The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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April 21, 2013

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Bettering the boss


The rules change

These gobblers have developed a different way of doing business during the days of spring courtship. To take on a limb-hanging, long-spurred gobbler that has made a few laps through the spring woods, you need to either adjust your style of hunting from that of hunting or hope for some exceptional luck.

Changing your hunting plan to put yourself into a position of taking a dominant gobbler is work, but if you pursue turkeys for the enjoyment of the hunt itself, you need to take on a dominant bird at least once in your hunting lifetime.

Rule No. 1...

The first rule is to have no rules when hunting these birds. To consistently get in the move and countermove game with these turkeys, you’ve got to react to situations with your gut instinct and work with a “seat of your pants” philosophy. You’ll find that your best and most memorable hunts are those where the old gobbler got to you in a personal way. When it gets personal, you’ll label him with a name and commit to the maximum level of effort necessary to put a tag on that gobbler.

The strength of a dominant gobbler lays in its role as king in the area it rules. If you only hear one or two birds gobbling in woods that you know are full of turkeys, it’s quite possible that you’re in the home range of a dominant gobbler. The 2-year-old birds are quiet because if they gobble or even look twice at a hen, the dominant gobbler will find and thrash them. Take out the dominant bird and the same woods may produce a half-dozen or dozen different birds sounding off within a short period of time. Because the young toms fear the older bird, the dominant gobbler seldom gets in a hurry or throws caution to the wind, even during the breeding season. Obviously, this makes him more difficult to harvest.

He also knows every tree, bush, limb and stump in his territory. It will notice anything out of place. This tom most likely has had unpleasant experiences with fake hen calling. He has learned that hens come to him when it’s breeding time and thus, has unbelievable patience.

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