Editor’s Note: Will Primos founded what is now known as Primos Hunting in the 1970s, and he says, “I love to turkey hunt.”
What do you do when you're calling to a turkey, he's gobbling back to you, he starts coming to you, and then, he stops, struts and drums just out of gun range at about 60 yards?
If you’re anything like my Cousin Jimmy, you go get a rifle and shoot him. However, if you're not like my Cousin Jimmy, you have to execute one of the most difficult tasks in all of turkey hunting - quit calling, and let the gobbler walk off. This task is very difficult for an avid turkey hunter. When you’ve got a turkey that close, you're thinking, “There ought to be something I can do to get that bird to come an extra 30 yards.” What often happens is that you start using various calls or move around, spooking the gobbler. So, a more productive tactic is to quit calling, and the turkey may come in when you quit answering him. If he doesn’t come in, let him walk off, and plan to hunt that turkey another day from a different location.
Most of the time, if a tom hangs up and won’t come in to where you’re calling him from, probably a creek, a fence, a thicket or a place where he has encountered another hunter or a predator is between you and him. There’s some reason the turkey won’t come to your calls. One of the problems that we often forget is that a turkey has really good eyesight. If you're hunting in open woods, and you can see the turkey out there at 60 yards, that gobbler realizes that if there’s a hen that can hear and see him, he should be able to spot her. Turkeys like to move through open woods not only to meet hens, but also to see any predators that may attack them when they're moving to their hens. Remember, you're not the only predator in the woods. Bobcats, coyotes and other hunters may be between the gobbler and his hen. So, if he doesn’t see the hen that’s been talking to him, he has every reason to believe that there may be danger between where he is, and where he knows the hen should be.
The gobbler also understands, especially if he's been gobbling a lot, that the hen should come to him when he’s within sight of where she should be. Therefore, if you quit calling, let the gobbler walk off, and plan to hunt him again another day, you often can determine why the gobbler hasn’t come in to you. The next day, try to call him in from a direction where he’s less likely to hang up. One of the best ways to keep a turkey from hanging up when you call to him is to have some type of cover between you and the gobbler when you take a stand to call a turkey. Have perhaps some bushes he can’t see through that he’ll have to walk around to see the hen. Or, maybe if the gobbler’s on one side of a ridge, and you call from the other side of the ridge, then as soon as he tops the ridge, he’s in gun range. The real secret to bagging a gobbler is to have that gobbler hunting you, instead of you hunting him.