with Jim Joint
When I know the gobblers are henned-up, I don’t call to them when they're on the roost. When the hens have just started to get with the gobblers early in turkey season, I’ve learned that they’ll fly out of the tree and hit the ground running the opposite way from where I’m calling and pull the gobblers with them. So, I try to get as close to the roost tree as possible. I let the hens and gobblers come off the roost naturally. Then when the gobblers hit the ground and start strutting around the roost tree, I give a few soft yelps. Then those gobblers will come looking for us. I try to get within 60 or 70 yards of the roost tree before daylight, depending on how close the terrain will let me get.
This morning when Mossy Oak called, we had gobblers within 50 yards of us, but some hens came in to those gobblers and pulled the gobblers away from us. When this happens, the only option you have is to note the direction the turkeys are going. Then try to get ahead of the flock. I don’t attempt to follow the flock. I've learned I can be more successful, if I get out in front of the flock and let them naturally walk to me.
The hens in a flock of Merriam’s pick out a boyfriend or two or three. Then when they hear an unknown hen (me) calling, they’ll lead their gobbler sweetheart and the rest of the hens away from that unknown hen calling to their gobbler. At this point, the best play is to get at least 200 yards in front of the flock and let them come to you. Don’t call until they’re really close. Then make some really, really soft hen yelps, to sound like a disinterested hen that’s feeding out in front of the flock that’s coming to her. At least, this tactic has worked well for us at the beginning of the season.
Later on in the season, we can call in a flock of Merriam’s using the same tactic that eastern hunters use. We’ll call to the boss hen. If we can get her mad enough, she’ll lead the flock to us to run us off, and she’ll drag the gobblers with her. We have a fairly-long season in South Dakota, and we have to change tactics throughout the breeding season. Our season comes in April 8 this year and runs until May 21.
A nonresident can get prairie turkey tags to harvest five gobblers during the season, and one turkey tag to take one gobbler in the Black Hills. As a resident of the Black Hills, I can get the five prairie tags and two turkey tags for the Black Hills. I don’t guide commercially, but I do guide for my friends and family. The two hunters I've had this week were Greg Butler and Jerry Foster, also a member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff. The three of us are also part of Mountain Hollow Game Calls Pro Staff.