With turkey hunting, there is always some joker with a paintbrush-thick beard and razor sharp spurs that enjoys mentally torturing us poor hunters.
These are the bad boys of spring who know exactly how to toy with our emotions and destroy our confidence. This is why there is no sweeter feeling in the turkey woods than finally dropping the hammer on one of these master escape artists.
If you want to consistently tag super-tough toms, then you better lace up your boot strings extra tight and hit the woods with hard-hitting tactics and a proven beard-busting game plan.
Going toe to toe with these feathery shadows is not easy. However, the following hardcore hunting strategies and calling tactics are designed to flip the script and help you coax those hardheaded longbeards right down your shotgun barrel.
At one time or another, all of us have encountered a longbeard that likes to stay on the roost gobbling well after daylight. These loitering limb-hangers can be a hunter’s worst nightmare.
Due to the fact a blabber mouth on the roost draws way too much attention to itself. Every echoing gobble increases the chances of the longbeard attracting either a pesky hen or another hunter to the party, and both can potentially ruin your hunt.
On the bright side, there are a few things you can do to pull old jabber jaws off the limb in a hurry.
First, always try to setup as close as possible to a longbeard on the roost. This will help eliminate a lot of hang-ups and make it easier for a fired-up gobbler to reach your position.
Next, make contact just before daylight with some soft sleepy tree yelps and then go completely silent after the gobbler answers your calls.
It’s tough to play this waiting game without calling to a gobbling longbeard, but it can be the quickest way to get him on the ground. In the end, some patience coupled with some calling discipline will allow you to work the gobbler instead of the gobbler working you.
Another deadly tactic for prying a locked-down longbeard off the limb is to simulate a fly-down cackle with a mouth call. Frantically beating your hat against your leg can add just enough realism to drive a poor old gobbler crazy.
If this fails to do the trick, try slowly walking away while hitting the longbeard with some muffled feeding yelps. The lonesome gobbler will think his hot date has lost interest and leaving without him.
Whip Henpecked Gobblers
Undoubtedly, dealing with lovesick gobblers, locked down with hens is one of the toughest spring challenges a hunter can face. Trying to pull a longbeard away from multiple hens with your calling can be extremely difficult.
With growing and expanding flock numbers, henned-up gobblers can be a problem throughout both the early and later segments of season. The good news is there are some unconventional tactics you can utilize to get the job done.
In most cases, your average yelping and purring is not going to be enough to make a strutter pull up stakes and leave the ladies. This is why challenging a lead hen with some aggressive yelping and cutting can generate a window of opportunity.
Aggressive yelping and cutting can challenge a dominant hen and pull the entire flock straight to you. (Travis Faulkner video)
The trick is to get a hen to respond to your calling and then start interrupting her with a series of scolding yelps and loud cutts. This tactic can strike a jealous nerve and cause the dominant hen to march straight in to your setup with the lovesick gobbler right on her tail-fan.
A second option is to monitor the flock from a distance and try to calculate their line of travel. Making accurate predictions of where the birds are likely to go will enable you to choose the best ambush points.
Hunters who can utilize the terrain to block their movement can circle around the turkeys and setup along prime locations that will produce shot opportunities. Calling tactics should depend on the current mood of the turkeys and will range from light and muffled to completely silent. Sometimes raking the leaves with your hands to emulate the sounds of a scratching hen will be all it takes to draw the entire flock straight to your setup.
Bust Tight-Lipped Toms
For years, turkey hunters have tried to figure out why longbeards will practically gobble their heads off one day, but refuse to make a peep the next. It’s almost like someone mysteriously hits the mute button and you’re left all alone battling the dead silence.
Unfortunately, most hunters who work for a living don’t have the luxury of hand-picking their days in the field. Hardcore turkey addicts with blue-collar roots simply have to make the best out of bad hunting situations. This means finding innovative ways to punch tags even when the birds aren’t talking.
Fortunately, there are some effective remedies for muted gobblers who are suffering from lockjaw. The first is to locate a high-traffic area such as current food sources, clean woodlots, fields or other open areas with high visibility.
Locations covered up with hot turkey sign should be at the top of your hit list. After choosing the right setup, mentally prepare yourself to patiently sit and wait out the birds.
Your best bet is to place a ground blind along the edge of a high-traffic area and throw out a strutting decoy with some hens. A strategy like this is not exciting and action-packed, but it will produce when other techniques have failed.
A second tactical option is to break out of the blind and burn a little boot leather. Running and gunning strategies that involve covering a lot of ground are capable of placing you right in the path of a fired-up longbeard.
Quietly easing through the woods and using a crow call to trigger a response can be just what the doctor ordered during silent periods. Cutting and yelping on a friction call or mouth diaphragm also will work when gobblers won’t answer a shock call.
The key is to take the high-ground when possible and place the wind at your back in order to maximize your calling range and coverage.
Watching a strutting gobbler hang-up just out of range is enough to make you wrap a high-dollar shotgun around the base of an old hickory tree. Have you ever wondered how a creature that is capable of walking, jumping, running and flying with minimal effort can somehow get stuck in one place?
Well, it’s a safe bet that a stubborn turkey is going to hang-up on you sometime, but that does not mean the game or your hunt is over.
In order to fix a hang-up, simply switch calls and hit the bird with a new sound and tone. It’s amazing how switching from a high-pitched mouth call to a raspy slate can completely change a gobbler’s attitude and frame of mind.
If that fails to get him moving, then try using a combination of calls to mimic the sounds of several different hens.
Another deadly strategy is to go completely silent and test the patience of the gobbler. Even the toughest and smartest kings of spring can’t handle a hen that seemingly doesn’t want anything to do with them.
This deadly tactic plays on the male ego, which can really get him in trouble. Giving a headstrong gobbler the cold shoulder will often be all it takes to put him in the back of your vest.
Let’s face it; we’re all going to bump into some sneaky longbeards with nasty attitudes and a bag full of dirty tricks. We’re also going to face some mornings that will make us wish we would have just slept in and stayed at home.
However, the right hunting tactics and game plan will give you the ability to fight back and make things happen. When gobblers start cheating and throwing sucker punches at you this spring, take a deep breath, count to 10 and knock their beaks into the dirt with these hardcore hunting strategies.