Chris Kirby on How to Get a Gobbler That’s with Hens
Editor’s Note: Chris Kirby is the president of Quaker Boy Calls, produces the Mossy Oak Turkey Thugs calls and has won the World Turkey Calling Championship. As a youngster, Chris trailed along behind his dad, Dick Kirby, who started Quaker Boy Calls, when they hunted. He never remembers a spring when he wasn’t in turkey woods. From the beginning of turkey season in Florida until the end of turkey season in New York, Chris will be wearing Mossy Oak camouflage, hunting turkeys in the spring woods every day – and for sure in the mornings.
Nothing’s more frustrating than having a gobbler talking to the timber just before daylight, answering even your softest tree call, and you know you're only a few minutes from taking him. But when he flies down, he lands in the middle of a harem of hens and walks off away from you. So, the big problem is: “Now, how am I going to get that gobbler?” In this turkey-hunting situation, patience will be your best ally, knowing that you have a difficult turkey-hunting problem to solve. If you’ve done your scouting ahead of time, you should understand where this gobbler and his hens normally go every morning, and those turkeys know where they're going. If prior to your hunt, you know the turkey’s usual plan for the day, taking this gobbler becomes much easier. If this is the first time you’ve hunted this turkey, you may want to stay fairly close but out of sight. Use calls like a crow call, an owl call or a coyote howl to get the gobbler to give up his location as he walks through the woods. Then, follow him and his harem to learn where they go after the gobbler flies down from his roost tree.
The next morning, take a stand along the route the gobbler and the hens will follow, and you'll have a much-better chance to bag that bird. Generally, the first place a gobbler with hens will go after he flies down from the roost will be a place to feed and/or to drink water. If the turkey’s gobbling while he's walking, circle him and the hens, and take a stand in front of the flock. Anticipate where the flock’s going next, and start soft calling. If the gobbler doesn’t answer your soft calling, start calling aggressively like a dominant hen. Make really-loud aggressive yelping and cutting calls. If you can get that boss hen to start calling back to you excitedly, often she’ll get annoyed enough to bring the flock to you. Once the hen starts calling aggressively back to you, call back to the boss hen with the exact same call she uses to call to you. Because that boss hen doesn’t want you around her boyfriend, she probably will come to you to try and run you off before the gobbler arrives. If she starts coming to you, that gobbler will follow the boss hen.
I had to deal with this situation last spring when I was turkey hunting in New York. I got the boss hen fired-up. When she got close, I quit calling and sat as still as I could in my Mossy Oak camouflage. The boss hen walked past me at seven steps and never saw me. When the gobbler came in, I waited until he was at 30 steps. I squeezed the trigger on my shotgun, and that gobbler got a free ride to my home in the back of my pickup truck.