By Bob Humphrey
Deciding how aggressive your turkey calling should be depends on several variables, not the least of which is the time of season.
Early in the season, turkeys are usually in large groups. Depending on how early your season begins, these may be either winter aggregations that have yet to break up, or more likely,
dominant toms with their harem of hens and (hopefully), a few subordinate adult males.
It may seem counterintuitive but this is the time for aggressive calling. There are several reasons for this. For starters, real birds are very vocal this time of year. They’re used to hearing a lot of calling, and you have to compete with that.
Second, they have yet to become call shy. Yours will be the first artificial calls they hear so they’ll be more receptive, and there’s less chance of making a mistake.
Third, and more importantly, those subordinate or satellite toms can be very susceptible to calling this time of year. They’ve been taught by the boss tom not to mess with his hens. But to them, a lone bird in the bush might be worth more than a harem hen close at hand. They may not be the long-spurred limbhangers that are leading the pack, but these two-year-old longbeards provide a great opportunity to build your calling confidence and fill your first tag.
Get ‘em while they’re hot because they won’t last long. They’re going to come to someone’s call so it may as well be yours.
Bear in mind that early season can mean different things in different parts of the country. Turkeys go through a series of transitions during the spring. During the first or second transitions flocks are still in flux and dominance may not be quite established yet among hens or gobblers so you can call a lot. If your season starts late, or there’s an early spring, you may want to tone it down a little.
You may also have to get a feel for an individual turkey’s temperament - something that becomes more important later in the season. If they respond well to aggressive calling, keep it up. If not, you may have to ease up and be patient. But you’ll be doing a lot more of that later on, so enjoy the aggressive calling period where and when you can. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s a long season.