The Persuasive Yelper

As much as we love to call, yelping is really just a tool we use to lure a gobbler close by convincing him a hen wants his attention. Opinions vary on how to accomplish that.

Most experts advocate starting with soft, subtle calling. Many tell us to then gauge a gobbler’s mood and vary our calling accordingly, getting hot and heavy with receptive birds but backing off with less chatty longbeards. Still other folks say that’s bunk and hunters should always inject excitement and urgency into calling, yelping a bird all the way to the barrel.

Who’s right? They all are — sometimes. It depends. The only true solution is to give a gobbler what he wants to hear, and you must figure that out during the heat of battle.

I usually open the dialogue with soft, sporadic calling, mimicking a hen that’s feeding or traipsing through the woods. If that makes the bird gobble and move toward me, I stick with it. If not, I quickly escalate the intensity of my calling by yelping and cutting like an excited hen. Again, if the turkey responds and comes closer, I keep at it until he’s in range.

But if the gobbler cools down, it might be time for a change. Usually, I’ll follow the old “take-his-temperature” advice and scale back my calling, making it softer and less frequent in an attempt to play hard-to-get. I’ll also switch calls to see if the bird prefers one sound over the other. Or, I’ll use two calls in conjunction — a diaphragm and slate, for example — to mimic a group of hens.

When nothing works — and that’s often the case — I try to figure out why. Hens provide the obvious answer, so I constantly listen for hen talk and take any opportunity to call to them. Switching setups, if possible, can also prompt a gobbler to come closer. But if a previously receptive gobbler simply hangs up or shuts up, I assume it’s because of something I’ve done, so I’ll do the opposite. If I’d been calling softly, I crank up the excitement. If I’d been calling a lot — often the case — I go soft or even shut up for a half-hour. The latter tactic is often the best medicine for a hung-up gobbler.

Also, I always consider male turkey vocalizations. I’ll throw jake yelps together with hen cutting to make a gobbler think a youngster is with a hen. Or, when I know it’s safe, I’ll gobble at a bird to get under his skin. Sometimes — usually as a last resort — I’ll throw everything together in a turkey fight, using hen calling, aggressive purring and jake- or gobbler yelping to convince a bird he’s missing a spectacle.

Sometimes, nothing works, and a gobbler walks away. No harm. Just hunt him another day. However, by constantly striving to determine what a bird wants to hear, you’ll reduce the number of walk-away head-scratchers and yelp more willing gobblers to your setups.

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