Turkey Hunting Tips: Kill Spring Gobblers Using the Silent Treatment

I love calling turkeys. Selective silence can kill gobblers, too, if you know where and when to employ the locked-lips strategy. Roosted birds, strutting toms, and nervous flocks of pressured turkeys are all as likely to turn and flee from your calls as they are to waltz in to shotgun range. Give these birds the silent treatment, and save your noisemaking for the post-kill celebration.

Roost Trees
The first place to shut up is beneath roost trees. I'd wager that more gobblers get spooked than killed by hunters working limb clucks and flydown cackles.

Use all of your senses to find roost trees. Watch and listen hard at dawn and dusk. Gobbling and gossiping flock talk is the primary indicator of spring roost sites. Once you home in on areas of activity, find the specific tree that birds are roosting in, then set up within shotgun range in the dark. As turkeys start to stir, do not move. Do not call. If you do either, gobblers will focus on you, and seeing no hen, they'll pitch out the other side of the tree. But by getting tight to the tree, then shutting up, there's a good chance your gobbler will fly down within range.

Bottlenecks
Other places where too many hunters rely on calling rather than stealth and silence are the transition zones between feeding areas, strut zones, and roost trees. These are the game trails, stringers of timber, grassed-over fence lines, and pasture pathways that funnel birds into a focused space. Because they constrain birds, turkeys' notorious vigilance gets even more tightly wound in these places.

The right call in these bottlenecks can coax a gobbler into range, but the wrong call will send the flock running. Don't take the chance. Set up near defined travel lanes, put your calls away, and wait for the birds to walk past you.

Strut Zones
These spots, the open, grassy landings where gobblers strut and display for hens, also are touchy places. The right call can bring a tom in on a string. The wrong call can make him fold up his fan and leave at a sprint, a splash of cold water quenching his red-hot ardor.

Don't gamble with the outcome. Once you find a strut zone--which might be a forested opening, an island in the middle of a swamp, an elevated hummock in a pasture, even a dry creek bed bordered by timber--find the likely entrance and exit routes. Then set up within bow or shotgun range and wait for the gobblers to strut right to you.

And here's a hint for finding the most popular strut zone on any given day: it will be fairly close to a roosting tree. Birds will remain flocked up for a half hour after they leave the roost, then feed in scattered groups for the next hour. But once the morning sun is fully up, they'll start moving toward strutting areas. If you're there before they are, your season can be over by breakfast time.

Break Sites
Can't call spring gobblers away from live hens? Scatter them.
In the morning, find the roost and scare the turkeys so they disband in all directions. Or later in the day, use terrain to intercept moving flocks--out of range but close enough to rush and flush them. Either way, watch the gobbler's escape route. Set up there. Wait for the gobbler to return on the same path he fled on. It might happen fast.

Leaf scratching, soft clucking, and lost yelping can pull a lonely post-scatter tom into range. Waiting patiently can too, proving the axiom that silence is not only golden, it can also be deadly.