I’m having trouble getting turkeys to respond to my calls. I’ve tried everything, but they’re not working for me. They just run the other way. What should I do? — Cody Whiting
Sounds like the problem might be twofold. First, no matter your skill level or the type of call you’re using, turkeys shouldn’t just run the other way. They hear bizarre noises and awful calling — from hens — in the woods every day. If you make several bad notes on a box call, a gobbler doesn’t think, “Man, that guy is awful, and I’m getting out of here.” A turkey is incapable of such reasoning.
I’d examine my approach and setup before calling to turkeys. Are the birds perhaps seeing movement or something unnatural when you yelp to them? Can they see the source of the calling but don’t see a hen? Those scenarios are unnatural and might set off a turkey’s paranoia meter.
Before calling, make sure a turkey can’t see you or anything unnatural. If you’re in an open area, consider using a decoy so a gobbler gets visual confirmation of the hen he’s hearing. Also, always start with soft calling so you don’t shock or startle unseen birds nearby.
Now, regarding your calling: As mentioned, bad calling shouldn’t spook turkeys, but it doesn’t help, either. Strive to make your calling as realistic as possible. You don’t need to sound like Chris Parrish or Matt Van Cise. Just master real turkey rhythm and cadence. Listen to real hens, and try to mimic their vocalizations, from soft clucking and purring to excited yelping and cutting.
Also, work on situational calling, matching your calls and excitement level with the mood of a gobbler. If a bird is gobbling tepidly at every third or fourth series of calls, scale back your yelping, and play soft and coy with the turkey. If a bird is hammering lustily, ratchet up your excitement level, and whip him into a froth.
One final note: You didn’t mention if you were calling to roosted birds. If so, scale way back. I’ll typically only tree-yelp once or twice to a roosted gobbler, hoping only that he honors my calling with a gobble. If he does, he knows exactly where I am. If you yelp to him too much on the limb, he’ll likely hang up there and wait for hens to gather under him. When that doesn’t happen, it’s a sure bet he’ll go the other way after flying down. In addition, if he can see where the tree-yelping is coming from but doesn’t spy a hen, he’ll go the other way, too.
Good luck. Remember, rhythm and realism. They won’t run the other way for long.