. That’s why double-teaming turkeys is a fun way to master the tricks. Two beginners can learn together, or for those lucky enough, a seasoned hunter will take a student under their wing. There is no better way to introduce others to the sport and, hopefully, hook them.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Vikki Trout is a full-time freelance writer and photographer who loves hunting turkey, deer, bear and small game. When she’s not hunting, she loves capturing wildlife through the lens of her camera.