Hunting Hush-Mouthed Gobblers

It’s opening weekend of spring turkey season. Anticipation runs high as you quietly walk through the woods along an old farm road in the dark of predawn. Every day this week you scouted this 100-acre farm and heard no less than three toms gobble each morning. One day you heard six different toms. Another, you left the woods with two toms gobbling and drumming less than 50 yards away, just over the crest of a hill. Today you’ve got all morning to hunt, and weather conditions are perfect for toms to gobble: clear sky, warm and no wind. Moreover, not once during the week did you spook birds. They haven’t been pressured.

You ease into the pasture field, where twice this week you saw toms strutting, and set out a pair of decoys. Then you settle in at wood’s edge with your back against a big black oak. As the east sky brightens, a barred owl calls. You tense with excitement and wait for a tom to answer. None does.

It’s now light enough for toms to gobble on their own, but the only birds calling are songbirds. A crow flies over and lets loose a raucous caw; no toms answer. For more than an hour you sit, calling now and again—but nothing. It’s like the toms have vanished. What’s happened? Sometimes, even under ideal conditions, toms just don’t gobble. Some hunters call it quits when toms refuse to sound off. Yet on quiet days, chances are excellent that toms you heard gobble just days before are still within hearing distance of your calls. What’s the most effective way to hunt toms on days they don’t gobble? Here are some tips.

Sitting Strategy

Small farms of 100 acres or so that offer a mix of pasture fields, row crops and small woods plots can offer phenomenal turkey hunting. They are, however, delicate resources. The open terrain makes it easy for turkeys to spot you and spook if you are up and moving. That’s the last thing you want to do if your only turkey-hunting spot is a small farm. Here’s why.

Compare the response of wild turkeys to humans and other predators. If wild turkeys see a human 200 yards away, they typically run or fly off—major spooked. If they see a bobcat or a coyote, even 50 yards away, often all turkeys do is stand alert and watch. If a coyote in hiding makes a