Gerald Almy: How the pros deal with quiet gobblers
When gobblers won’t talk, expert turkey hunters such as Jim Clay, Rob Keck, Kelly Cooper, and Will Primos have a number of tricks and strategies they turn to. Here are six tactics they’ve demonstrated to me on hunts from Alabama to New York for coping with quiet toms.
All of these are excellent strategies for the turkeys right here in the Shenandoah Valley on private land and the vast public lands of George Washington National Forest.
Try different or multiple calls. Sometimes something different is all it takes to stir toms out of their silence. If you mainly use a mouth call, try a box, slate, aluminum, or push-pin call.
Even more effective sometimes is using several calls at once. A tom might be willing to ignore one lone yelping bird. But if he hears what he thinks are two birds or a small flock of hens yelping, clucking and carrying on, it may prove more than he can resist.
He might sneak in silently to check out the commotion. Or he might just gobble back and at least give away his location.
Go soft and quiet. While using two or three calls at once can sometimes goad a gobbler out of his silence, the opposite approach can also be effective. Try low-volume, soft calling.
Walk 50 or 75 yards. Then call quietly, like birds might do if they were spooked from heavy hunting pressure. A quiet tom might not gobble back at you, but simply give his presence away with a coarse yelp or just by clucking. Continue working him with soft calls and you can often lure in such birds with a scaled-back, low-key approach.
Mimic other turkey sounds besides calls. If birds are quiet from hard hunting pressure, forget calling or call just one time. Then cup your hand and pull back leaves sharply to simulate a hen scratching for food. Also try flapping a turkey wing carried in your vest to imitate a hen stretching her wings.
Try kee-kee runs. A good call for prodding untalkative birds is the kee-kee run, used by lost young turkeys wanting to regain contact with their group. It’s normally thought of as a fall call, but it will often draw answers from gobblers in spring, too.
Roost him. If you can hear a tom’s flapping wings as he flies up to roost or get him to gobble one last time with a hen or owl call, your chances for taking a quiet tom improve dramatically.
Get in tight to the bird the next morning well before first light and set up 50-75 yards away. Give him just one or two clucks or maybe a few soft tree yelps. Then remain silent. Show him you’re the same type of non-talkative bird he is.
Often the tom won’t utter a sound but will drop down in range or make a few steps your way after he leaves the roost. That’s all it takes.
Approach from a different direction. All too often toms are quiet because they somehow sense that a hunter has moved into the area. They may not spook and fly off, but they’ll remain silent. Try taking a longer, more circuitous route than most hunters do, or you normally would, so you come in from a new direction.
That simply trick or one of the others revealed here may be all it takes to solve the difficult challenge of quiet spring toms.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.