Editor’s Note: Tracy Groves, the Mossy Oak Regional ProStaff Manager for Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York, is a licensed minister. He’s also the founder and president of Heartwood Outdoors, a nonprofit organization that works with children who come from single parent homes and has a 160-acre farm in Big Pool, Maryland. At the farm, Groves helps teach the children about the outdoors, including archery and hunting skills and moral values.
I'm often asked, “Tracy, when you're turkey hunting, which camo pattern do you wear?” I wear Mossy Oak Obsession, and I also wear Mossy Oak Bottomland, depending on the state I'm hunting in, and the terrain where I'm hunting. For instance last year when turkey season arrived, green was already on the trees and bushes. So, I wore Mossy Oak Obsession. However, when I drove 1-1/2-hours west to Pennsylvania, there was no greenery at all. So, I wore Mossy Oak Bottomland. I wear Bottomland in the states and at the times when there’s no green-up. But when the foliage begins to turn green, I switch to wearing Mossy Oak Obsession.
We've been talking about what to do when the turkey shuts-up. I’ve said that I’ll sit on my stand, quietly looking for the gobbler for an hour. After I’ve given that turkey an hour, and I haven’t seen or heard him, I’ll get up, if I'm pretty confident that he's found a hen or for some other reason he's not going to respond. Very slowly and cautiously, I’ll walk to the spot where I’ve heard that turkey gobble the last time. When I get there, I’ll make a few hen calls, because I want that turkey to think that I’ve heard him from a long way off and finally come to him, but he's gone off and left me. If the turkey doesn’t gobble back to me after I've made a few calls, I leave that area. I go look for another turkey. But later on during the day, I’ll plan to return to that same spot and attempt to call him again.
Usually somewhere between 9:00 am and 12:00 noon is the time of day that we call the turkey lull - the time when most gobblers are breeding hens or walking through the woods with hens or have finished breeding hens and don’t gobble very much. If you stay in the same location where you’ve heard the turkey gobble before he’s shut up and keep calling and calling, I think you're educating the gobbler. He's learned the sound, the rhythm and the cadence of your call. He knows you're not moving. An older gobbler won’t come back to that same spot, if he hears that same kind of calling again. However, if you make a few calls, and the turkey does gobble back, more than likely, he’ll come to you. But if he doesn’t gobble, then go hunt another turkey. Plan to return there later in the day or on another morning. If I get to that place later in the day, I’ll change calls, or I’ll use a different pitch and a different tone on the same call. I want that gobbler to think that I'm another hen that may have heard him that morning and come to that spot looking for him.
To recap, the worst thing you can do when a turkey quits gobbling is to sit on one site and continue to call him over and over again. When you do that, you're educating that turkey. If you're not going to hunt that bird the same day, the best strategy is to wait a day or two. Return to that same area. Take a stand closer to where you’ve heard the gobbler - off to the left or the right. Usually, I’ll move 60 or 70 yards away from or on either side of where I’ve heard that gobbler the last time I’ve hunted him.
Last year I was hunting a turkey that was roosting in the same tree every day. Each day I went in to hunt that gobbler, I’d move 20 to 25 yards away from where I had called to him on the previous day. I learned the gobbler was roosting with the hen he was breeding. Finally on the last day I hunted that turkey, I was guiding. For some reason, that gobbler liked the new position that I was calling from, and the different call I used on that day. As soon as he flew down from the limb of his roost tree, he came running straight toward me, and the person I was guiding - who then missed the turkey. We had hunted that turkey for 3 days. But when we finally had a chance to take the gobbler, my hunter missed.