with Joe Brown
A few years ago I learned how to take a turkey’s tail feathers, stretch them out and make a full fan like the turkey’s tail looks when he's in full strut. Then I can attach that fan to a stake, put that turkey fan in front of me and have a turkey come running. Before I go any farther, I have to tell you that I never use this tactic on public land or on lands where I know other hunters are in the woods. I've walked right up on a turkey using this tactic. I've also had turkeys come running to me, circle me and not recognize what I was. Those turkeys never knew that I was anything but a gobbler. As difficult as turkeys were to hunt before I learned this tactic, I still have a hard time believing that holding a turkey fan in front of my face when I get close to a turkey will cause a turkey to run to me or will allow me to crawl up close enough to shoot the gobbler. The turkey’s number-one fear is his natural predators like coyotes, bobcats, foxes or others that they see regularly all year long. My friends and I call this tactic, “Scoot and Shoot.” We've been using turkey fans to get in close to gobblers for about 4-5 years now. I know that there are some commercial turkey fan imitations made by several call manufacturers, and I feel sure that they may work as effectively as the real turkey fans that we use.
With this technique, you need a lot of property to hunt and need to know as much as you can about that land, because woodsmanship plays a major role in getting this technique to work for you. We drive the roads looking for turkeys in fields, clear-cuts, pastures and other types of openings that we hunt. If we find a strutting gobbler out in the field that has one or two other gobblers with him, I’ll often decide to use the “Scoot and Shoot” tactic. If the gobblers don’t have any hens with them, once that strutting gobbler sees that gobbler fan, there's a very good chance that bird will come running to you, even if you're 100-200 yards away from the gobbler.
The best time to use this tactic is at the first part of turkey season, and the very last portion of turkey season. During the middle of the season, when gobblers have hens with them, they’ll often be reluctant to leave those hens to come fight another gobbler. The “Scoot and Shoot” strategy can be very effective during youth season here in Kentucky, and the opening week or two of turkey season when there's a lot of gobbling. Our turkeys are usually henned-up in the middle of April and getting the gobblers to react to “Scoot and Shoot” is more difficult. However, at the end of the season when the hens for the most part are nesting, the “Scoot and Shoot” becomes very effective again.
You have to watch the reaction of the turkey you're hunting when he first sees your turkey fan. My experience has been that the gobbler will stick his neck up and look at the fan. Then he’ll start strutting and gobbling. As you move toward him, there's a certain distance where he just can’t tolerate another gobbler. When you hit that distance, gobblers usually will drop their struts and come running straight to you. When I spot a tom dropping his strut and looking like he's coming to me, I’ll push the stake holding the fan into the ground. Then I lay flat on the ground and watch the gobbler running to me. I also cut holes in that turkey fan close to the base of the tail, so I can look through those holes and see what the turkey is doing. Although some people will look around the side of the tail that they're holding or over the top of the tail, I've seen that tactic spook turkeys before. That’s why I cut holes in the base of the tail of the turkey fan to look through. This type of turkey hunting has made taking gobblers much easier for me.
When the turkeys aren’t gobbling much, but I can see them in a field, many times, I can use the “Scoot and Shoot” tactic and come home with a longbeard on my shoulder that I can’t have taken if I haven’t used the turkey’s tail feathers as a blind and as an attractant. After I stick the stake in the ground and see the turkey coming, I lay my gun down in the grass and point it toward the turkey with the barrel out in front of the fan. Then I lay down, I pick up my gun, and I use my elbows as a bipod to hold my gun steady. So, when the turkey comes in, I'm prepared to take the shot.
I have had a gobbler coming in, and I thought he was coming to my right. But instead when he dropped down in the little ditch behind a hill, he'd come in to my left, see me and spook. I wouldn’t be able to get off a shot. However, most of the time, by watching the turkey, you can tell what he's going to do and which way he's going to go before he gets into shooting range.