By Josh Boyd
Turkey hunting is an endeavor marked by numerous challenges, some of which can be quite maddening to overcome. However, few scenarios can make a turkey hunter pull their hair out quite as bad as that of a henned-up gobbler. Many times, despite our best efforts, an old tom will spend the better part of the morning preoccupied with the hens that he is in the presence of.
When this occurs, we are left with few options. If one cannot call the tom away from his hens, call in the lead hen of the group, or reposition to cut off the flock’s movement, the morning’s hunt often grinds to a halt. In this exact moment, the vast majority of turkey hunters would be willing to give almost anything in exchange for a winning strategy that would put the henned-up gobbler in the back of their truck.
Though this seems like wishful thinking, a new strategy that tends to be highly effective in times like these have emerged as of late. The technique of fanning toms into range has been around for several years now and has grown exponentially in popularity. Although the practice of fanning tends to be a highly efficient means of taking even the most henned-up of gobblers, it has not come without its fair share of criticism.
What Is Fanning?
Fanning is the practice of using a preserved fan, or replica of the like, to draw an aggressive response from a tom, especially when they are in the presence of hens. This technique typically involves a hunter crouching behind the fan to conceal their outline, and can also be used in conjunction with forward movement toward the turkey that is being targeted.
While not 100% effective, most dominant toms in a given area will approach the perceived intruder, looking to stake claim to their territory, even if it comes at the hands of physical aggression. If all goes as intended, a hunter becomes the beneficiary of this response, as they are often presented with a shot opportunity at the rapidly approaching tom.
A Differing of Opinions
Fanning, in general, has recently become somewhat of a hot button issue of sorts. There are typically two schools of thought toward this technique, and they couldn’t be any more opposite of one another.
On one hand, many hunters find excitement in this method of hunting, and feel that there is nothing wrong with the practice overall. On the other, many individuals feel that fanning has no place in turkey hunting, as it does not give the birds of an area a sporting chance, nor does it abide by what is generally considered safe practices when afield.
Much like any matter of opinion, an individual’s judgment regarding whether or not fanning holds any true value in the sport of turkey hunting is often a direct derivative of which side of the fence they are on.
For those that are still on the fence, perhaps the best course of action is to understand each opposing side’s view, and form your own opinion based upon what you personally feel to be correct.
A Case for Fanning
Those that find favor in the practice of fanning often cite the virtues of this technique when working toms in the accompaniment of hens, as well as the thrill that this style of hunting provides. Fanning, in general, can be a highly mobile style of hunting that allows an individual to shape the destiny of their outing, by taking an interactive role in their decoying approach.
Most hunters who fan turkeys find this practice to be no less sporting than calling from a singular location, or hunting over a stationary decoy. Those in favor of fanning also typically feel that the practice is no riskier than sitting near a lifelike decoy while hunting. Many also say that being discretionary in regards to the location in which this tactic is employed is the key to remaining safe when fanning.
A Case Against Fanning
Those that dismiss fanning as being of no real value to the sport of turkey hunting often cite the inherent risks associated with crawling around in the spring turkey woods while masquerading as a tom turkey. Many of these individuals also challenge the validity of claims that fanning is safe when done on private property, in the absence of other hunters. Those against fanning argue that you cannot ensure against trespassers, even on private ground.
Outside of concerns regarding safety, some individuals claim that fanning presents hunters with an unfair advantage, that offers a lovestruck tom little in the way of a sporting chance. Much of this sentiment tends to be rooted in disdain toward the technique’s departure from more traditional means of turkey hunting, such as stationary calling efforts.
No matter where you stand on the issue, there are a few factors that come into play that most can all agree on. One such factor is that fanning on public ground, of any type, is likely not wise. The risks that come with this aggressive style of decoying, in a location where you have little to no control over the proximity of other hunters, tend to be extremely high.
Another factor that presents no grey area is that of adhering to all game laws. These laws are in place to protect both hunter and game, and should never be violated in any attempt to fill a tag. It is important to mention that some states have laws that prohibit stalking turkeys. If you live in such a state, you must recognize what is defined as stalking under these regulations and adhere accordingly.
Prevent a Division
Like any difference in opinion, those that are strongly opposed to fanning, and those that employ the tactic regularly, will likely never find themselves in complete agreeance with one another. However, what is important to understand is that we need to prevent the creation of a divide in our sport, as we are all hunters first.