with John E. Phillips
Editor’s Note: Longtime turkey hunter, Alex Rutledge of Birch Tree, Missouri, is the host of “Bloodline” TV and outdoor radio shows and a member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff.
If you’ve ever watched TV shows about master criminals, you’ll see that they study their victims for long times before they try to take them down. Oftentimes you have to take the same approach to successfully hunt a henned-up gobbler. Some old, smart turkeys will gobble really well from the roost and then shut-up and seem to vanish. These turkeys are often older birds that have had some hunting pressure and won’t leave their roost tree, until they see the hens they’ve been calling standing under their roost tree. When this old gobbler sees his hens below him, he’ll fly down, land with the hens, walk away with them and never say another word. Since that ole gobbler has all the girls he wants to spend the day with, there’s no need for him to gobble anymore. Don’t forget that turkeys are patternable. Even if a gobbler’s with hens, these hens and that gobbler often will go to the same places every day at about the same time. Another thing that will cause that turkey to become quiet is if he’s called to by every turkey hunter with every turkey call ever made, a situation often encountered many times on public hunting lands.
To work this bird, give-up on calling the gobbler. Instead, call the hens. Within every flock of hens, there’s always one dominant hen called the boss hen. She usually determines the direction of travel that the flock will go in and where and when they’ll stop to feed. So, start calling to the hens. When you have the hens calling back to you, talk to the ladies instead of their boyfriend. Turkey hens are very jealous. They don’t like any-other hen trying to talk to their gobblers. If you start talking louder and more aggressively to the gobbler than the boss hen, she’ll get upset. What will make her even more upset is if you say the same thing she says - except in a more-demanding way.
We’re trying to call in the hens. The boss hen will come in and run the other hen (you) off, because you’re talking to her boyfriend. As she comes to you, the other hens will follow her and so will the gobbler. That’s when you have to depend on your patience, your ability to sit still and your Mossy Oak camouflage, if you’re going to get this bird. You have to let the hens walk past you. Once they’ve gotten past you and can’t see you, you can introduce the gobbler to lead. Good camouflage, the ability to call hens and the nerves to sit dead-still when hens may be 4- or 5-feet from you is the way to take a gobbler with hens.