Tips on Turkey Hunting — #12: WHAT TO DO WHEN GOBBLERS GO SILENT
Spring gobbler hunting is a game based on hearing the gobbler's booming voice. The more sound he makes, the better. His gobbles tell us where he is, and help us decide where to position ourselves to advantage. They may let us know how serious he is about coming to our call.
If we call, and he answers, we can almost always stay in the game. But what if he doesn't answer? What if he never utters a peep? Is the game still on? How do we cope with the gobbler's silence?
Many years ago I was hunting a bird hard. He didn't gobble much in the morning, and over a stretch of a few days he said nothing at all. I was getting frustrated. I'd walk and call, walk and call, trying to get an answer somewhere along the ridgeline I was hunting.
Late in the morning one day I rounded a bend on the old logging road that would take me down the hill to my truck, and there he was running toward me with his wings spread like a 737 accelerating for take-off. Before he came to the bend in the road he lifted his landing gear and sailed off down into the valley. He had been in the heart of the area I was hunting, but he never let out a peep.
I learned something that day. Even though a gobbler may love to make morning music, sometimes he's as silent as the conductor of the orchestra. That doesn't mean he's not there, or that he won't respond. He is there, so don't give up.
That gobbler had a good case of lockjaw, so I shouldn't have kept walking the ridgeline. Instead I should have found a place where I could see and be heard. Then I should have sat and called softly and sparingly, trying to sound like a hen minding her own business. Sooner or later, he probably would have come looking because he is a bird, and does that thing birds of a feather do. And if he didn't, maybe he would have sounded off. Or, maybe some other gobbler would have hollered out or come sneaking in.
The silence of unresponsive gobblers is frustrating when the game depends almost completely on locating gobblers by hearing them. So remember this—a mature gobbler plays the game his way. The game is always on, and he has the right to remain silent. It's one of the toughest times in spring gobbler hunting, but we can win that game. Once in a while a silent gobbler gets carried out of the woods never to gobble again.
I’ll be posting more “Tips on Turkey Hunting” as often as I can until the end of May. I don’t claim to be the best turkey hunter around, but I’ll share what I know. It might be helpful to those who pursue America’s greatest game bird. While you're at it, check out my gobbler-killin' Northern Scratchbox turkey call at EverydayHunter.com/turkey-call. It's full of deadly sounds.