Why’d He Do That? Dealing with Turkey Curveballs

Some springs, you’ll encounter a gobbler that behaves as expected and walks right to your setup. Enjoy those turkeys, because many others will leave you searching for answers about their puzzling actions.

Let’s look at some frustrating situations, determine possible reasons for the bird’s behavior and discuss strategies that might turn the tables.

Scenario: A roosted gobbler answers your calling on the limb but won’t come closer after flydown.

Possible reasons/potential solutions: He’s probably with hens, so listen closely for soft yelping, clucking and purring, and, if that’s the case, try to call to the girls. However, the gobbler might just be playing the grand spring game, waiting for the hen he heard (you) to approach him. Be patient, and gauge your calling intensity on his responses. As long as you can hear him gobble, you’re still in the game, so don’t abandon hope too soon.

Scenario: A hot-gobbling longbeard approaches your setup but then stops and won’t budge.

Possible reasons/potential solutions: Did a hen intercept him? It happens a lot. But sometimes, a gobbler just isn’t comfortable approaching certain areas. If the bird doesn’t see a hen where he heard calling, he probably won’t come closer. If you can move without spooking the bird, slip to another setup, and resume the game. If your setup seems good, think about what you were doing when the gobbler stopped his approach. Were you calling a lot? Hush up for several minutes. Or were you yelping softly and sparingly? Crank up the intensity to fire him up.

Scenario: A bird answers your calling now and then but walks the other way.

Possible reasons/potential solutions: Again, those nasty hens provide the most likely answer. Sometimes, however, gobblers just prefer traveling to areas where they’re comfortable or might have hooked up with hens previously. Either way, try to make bird to gobble enough so you can get a fix on the direction he’s walking, and make an educated guess about his destination. Then, slip around the area, sneak into a good ambush spot and wait for him, calling now and then.

Scenario: A turkey responds immediately to your first call but won’t answer again.

Possible reasons/potential solutions: Hens (see a trend?). That’s a classic courtesy gobble. The longbeard heard your yelping and offered one “come-along-with-us” response. However, he probably has all the ladies he needs and isn’t going to leave them. The easiest solution is to find another gobbler. If that’s not feasible, slip into the area, call every few minutes and wait to see what happens. The ladies might leave him at midday, and you could be the hottest thing in the woods.

Of course, there’s another factor that might explain all the aforementioned situations and many others. That frustrating turkey … is a turkey. He has a grape-sized brain, rarely does the same thing twice and we're trying to outwit him. That’s often enough to thwart your best efforts. 

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