Extreme Gobbler Tactics

Some of us learned that setting up over a football field away from a roosted gobbler is the way to go. In reality, the trick to toppling some tough longbeards is to sneak in early, and set up close. Extreme setup tactics sometimes rule.

I once scouted a New Hampshire spring gobbler before the season on an un-posted farm that routinely saw some in-season hunter traffic. Not only would killing the longbeard prove challenging, but I’d have to consider Opening Day influences. So, I did a number of obsessive-compulsive things all of us die-hards favor . . .

I roosted the turkey on a regular basis in the weeks before the opener. Sometimes he favored one side of the river; sometimes mine on the farm. The late afternoon before the opener I located the gobbler on my side, so I sat down in the woods, and waited for him to fly up. At one point, another scouting hunter walked right past me, obviously late for something by the way he was moving. That worried me a little, but I’d just have to play my hand.

The next pre-dawn morning I parked my truck, and walked the half-mile to the bird. I slinked down nearby, mouth diaphragm tucked in my cheek.

The longbeard first gobbled on the pre-dawn roost—well under 100 yards. Like maybe gun range. I didn’t make a sound. Far off some guy romanced his barred-owl hooter. Big wings ticked branches on the way to the ground. Once there, the turkey gobbled some more. That’s when I first called. He ripped back on the edge of range—unseen through ground cover. I held the assumed shooting position, mentally willing the bird into range.

Problem is, the turkey hung up. So I shut up. So did the bird. I waited a long, long time, feeling the gobbler was in no hurry. After many long minutes of shared silence, I called, oh so softly. The tom was right there, well inside range. He’d waited all that time. The gobbler leaned forward then, almost imperceptibly the way they do. That was the last thing that longbeard saw.

—Steve Hickoff