By Josh Boyd
It is a problem as old as turkey hunting itself. The proverbial henned up gobbler has been driving turkey hunters crazy for as long as anyone can remember, and doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. Despite our best efforts, these toms never seem to cooperate as we think they should, instead sending us back to the truck, rejected once more.
However, you can hardly blame a gobbler for failing to answer our insistent calling. After all, there is a good reason why the statement “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” remains as popular as it does, even today. Why would a tom leave a hen, or group of hens, that he is already in the presence of, to seek out a lone hen that he hears?
Though a scenario of this nature can be quite maddening for a hunter to deal with, it does not necessarily spell an end to your hunt or guarantee against success. With a sound plan of attack in mind, you might just right the ship and bag a preoccupied gobbler against all odds.
Play The Waiting Game
The first and most passive of your options when attempting to take a henned up gobbler is to hurry up and wait. This undoubtedly seems counterintuitive, but can often be all that is required to turn the tides in your losing fight against ole’ tom.
What makes this tactic so deadly is that it relies upon turkey biology and behavior to predict when a gobbler will be most vulnerable. This creates a window of opportunity to work within, giving you the upper hand.
As morning gives way to early afternoon, hens begin to disperse in rapid succession as they head to nest and to tend to other needs. This leaves a lovestruck gobbler without an audience, and void of the flock of hens that previously surrounded him.
In the absence of his feathered female admirers, many toms are far more responsive and easier to work within range. In short, a gobbler that showed you no interest at 7 o’clock, might come to the gun in a half-sprint at 11 o’clock.
Anticipate a Travel Path
While many turkey movements can be accurately characterized as meaningless meanderings that eventually take a flock off in a particular direction, casual observation will typically reveal the general path of travel that is being followed.
When a group of hens is leading a tom off in the opposite direction, reorganizing your angle of attack might be all that is needed to put yourself back in contention for a successful hunt.
Try visualizing where the hens and gobbler will end up if they continue on their current path. This is often made easier if you have a well-versed, working knowledge of the tract of land on which you are hunting.
Next, consider any possible routes that you can take to move ahead of the flock, to intercept their arrival at a particular location. This might mean topping a ridge or crawling through dense vegetation to move about outside of the view of the turkeys that you are maneuvering around.
With any luck, you will be repositioned in a manner that will bring feeding turkeys past your location at a minimal distance. This puts you back in the game and offers yet another chance to work the wary longbeard into range.
Start A Hen Fight
If a tom is unresponsive toward your calling due to being preoccupied with another hen, why not call in the hen that has him spellbound. While this might seem like a fool’s errand to many, it is not as difficult as one might imagine.
Calling a lead hen into range isn’t as much about enticing her, as it is picking a fight. The objective is to anger this hen with your calling in a way that causes her to hunt down the perceived challenger to settle the score. As she seeks to locate the source of your calling, she unknowingly brings into range the gobbler that you have been attempting to work to no avail.
This can be achieved by mimicking every sound that the most vocal hen accompanying the tom makes, down to every particular note. If this hen sounds a five-note yelp, report back with a yelp of the identical cadence and volume. If the hen begins to cut excitedly, do the exact same yourself.
It is typical for a hen at this point to ramp up the volume of any vocalizations that she utters. Although this often goes against conventional wisdom, you too should increase the volume of your calling, no matter how loud the back and forth exchange becomes.
If a sequence of this nature carries on for several minutes without an appearance by the hen that you are currently in a heated dispute with, begin cutting her off every time her vocalizations ring out. As soon as she gets several notes into a run of yelps, call out in the same manner, attempting to drown out her pleas.
This renders the same effect as being repeatedly talked over in a conversation and is generally the tipping point for an already heated hen. If at any point, this back and forth ceases on behalf of the other party, get into position immediately, as you are likely only moments away from the arrival of a hen bent on sorting out the pecking order. With any luck, the tom that you seek will be following her every step.
Hard Fought Victories
As disheartening as the sight of an unresponsive gobbler with a group of hens can be, the presence of such a circumstance is far from a hunt ending scenario. Instead of heading back to the truck, buckle down, take on an unrelenting attitude, and seize upon the situation at hand to claim a hard-fought victory, and put your tag on a henned up gobbler.