3 Questions to Ask Yourself before You Go 
Fanning for Gobblers!

By Steve Sorensen

“Fanning” for Gobblers – HOT or NOT? 

The heart-pounding new method of turkey hunting is called “fanning for gobblers.” It ramps up the excitement by adding elements to the hunt you can’t get from traditional call-em-up-to-the-shotgun style of hunting.


Early or late on a winter day, a 20-mile drive on rural roads will likely put some turkey territory on your list of places to hunt. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)


Fanning for gobblers – why it’s hot!

  • Fanning capitalizes on the gullibility of the turkeys. Let’s face it – turkeys are not all that smart and under the right conditions, where visibility is good, they’re easily fooled by decoys. When you “fan” for gobblers, they fall victim to nothing but a fanned-out turkey tail with a hunter hiding behind it.
  • Fanning is more mobile than traditional turkey hunting. The hunter doesn’t need to sit boringly in front of a tree waiting for the wary gobbler to cautiously approach within shotgun range. He goes on the offensive to approach gobblers as easily as if he were wearing a turkey costume. In a way, he is.
  • Fanning is a way for the hunter to get up close and personal with the gobbler. In traditional turkey hunting, the objective is to call the gobbler to shotgun range – about 25-40 yards. But in fanning for gobblers, that unsuspecting old longbeard shows up so close you could cough up a loogie on him, and he isn’t bothered at all.
  • Fanning escalates the element of surprise. Surprise is built into traditional spring gobbler hunting when the gobbler takes a magnum load of shot to his head, and ideally he has no chance of escape. In fanning for gobblers, the turkey discovers his goose is cooked before the hunter pulls the trigger. The shot opportunity is closer than it is when you’re patiently waiting for the gobbler to get in range, and he’s starting to make his escape.
  • Fanning can be fast and furious. People post enough videos of “fanning” on the Internet that every avid turkey hunter has probably seen some. They show a hunter stalking while hiding behind a turkey tailfan, and turkeys are running to him. Since birds of a feather flock together, fanning doesn’t repel turkeys – it attracts them so easily it’s almost unfair.

I always say turkey calls are like knives – you can never have too many. But not every turkey call will find a place in your vest. Well in advance of the season, go through your calls and spend a half hour per week finding out which calls you can really make sing songs that attract gobblers. (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

Let’s be clear. I don’t find fanning unfair. If anything is unfair, it’s that we are smarter than every game animal we hunt. So if fairness is the standard coyotes should stop hunting turkey poults, and we should stop hunting altogether. But fairness is not the standard. It never is when you outsmart animals by using scents, trail cameras, camouflage, or any other ordinary practices. Other than fairness in respecting other hunters and universal hunting ethics, I don’t worry much about fairness when it comes to hunting.

That brings us to the first of three questions to ask yourself if you’ve been thinking about fanning for gobblers.

Why give anti-hunters something unnecessary to use against us?

Anti-hunters will say everything we hunters do is unfair, starting with the fact that we have the gun and turkeys don’t. They say we unfairly fool them with calls and decoys, luring them into an expected sexual tryst and then killing them when they’re in the heat of passion. Yes, anti-hunters look at everything we do with the aim to seize on anything they can to illustrate to the great majority of the non-hunting population that hunting is bad. They don’t settle for just one reason, and they don’t care if their reasons are not good reasons. But let’s not stupidly give anti-hunters bad reasons to declare hunting is unfair.  It’s not necessary.

Why dumb the sport down?

The great appeal of fanning for gobblers is that it’s easy and exciting. Sometimes hunters still argue about whether to use rifles or shotguns for turkeys. Rifle hunting allows a hunter to shoot when the turkey is a hundred yards or more away. “It’s too easy, and it lacks the challenge of calling them in,” they say. So now, this new way of making turkey hunting easy is another way of dumbing the sport down. Why do we need to do that?

Why increase the odds of getting shot?


If you begin scouting early, you’re more likely to get your gobbler early. Here’s one that bought my call on opening day.
(Photo: Steve Sorensen)

Anyone who promotes fanning for gobblers recommends extreme caution. “Don’t do it on public property,” they say. Why? Because they understand the danger. “Don’t do it on private property unless you know you’re the only one hunting.” But how do you ever know someone is not trespassing on a property? A few make the false distinction between “dangerous situations” and “danger,” as though they’re willing to tolerate dangerous situations but not actual danger. If that’s any real distinction at all, it will disappear if fanning for gobblers becomes commonplace. The truth is, fanning for gobblers increases the odds of getting shot. Is any gobbler worth that?

If you’re tempted to try fanning for gobblers, or if you’ve done it and you think you want to do more of it, let me ask you to reconsider. You may have a place where you have exclusive permission to hunt and believe no other hunters will trespass, but even if it’s your own property you cannot guarantee an unauthorized hunter won’t show up. Ask any property owner, “Does anyone ever trespass?” The answer will be a quick “Yes.”

Fanning for gobblers is actually a form of stalking, which is prohibited in spring gobbler season in many states. But even in states where stalking is legal, a hunter behind a turkey tailfan is going to get shot just as sure as a hunter inside a deer decoy would get shot in deer season. Take that to the bank.

Fanning for gobblers is a bad idea. Not because it’s easy – we all like an easy hunt once in a while. Not because it’s exciting – I’m all for hunting to be exciting. Fanning passes the test on those two counts. But let’s be too smart to give anti-hunters unnecessary ammo to make us look bad. Let’s not dumb down our sport. As things stand now, hunting is safer than it has ever been. Hunting accidents are on a long-term decline. So let’s not take unnecessary risks. Let’s not get shot while wearing a turkey costume.

If you want to fan for gobblers, do it when it’s completely safe. And it’s completely safe only when no one is shooting at turkeys. It’s completely safe only when the season is not in. Use it when photographing turkeys outside the season, away from roads, away from any place poachers might see an easy mark. Turkey photographers often use blinds, and hiding behind a tailfan is essentially using the tailfan as a moving blind. But don’t use it while hunting.

Remember, hunting is supposed to be a challenge. We have many challenging ways to outwit game than to reduce hunting to the easiest means possible. What’s wrong with the classic type of hunt where you call the big birds in? Can’t you succeed by calling? I’m betting you can, so keep trying. You’re smart enough to succeed if you keep at it.

If you still have any doubt, take a look at this video put out by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Don’t be a victim.

hunter outdoor writer steve sorensenSteve Sorensen is the author of Growing Up With Guns, and The Everyday Hunter Handbook Series. He also writes an award-winning newspaper column called The Everyday Hunter®, and contributes content to Havalon Nation. He has published articles in top magazines across the USA, and won the 2015 “Pinnacle” Award for magazine writing. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at www.EverydayHunter.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/The-Everyday-Hunter-319307228936/.


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