I'm very good at calling jakes right in to the decoys, and having mature toms hang up. We got one to come to 50 yards on Sunday, a nice tom with about a 10" beard. Then of course 4 hens showed up and he took off with them.
Based upon my experience in this situation the tom is looking for his potential girlfriend. He's not 100% sure where she is so he gobbles and gobbles and gobbles hoping to call her to him. Chances are pretty good he never saw your decoys. Decoys are incredibly hard for turkeys to see in the woods, especially when they aren't moving. Once I saw him I would have made a few soft, contented hen sounds and maybe did a little scratching. He would key in on your location. Then I'd be quiet and see how he responded. If he starts moving away I'd get really aggressive with him if I thought he was going to leave.
Leave the decoys out, make the soft, contented feeding hen sounds as he approaches your location to give him a good fix, and then wait him out. If he fails to commit get aggressive with him. Secondly, and most importantly, make sure you are set-up in a location where he can get a visual on your decoys and has a clean approach. Good luck!
If he has indeed been shot at this year, I think you will have a tough time calling that bird into one of these cookie-cutter setups, especially without phenomenal calling that gets the bird super fired up. Ambush might be the better option in that scenario.
Also, no reason not to try the buddy system if hunting solo does not matter to you. Edit: If you try this route, I would definitely leave the decoys in the bag.
We've killed dozens of toms simply because we kept calling at them while they were coming and have lost some because we stopped.
And it's gone the other way, too.
Like Chris said, later in the season they don't seem to have the energy to rumble, even with a jake, at least not like a few weeks earlier.
You may be working a bird that's been clipped by a shot, or a bird that's been scared by a hunter near a decoy, you may be dealing with a wussified two-year-old that doesn't want anything to do with any other male turkey,....or you may be....or...
Or you may go back the next time, call the same and he runs in and mounts your jake decoy, humping like a cowboy trying to stay on a saddle bronc.
Keep after him, and remember to start easy and simple. You can increase the calling if the soft talk isn't working.
If you start off hammering him,...you hunt like I do most of the time. :-)
If possible, you may want to try getting really tight to the bird after roosting it the night before.
Birds like that can be frustrating, but it's soooooo nice when it finally comes together.
I zig and they zag. Tomorrow I'll zag, and they'll zig. Eventually, I'll zig and they'll zig and it'll happen. Or not . . .
This year I had a similar situation, I had a nice bird strutting 50-60 yds out, never came to jake or hen and left. I hit him hard with my self named "offset". I started calling loud with my diaphragm and a second or two behind started hard with my box call. Both going at the same time but offset, man he got fired up, came back out with fire and I killed him.
May work,may not.
As soon as you went to the second call, but only had out one hen decoy the tom figured out it was one hen too many, therefore he was being hunted.
Archer 0880 - one thing to keep in mind, is that if you're hunting thick timber that's probably working against you, too.
Turkeys, like deer, and humans, are usually more nervous and hesitant in situations where they can't see well and feel more vulnerable.
The float calling concept is danged deadly,...but you won't be the one calling.
Keep us posted, and if you run out of excuses let me know...between doing it for about 36 seasons, and working with words for a living, I'm always good for a few dozen creative alibis. :-)
I think you are absolutely right that a tom is nervous and hesitant in a situation where the tom can't see and feels more vulnerable in timber. It's likely a matter of figuring out what may get him relaxed or excited! FEMALES can definitely get a male thinking crazy thoughts!
Some also seem to have turkanality traits...like the wuss that won't go to a hen fearing another tom will come and whip on him. That can be a two-year-old, or a longspur past his prime.
Some birds are kinda like gang members, in a bunch they're pretty tough and bold. Alone, they wuss-up in a hurry.
Bowtech...you've given the bird plenty of chances to die with dignity. It may be time to crawl, float call, ambush or sleep under the roost.
Sometimes, the turkey just has to die. :-)
1. Calling when they can actually see to your position (one form of "over-calling"). They will frequently never come any closer until the hen shows herself. Hard to believe you can "over-call" with just a single yelp but you can.
2. Decoys frequently hang a single gobbler. The hen committing the last several yards to the gobbler is part of the courtship process. Gobblers are proud, if he goes all the way to her then he loses cool points. A jake decoy may not be enough to make him believe he has real competition. Sometimes those jakes are the hen's poults from the year before.
3. Calling out of shooting range to the highest point in the immediate area. Turkey will go there and look down but not commit. Even a two or three foot elevation difference is enough to hang them up. They are wired to be on the highest point when they are searching. My best set-up is to be just on the opposite side of a hill or ridge or some sight blocker. They come all the way to where they can see your position and you shoot them. An interested bird will almost always come at least as far as it takes them to be able to see to the spot they heard a call.
4. Calling him from an area or direction that he wasn't already planning to go. They may come over but may not come all the way. Get somewhere that they are already wanting to go.
5. Calling him to keep hearing him gobble (another form of "over-calling"). He's get satisfied that you, the hen, are committed so he doesn't have to. Or he attracts real hens because he's gobbling so much then leaves with them. Or he attracts another hunter who sets up on the other side of him and keeps him in stasis. Or maybe he gets suspicious of this hen that keeps calling but never changes her position.
