Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Reactive Turkey Calling

Use a turkey call or some other loud locator or shock call to elicit a gobble. Then begin your calling to “take a tom’s temperature” - see what kind of mood he’s in. (Bob Humphrey photo)

By Bob Humphrey 

The most effective communicators are those who listen first, then respond appropriately.  If you tell people what they want to hear they’ll be much more receptive to what you’re selling.  And this applies as much to turkeys as to people. Proactive calling will sometimes get the job done but far more often it is the reactive callers who are the most successful. 

You begin the conversation with some type of shock call, maybe some loud cutting or yelping, or non-turkey sounds like a crow, coyote, peacock or anything loud enough to make a gobbler gobble.  At this point all you’re saying is “Hey!  Anybody out there?” 

Once you get a response, you need to determine the turkey’s mood.  In turkey hunting lingo this is often referred to as “taking a bird’s temperature.”  His response will help determine your next reply, and move.

If he gobbles back immediately, it’s a good sign he’s responding to your call.  If you haven’t already, start looking for a place to sit.  Wait 15 or 20 seconds, then try him again.

An immediate response means he’s interested.  You need to estimate how far away he is, and determine if he’s getting closer?

     - If he’s still a ways off, you might try and crank him up with some exciting cutting and yelping and see how he responds.  Immediate and multiple gobbles means he’s really fired up.  Little or no response means you may want to back off a little; play it coy.

     - If he’s already nearby and getting closer, sit down, prop up your gun and get ready.  A little soft calling to close the deal might help, but if he’s really fired up, he’ll find you regardless. 

What if the bird gobbles back, but doesn’t seem to be coming any closer?  That’s a good indication that he’s henned up.  He already has what he most desires at this time of year; and he’s not likely to leave them to investigate you.  But you still have options.

     - Sometimes you can fire up a hen with some aggressive yelping.  She may actually come your way, bringing the gobbler with her.  This is when you can really crank up the calling.

     - It’s also possible that approach might backfire.  The hens may get jealous and pull the tom away.  If so, there’s not much you can do but move on to greener pastures.  Come back and try him again several hours later when he might be alone and more receptive.

If he hangs up - continues to gobble but stays in roughly the same location - he may be in a strut zone.  He could linger here for some time, strutting back and forth, gobbling intermittently. 

     - You can try calling him out but the odds are against you.  That leaves giving up, or ...

     - You might try closing the distance.  Move up in short increments, when the bird is at the far end of his strut zone.  You need not necessary get all the way into gun range.  Often times if you can get into his comfort zone - within about 75 yards - he’ll break and come the rest of the way to a call.