The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


April 21, 2013

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Bettering the boss



Another weakness of boss gobblers is that often they do not tolerate a subordinate gobbler that attempts to breed a hen. In public-land hunting, I never use gobbler calls. It just isn’t worth the risk of being targeted by another hunter. I have done so on private lands, however, with marginal results. Often the boss gobbler literally breaks into a run like a rooster to flog the upstart younger tom, if he thinks his dominance has been challenged. But be careful and make sure you’re the only hunter in those woods.

Change yer habits

First, every aspect of what a hunter does, maintaining silence, holding still, calling well and setting up in the right place is far more important than it would be during a hunt for a young bird. Dominant birds need to be approached with the idea in mind that they are actively looking for a reason to bust and run.

If the calling is too aggressive or maybe too subtle; if the woods are too quiet or perhaps too noisy; if the setup position is too concealing or perhaps too open, anything can be reason enough for an individual gobbler to break off his approach before coming into shotgun range. Almost unreasonable attention to detail is in order.

What he wants

Most turkey hunting experts agree that subtle calling is overwhelmingly the best tactic to use on these birds. Each one is the boss in his area and thus is difficult to boss around, even by a lovelorn hen. If the gobbler is hammering out gobbles on the roost, then getting aggressive sometimes works really well and really fast. But almost every time you harvest a bird quickly just off the roost, there are usually several gobblers sounding all round the woods, and the bird that comes in to be whacked is almost always a 2-year-old bird.

When I hear a single bird or only very few gobbles in the morning, I cut back my calling a bit, making it more subdued from the beginning. If the gobbler gets really hot, the calling can always heat up then.

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