6. Trying to call him out of an open area into a brushy or wooded area.
When I do get a bird that hangs, I quit calling completely. He will leave and then I move up to the point where he hung and call him back. You have to be fairly quick about it because if he gets too far, he won't come back.
If you're really ambitious, have a buddy call him off of his roost to where he will hang. Once he is over there, you sneak in under his roost tree and call him back. They will almost always come all the way back to their roost tree if they don't have hens. They are expecting hens to meet them there. Get to the roost tree, call to get him to answer, then don't call anymore.
Scentman- Got a good laugh out of that one....Agreed trying to outsmart them is the fun part.
Now back to reality. Several here have stated correctly, it doesn't matter what you do really, a turkey has to be in the right mood to be drawn into range. I have heard so many stories from guys who have very little turkey hunting experience, tell about how easy it is to kill a turkey. They only spent about an hour to kill their first, and it came running in, hell bent to a call, and basically there was nothing short of kicking the turkey, to get him to change his mind.
But then, ahh, then, there are the turkey that I hunt. Those who seem to know that demise is at the end of their love stroll to my calling. In a nutshell, I wouldn't overthink it. I know it is difficult not to at times, but really do not overthink it. Just keep at it, and eventually it will happen. My firm belief is that to be a successful turkey hunter, the most important ingredients are #1, time spent hunting, #2, Patience, #3, being where a gobbler wants to be.
Good luck. This has been an extraordinarily difficult year for me, as I haven't killed a turkey this year and up until about five years ago, I used to shoot between five and ten turkey a year hunting various states. But it seems that in the past six or eight years, things have changed considerably when it comes to turkey hunting. My theory is that turkey hunter numbers have increased dramatically and that has contributed significantly to, fewer birds as well as more educated birds.
Turkeys are not the dumbest animals on Earth, ...that distinction belongs to those who believe Bernie is the man to save America.
I still don't think turkeys are overly smart, but can be very wary. And I've shot TWO turkeys, not just one.
Your point about over-thinking it is on, though.
Anyway, it seems a general consensus here is that turkey are the dumbest creatures on earth. And though I will agree they aren't the sharpest of the sharp, at times they can be extremely wary and almost impossible to coax into range.
As a matter of fact, at one time I would kill 6 to 10 turkey each year hunting several states but in recent years I have hunted primarily at home. This year I did hunt florida, where out of 12 hunters 10 killed birds. I was one of the two that didn't. Even though I am fully aware that some turkey simply cannot be killed on some days, it is a pretty huge blow to one's ego, when you consider yourself to be pretty good at something and just can't make it happen. For the record, I could have shot a gobbler in Florida, but I was hunting with a shotgun and had I taken the shot, due to their formation,I would have most likely taken out 3 gobblers and a hen, as they were walking along a road bed in close single file at about 40 yards. So with their heads within just a few horizontal inches I passed.
Then after returning home and hunting around 15 to 20 mornings with no success, while other,,,,greenhorns,who have only shothe one or two birds in their life, or maybe none, kill at least one bird, it becomes really frustrating, really quick.
But back to my original thought. Occasionally, not usually as much as I have this year, but occasionally, gobblers can be extremely difficult to bring in, and other days, they will come running to you like you are an old lost loved one that they haven't seen in years.
Ifor I were in your shoes and you know for a fact that your birds frequent your area,I would simply hang in there. If your primary goal is to kill a gobbler, patience will beat out skill every time. The only thing better being luck, but mine ran out years ago.
#1 rule...always remember I'm a Smart-Azz. Never thought it was a foul...
But, I also don't give them too much credit and tomorrow can be a completely different turkey. One of biggest birds I've ever killed I hunted all season and never came in to anything.....ANYTHING.
You'd swear he was unkillable. Then on May 14th, few days before the end,he flew down and walked right in. Nothing different. Had shotgun pellets in his breast and a 12"/10" double beard. Been around the block but nothing special on my end that morning.
Sometimes their hens are gone, they are lonely, upset or just fired up. Other times they are timid, stubborn and fearful. I would just find the places they frequent and travel like Chris said, call JUST enough to let him know your there (they hear everything), and just wait for that spitting/drumming sound.
I actually prefer quiet mornings. I know they can hear ME. No gobbling means less hens going TO THEM, and based on scouting I always try to be in areas they are COMFORTABLE. Those are the most important things in my opinion as every strategy works at least once each season in every area. But patience, being in places they want to be, and selective subtle calling can be all it takes most of the time.
Dean - I have tried getting a pattern. Problem is they roost center of several fields I cannot hunt. I picked the wrong field they tend to head to every time.
If I learned anything this year is that I might have called to much.
no, I've killed tons of birds too. I always use decoys in "open" sets and never use them in woods. I think in open they come in better to decoys because their vision is number 1 and they can see everything including trouble, more comfortable more likely to come in. In woods ambushes are waiting behind every tree, and they cant see them. Once they see decoys, they want them to take the risk and have the dekes come to them.