John's Journal...

What to Do When a Turkey Hangs-Up

Put One Hunter Up and One Back

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: You won’t take a proud, mature gobbler with conventional calling tactics. These bronze barons have attitudes. They consider themselves the finest birds any hen ever has seen. They feel so sure of their masculinity and superiority that they believe every hen in the woods will come running to them. They won’t exert any extra energy to go to a hen. You also can recognize a proud gobbler by his extreme caution. A proud gobbler will stop about 50 to 60 yards from where you call, gobble, strut and drum — but not come any closer. When a tom takes this position, most hunters say he’s hung-up. But you can take a bird that acts like this.

Click to enlargeOne spring morning when I hunted with my longtime friend and hunting buddy, Dr.Bob Sheppard of Carrollton, Alabama, we failed to come into close contact with a bronze woods wizard. Finally, at 11:00 a.m., we heard a turkey gobble about 150- yards away.

“I’ve tried to bag that gobbler since the beginning of the season,” Sheppard said. “That turkey will come down that woods road about 120 yards in front of us and look out into the clean hardwood bottom. If he can’t see a hen, he won’t leave the road. We only have a chance of killing that turkey if you’ll move as quickly and as quietly as you can to the edge of the woods road before the turkey gets there. I’ll stay back about 75 yards and call from where the turkey can’t see me. If you reach the woods road before the turkey, you’ll have a shot at him. But if the turkey arrives first, he’ll spot you coming through that open bottom.”Click to enlarge

I moved rapidly through the river-bottom swamp and spotted the road ahead of me when I heard Sheppard cut on his diaphragm caller. The gobbler croaked out his mating call close by. I sat down quickly in front of the largest tree I could find, laid my 3-inch magnum on my knee and pointed it at the road. My breathing hadn’t had time to slow before I heard the gobbler drumming and strutting on the road. But I still couldn’t see him.

Sheppard kept calling from Click to enlargebehind me. Then shafts of sunlight knifed through the trees and illuminated the tom’s feathers. When Sheppard yelped, the turkey dropped his strut and walked to the edge of the road beside a big tree, keeping most of his body behind the tree. The bird’s head and neck moved up and down and in and out as he scrutinized the hardwood bottom for the hen. I knew the turkey wouldn’t stand in that place long if he didn’t spot a hen. I could see only his head and beard. I realized if I took the shot, half my pattern would hit the tree in front of the turkey.

Finally, the turkey made a half-step from behind the tree. When the crosshairs in my scope overlaid the turkey’s wattles, I squeezed the trigger. The bird weighed 19.5 pounds and had 1-¼-inch spurs.

To take a bird that consistently hangs-up, put the shooter 50 to 75 yards in front of the caller. Then when the gobbler comes in and chooses to hang-up 50 to 75 yards from where he hears the hen, he unknowingly will stand right in front of the hunter.

Tomorrow: Don’t Call

Check back each day this week for more about "What to Do When a Turkey Hangs-Up"

Day 1: Put One Hunter Up and One Back
Day 2: Don’t Call
Day 3: Walk Off When You Call and Circle the Bird
Day 4: Give Him Your All
Day 5: Job ‘Em



Entry 399, Day 1