Ever had a gobbler sound off lustily for an hour off the roost but as soon as he flew down he shut up?
Or gobble to your every call yet refuse to move an inch in your direction? How about the bird that gobbles a few times from the roost then flies down but walks directly away from you, gobbling as he goes?
All these are signs that you have just run up against a gobbler that was probably messed with before season and has learned to be extremely cautious about coming to the calls of any hen he cannot see. His gobbling tells you he hears you and is interested but if you don't come to him he is not going to come to you. He has already learned, probably weeks ago, that leaving the hens he has to seek out one calling from afar is futile and sometimes downright dangerous.
Last week we discussed the importance of scouting for gobblers without harassing them. Calling birds in before season starts, spooking them or conditioning them to the fact that the enemy has invaded their territory and learned their language teaches them to ignore any calls coming from afar. They may stand and gobble back to hen calls but the birds that have been "educated" preseason are not about to risk their own necks by running to any hen they cannot see.
Most savvy hunters have learned to give up the thrill of seeing birds before season or getting them on video. Actually a smart scouter is one who learns to pattern gobblers. Most gobblers stay in a particular territory and follow the same routines each day. Most hunters do the same thing in the mornings, except in hunting seasons and vacations. Think about it.
Patterning a gobbler means that you go to your listening posts and spend the rest of your scouting time doing just that - listening! Here's what you want to find out: which way does he go when he flies off the roost? Do his hens roost right with him or do they roost a hundred or more yards away? Is there more than one gobbler running together?
Patterning a gobbler's daily habits will pay big dividends. If you stick with a gobbler 3 or 4 days, not calling, not betraying your presence, but noting which direction he goes when he flies down. Come season, unprepared hunters will stand on the road and bombard him with their best calls trying to locate him but if you already know the direction he'll head at flydown, you can skip the "location" calls and set up in the way you know he'll go. You may have to offer him some soft clucks/purrs to get him to edge within shotgun range but he'll likely listen to them.
If you know which field he and his harem prefer, you can be set up in a blind, decoys set, before they get there. Soft persuasion may be all they need to check you out.
Last spring season, I used a one-man chair blind to help me bag my gobbler. I set it up in a corner where a couple different types of habitat met. I knew birds congregated there during the day. I was sure they would show up some time during the day so I got in this comfortable blind and waited.
After an hour or so, about eight birds made their way into the field. They were too far away to take a shot so I had to just cluck a bit and wait. When I thought them to be within range, I leveled on the biggest one, a really huge gobbler, and fired.
Well, I missed that one. When I ran to che3ck out my shot I realized that the birds were really too far away for me to have taken the shot. I went back to my blind and got comfy again, offered some soft yelps and clucks every 10 minutes or so. After awhile I heard a couple gobbles in the woods directly behind my blind. But I continued to wait.
There was a barbed-wire fence just to the right side of my blind and just about the time I decided nothing was going to happen that day, the fence began to bounce up and down and rattle, the brush behind my blind was rustling and in a second, two adult gobblers were standing about 20 yards away. Lucky for me, they stood with their backs to me, scanning the huge field in front of them.
I had to do some maneuvering to get my shotgun out of the front window and jockeyed around to shoot out the left side window in the blind but I did it. He was a gorgeous 20-pound plus gobbler. I got him at 11:45 a.m.
Knowing the most likely areas for turkeys to come to and just waiting, giving off enough calls to let any birds around now there is a hen there, is a distinct advantage. Having the patience to sit there and wait is made much easier if your advance scouting has revealed that they like this place.