Girl Power: Hunt the Hens

Any serious deer hunter knows the best place to hunt during the rut: where the does are. That’s good advice for henned-up gobblers, too. If you locate hens, longbeards are sure to follow.

As you scout, note where hens roost, feed, travel, loaf, dust and build nests. It’s almost guaranteed there will be a gobbler or two with them at those spots at some point during spring.

Also, identify good setups around “henny” areas. Set up a blind by a secluded food plot. Find a comfortable tree on an open oak flat or a shaded creek bottom. Look for ambush sites by natural travel funnels, such as pasture gates or long finger ridges. Hunting these areas while waiting for hens (and gobblers) isn’t as exciting as cutting and running, but it’s darn effective.

Calling to hens is also popular, and rightly so. Most hunters have had agitated hens respond aggressively to their calling and come close to investigate, sometimes bringing a gobbler along.

However, saying you should just yelp hard at hens oversimplifies what should be a more thoughtful approach. Like gobblers, hens have many moods and are constantly sorting out their social hierarchy. They won’t always respond well to aggressive calling. That’s often most effective early in the season, when hens are still in larger groups and jockeying for dominance. And of course, it works better with older, relatively dominant hens, not younger, submissive birds.

Instead of just going right at a hen aggressively, ask for permission first. Use soft, clear yelps and clucks to initiate a conversation. Turkey pro, Alex Rutledge, taught me this tactic years ago, when he called in a flock of Nebraska hybrids with his coy yelping from several hundred yards away. Rutledge explained that subtle, clear yelping doesn't indicate aggression or excitement. Loud, raspy yelping and cutting do. By starting soft, you're “politely” trying to strike up a conversation with a hen and asking permission to join its social circle.

When a hen responds, listen carefully, and try to gauge her mood. If the hen answers in kind with soft, subtle calling, continue calling to her in that manner. You might call the hen and any other turkeys with it within range. Or perhaps you can at least get a fix on their location and make a move.

Conversely, if a hen seems to get excited or aggressive when responding, that’s your cue to ratchet up your calling. Interrupt the bird, or mimic it exactly. Use lots of aggressive yelping and cutting. Even throw in some aggressive purrs. The hen will likely go out of her mind and come in to squash the sassy interloper. Sometimes, a hen will get so wound up that she'll refuse to leave unless you spook her. Often, an accompanying gobbler will follow her to your gun barrel.

Article Category