The time is almost here, the snow is starting to disappear, the birds are starting to sing, and the turkeys are starting to mingle. There are many situations to be aware of when in the field, and early in the year the most common situation we run into is henned up gobblers, it can be a problem throughout the entire season but especially early. In the article, I will give a few tips you can use when dealing with a henned-up and hung-up bird to help fill your tag this spring.
Deal with Henned-up Birds Early in the Season
During the first few weeks of the season, you will know very quickly by scouting what you will be dealing with. Typically, you will see birds still flocked together, usually multiple Toms along with anywhere from 5 to 20 or more hens. When you see this, you need to form a game plan prior to the morning going into the field. Early in the year, it is extremely difficult to pull a gobbler from a group of birds. Rightfully so, why would a Tom leave his flock to come and check you out? Especially when in the wild the hens go to the Tom when they are ready to breed.
Cut off the Flock
When dealing with a flock of birds and henned up birds in general you need to think more about the hens than you do the Tom. He will go wherever she goes. If you have been watching the flock of turkeys for several days and have them patterned well, you can set up to cut them off. Using the element of surprise when doing this is key. Typically if birds can see you from a distance a Tom will cut his hens off from continuing to go your direction because he sees you as a competitor.
Run Multiple Decoys
Another way and my preferred way is to run multiple decoys to almost give off a small flock look. This will sometimes spark interest in the boss hen wondering who these chicks are on her stomping grounds. The other thing it will do is maybe draw the interest of one of the subdominant Toms currently in the flock. I will even sometimes run multiple Jake or Tom decoys at this time to try and pull the boss tom from his flock. This is a very aggressive approach and not typically one that I will start with but when you have tried a few other techniques and you have not spooked the flock, this can be a great last-ditch effort that can pay off.
Hunt Hung-up Turkeys Mid to Late Season
As the season continues, your scouting still gives you a good idea as to what to expect from the birds. A lot of times mid-season birds will all roost together, fly down in the mornings and feed together, and then late morning the hens go to nest, leaving Toms out looking for love. In the mornings I will usually still stick with my flock-like decoy spread approach. But most of the time when I see this I will just go grab breakfast and hit the woods mid-morning in an attempt to find one lonely Tom. Sometimes you will still find a Tom or 2 that is spending its days with only 2 or 3 hens.
Use Aggressive Calls
At this point, I really like having another guy with me for calling. These Toms will very rarely break away from the hen they have found, so it is important to make that hen interested at this point and the only way to do that is by calling. I will start my yelping sequences off like I normally do to try to get a response out of her, if she yelps back I will immediately yelp again, the next time she yelps I will immediately interrupt her with a more aggressive yelping sequence, and will continue to do this the entire time after I have started this conversation with her. I will then have someone else aggressively calling at the same time to then sound like 2 hens fighting, this will make her very mad and wanting to come and confront you. These situations are great because the hen is looking for a fight. She is angry and is letting you know it, so you can stay calling all the way aggressively until she brings her boyfriend within range, and the best part is she will stay ticked off and yelping back typically the entire time, so you have a good judgment on distance.
Tips for Hunting Hung-up and Henned-up Turkeys
Hung-up and henned-up gobblers are two very different things. For me, I would rather deal with a henned-up bird than a hung-up one. When it comes to a henned-up bird you immediately know the problem, it’s the hen. When it comes to hung-up birds it can be a handful of things and sometimes things. You’re not aware of at the time, hills, fences, creeks, and hunting pressure, and as I said before, the hens go to the Tom’s when they want to breed so maybe he’s just being smart. Either way, when you have a bird that just won’t come any closer, there are a few things to try.
Use Reaping Technique
If the bird is in an open field, closing distance becomes difficult. But if it is legal in the state, you can attempt to “reap” him. This is a technique that can be productive where you use a turkey fan, or strutting decoy and slowly crawl toward the Tom looking like another bird looking for a fight. Again, you will want to check your game regulations in the state you hunt to check if it is legal, and make sure you are aware of your surroundings, and I do not advise this technique on public grounds.
Have a Partner Walking and Calling
If you have another person with you, this is a benefit. What I like to do is have that other person start walking in the other direction from the Tom still calling every so often. This makes the gobbler think the hen has lost interest and will start to follow her. The hard part with this is making sure when that bird closes the distance it's on the same line as where you are sitting waiting to cut him off.
If you are by yourself a technique that can pay off but takes patience is to just sit down and shit up. Sometimes by just going silent that bird will think you have lost interest in him and have walked off, he then will maybe come looking for you, and the first place he will come looking is where he last thought you were.
Dealing with either a henned up or a hung up bird will many times drive you crazy, but with these few tips and a lot of patience this spring you can hopefully seal the deal on a big spring gobbler.