How To Hunt Turkey – Part 1

Four Assumptions for Gobbler Success, Part 1

by Steve Sorensen

Old-timers in the turkey woods will tell you, “Never assume nuthin’!” I’m here to tell you not to take that advice, and you’ll get more gobblers.

“Gobblers are fickle!” “Gobblers will do the opposite of what you expect!” “Throw away the rulebook!” “Never assume nuthin’!” Yes, seasoned turkey hunting veterans who’ve had just about every possible gobbler hunting experience will preach it again and again.

But that doesn’t mean you have to take that advice. In fact, you’ll be better off if you don’t. The truth is even veterans make lots of assumptions, necessary ones, that give them an edge.

What are the assumptions a turkey hunter makes – in fact, must make – if he’s going to be successful? Even if gobblers are fickle. Even if they often do the opposite of what we expect. Even if the rule book is worthless. The expert turkey hunter makes some key assumptions, assumptions that are valid until the gobbler proves they aren’t.

Here are four assumptions you ought to be making in the turkey woods:

Assumption #1: A Gobbler is Nearby

The Silent Gobbler

A silent gobbler working his way through the timber.

I remember one big gobbler I hunted most of a season several years ago. He gobbled less and less every day, and after a few days of silence I had no idea where he was. I decided he had left for parts unknown, and I was yelping randomly as I trudged along the ridge late one morning.

When I rounded a bend in an old logging road, he almost ran over me. By the time I gathered my wits he was hoisting his landing gear. He rose above the treetops with the power and decibel level of something made by Lockheed.

He hadn’t gobbled all morning, yet he had been within a few hundred yards of me all the time. He definitely heard me, but he wasn’t going to come until he decided to come. My calls convinced him I was a hen he could have anytime he wanted – until he saw me walking his way.

Many hunters look for the hot turkey, the one gobbling his fool head off. But don’t overlook the silent ones. Lots of gobblers are tight-lipped. Other than muttering some soft purrs and clucks under their breath, they might not make a sound. They know they can have a hen any time they want.

Some gobblers are aggressive, but most gobblers aren’t dominant, and many hesitate to be vocal. They fear boss showing up to spur them and throw a few punches.

When you’re hunting gobblers, some are dominant, some are spooky, and some have moods. On some days they just don’t respond.

So, if you’ve heard gobblers in the vicinity before, if you see feathers, scratchings and droppings, there’s probably a gobbler nearby. Make that assumption every time you enter the spring woods, every time you yelp, cluck or purr. If you don’t, he’ll take you by surprise the way that long-bearded Lockheed surprised me.

Assumption #2:  The Gobbler Wants Company


The frustration of waiting for a gobbler that alreadyhas the company he wants.

The poet Alfred Lord Tennyson said that in the springtime, “A young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love.” That applies to gobblers – even old gobblers. Few can resist a pretty little hen, but that’s not the only reason they come to your call.

The turkey hunter learns quickly that the young gobbler, the jake, is easy to call in. Like the human adolescent, he has little concept of danger and often lives with reckless abandon, acting as though he is immortal. At first he knows neither fear nor death. After a few close calls, most adolescents, whether they’re human or turkey, take stock and decide caution is in order.

Every predator out there loves the taste of turkey, so a springtime gobbler, even when romance is on his mind, faces countless perils. Gobblers that are desperados for love soon forfeit the opportunity to spread their genes. Those that survive for a couple of years are in no hurry, keep no schedule, and are no longer easily infatuated like a teenage lover.

But, even the survivors want the company of others. They just don’t necessarily insist on it now. They may not come to the call in order to breed, but sooner or later they’ll come to the call, because “birds of a feather flock together”.  It’s a time-worn proverb because it’s true.

So, remember that when calling to a spring gobbler, he might be coming for any number of reasons. We tend to think of sex, but he might be thinking of anything from a knock-down, drag-out fight, to simple companionship. So, assume he wants company, but leave the reason up to him.

Coming Next: Two More Assumptions The Successful
Turkey Hunter Must Make.

Steve SorensenAbout Steve Sorensen:
Award-winning outdoor writer and speaker Steve Sorensen loves the Havalon knife, and has been a fan of knives since he begged his dad for a hunting knife when he was six years old. His articles have been published inDeer & Deer Hunting MagazineSports Afield, and many other top magazines across the USA. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow his writing on his website,

Click here to read more articles by Steve Sorensen.

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