Most turkey hunters have been in a situation where a gobbler is responding well and making his way in, yet just as we assume that it’s a done deal, hens start to make their presence known by sweet talking Mr. Tom, thus pulling him in the opposite direction. It is easy for a hunter to get discouraged when this happens. After all, if a gobbler has 4 or 5 hens with him, he most likely will not want to leave them to pursue one hen that he is hearing from a distance. Getting a tom to leave a group in order to chase a single hen can be difficult, however, it can be done.
As humans, we sometimes have to put a turkey’s way of thinking into terms that we can relate to and understand. For example, a guy (Mr. Tom) is at a party. He is only at this party to check out the ladies (hens). A lady (the hunter) shows up to this party and she has a great interest in getting with the guy. She sees him from a distance surrounded by several other girls all biding for his attention. If she really wants to get with him, she is going to do everything she can to lure him her way. If she plays her cards right, he will fall for her and leave the other girls behind. The same goes when trying to call a mature gobbler who is already with hens. If we play our cards right using these techniques to attract the attention of a mature gobbler, the hunter will never worry about them be “henned up” again.
Card # 1 – Start A Fight With The Other Ladies
One of my favorite and most successful techniques to calling “henned up” gobblers is to imitate the same sounds that the real hens are making. On many occasions, I have had a hen start increasing the sounds that she is making when I am trying to call a gobbler away from her. Once I begin imitating the same sounds as her, it tends to rile up the dominant hen, which in turn makes her start looking for me. If the hen yelps 3 times, I will yelp 3 times. Eventually the hen will get so worked up that she can’t take it anymore. Which means she is leaving the gobbler behind or even better, leading him along with her. Either way, he most generally will come to see what the fight is all about, hopefully bringing him within gun range. To give the same example with humans. What girl doesn’t get mad when another girl is mocking her, while she is trying to impress a guy? She is not going to ignore the situation, she is going to retaliate.
Card # 2 – Create Urgency and Jealousy
Another great tactic that can be done when trying to break a gobbler away from a group of hens is to create jealousy. When I am calling to a gobbler who has been responding well, only for him to go silent on me, it is most likely because he has other hens with him and doesn’t need or want to gobble at a single hen who is in the distance. This is when I like to use a shaker-style gobble call. It is important to remember safety first when using this type of call, especially if hunting on public land. By using a gobble call, I have caught the attention of the gobbler by thinking another tom has slipped in to steal a hen while he is occupied with the other hens. Especially with a dominant gobbler, this creates urgency to run the other tom away, making him leave the hens to do so. Again to put it in our own experience, a guy doesn’t pay much attention to a girl in the distance, unless another guy slips in and starts talking to her first.
Card # 3- The Immature Teenager Is Trying To Get My Girl? Please!
The last effective tactic to bringing in toms who are already with hens is by having a great decoy setup that consists of a hen and jake decoy. Let’s go ahead and give our own personal example first. It is bad enough for another guy to slip in and start talking to one of our girls. However, when it is an immature teenager who is doing the flirting, the fight is on. It is easy to paint this same picture by using a hen and a jake decoy.
Some of my favorite setups include placing an upright hen in an open field with a half strut jake a few feet behind her. This simulates the jake chasing her for breeding purposes. By placing the decoys in open areas, other turkeys can see from a longer distance. However, one of my favorite setups is placing a hen on the ground or using a decoy such as the Avian-X LCD Laydown Hen who is already in a breeding position. I take a half strut jake decoy and place it directly over her, which imitates the jake getting ready to attempt to breed the hen. Another tactic is to place the jake a couple of feet away as if he is watching over his shoulder, making sure the dominant gobbler is not coming after him. This type of setup is another way to create jealousy and urgency as well as anger, which makes them come in fast and ready to fight.
I have had a gobbler on the opposite end of a field who had 3 to 4 hens with him, and he had no interest in my calling until he spotted the decoys. The tom lost all of his attention for the other hens and came running all the way in to beat up on the jake decoy. This is a great tactic to do mid-morning, if the hunter knows the terrain and knows where turkeys go to strut mid-day. If the hunter can be there and have the decoys already in place, this tactic will work almost every time.
The wild turkey can be one of the smartest animals that is hunted by man. One never knows what they are going to do next to mess up a perfect plan of attack that has been made by the hunter. However, as with most wildlife, if one will get to know the animals natural instincts, the chances of carrying a mature gobbler over the shoulder on the way out is better than ever. Even when most hunters think there is no way to break them away from the real thing, all one really has to do is think like the real thing.
By Heath Wood