Decision Time: The Oak Ridge Caper

In this interactive feature, Editor Brian Lovett shares a scenario from his 20+ years of turkey hunting, asking "What would you do?"
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Ben Sobieck
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Decision Time: The Oak Ridge Caper

Postby Ben Sobieck » June 16th, 2010, 10:12 am

Decision Time is a new forum feature. Editor Brian Lovett will share a scenario from his 20+ years hunting turkeys. Each hinges on a critical decision. Post what choice you would have made, then see how things actually turned out.

The Oak Ridge Caper

Some turkeys get under your skin. Others just kick you in the teeth.

A gobbler I'd named D3 loved doing the latter. He always roosted on or near a steep, open oak ridge on a private 40 I had permission to hunt. Trouble was, he never roosted in the same tree, and he always gobbled sparingly on the limb, flew down with hens and then waltzed off the property. Some days, he'd go north. Other mornings, he'd head west. To make matters worse, I had to sneak into the 40 an hour or more before flydown to avoid spooking the bird and his girlfriends. And trust me, he would not answer a call. Further, he was never around at midmorning or afternoons.

After being whipped three consecutive mornings by D3, I'd had enough. There had to be a turkey elsewhere that would act better -- or at least give me a hunt. However, I wasn't finding much action at other spots, and D3 was at the 40 every morning. The law of averages held that he'd eventually walk past me or fly down near my set-up tree.

With one day remaining in the spring season, I had to choose between an uncooperative yet ever-present turkey and the prospect of the unknown.

What would you have done? Click here to see Lovett's decision.

What do turkey pros like Mark Drury, Steve Stoltz and Ernie Calandrelli do in tough situations? Learn about their special calling, decoy and set-up tactics in 99 Turkey Hunting Secrets.

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Cut N Run
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RE: Decision Time: The Oak Ridge Caper

Postby Cut N Run » June 16th, 2010, 11:07 am

If a turkey plays by his own set of rules it makes me want to get him that much more.  
This is probably what I'd do;
Since he is following hens and not responding to calls, go to the place where the odds are most in your favor and try to get the hens mad enough to come looking for a fight.  Make every call the hens do just a little louder and more insistent than theirs, sort of mocking them.  The gobbler will likely get towed into gun range by the hens.  You would have to be careful because there will be a lot more sets of eyes looking for the source of those calls.
It has worked for me, just not every time.
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RE: Decision Time: The Oak Ridge Caper

Postby Gobblerman » June 16th, 2010, 4:36 pm

Well, I don't particularly enjoy hunting birds that behave that way, so if I thought there was a decent chance of finding a more cooperative bird somewhere else, I would most likely give that a shot.  However, since we are talking about this specific bird, this is what I would most likely do:
First of all, I would probably try to roost the birds in the evening.  I would go to the oak ridge above the slope, get inconspicuous somewhere in the vicinity of where I thought the birds were likely to roost, and wait and listen until dark.  Since this bird isn't chatty and apparently has an aversion to calls, I might just offer an occasional soft cluck, maybe rake the ground litter like a feeding turkey once in a while, but otherwise just sit quietly and hope that I either hear an unexpected gobble, or hear turkeys fly up into the trees.
If I was to get lucky and hear the birds at dark, then I would know exactly where I am headed the next morning before daylight.  I would get upslope of them in the dark, as close as I dare, to the northwest (since they have moved either north or west the other three days).  If I didn't know where the birds were, I would take my best guess and be northwest of that spot, once again upslope of my best guess.  I would hope that the gobbler would let me know where he was early enough for me to move in on him in the dark.  If he did, I would move deliberately, and set up, once again, as close as I dare, upslope and to the northwest.  I would not utter a peep, and I would wait until they came out of the trees and hope they came my way.  If they bi-passed me somehow, I would try to negotiate back around in front of them before they got off the property. As a last ditch effort, I would throw the whole turkey vocabulary at them and hope something stuck.  If not, I'm off to another location.
On the other hand, if at daylight I don't know where the gobbler is on the roost and he does not gobble early enough for me to move in on him, I would stay back, up on the oak ridge, and again to the northwest.  I would hope that either he or the hens would make enough noise to let me know where they were headed, and I would try to get in front of them as the moved from the roost.  If not, I would just hang out, maybe sticking a decoy (oh, noooo) in the ground while I waited.  If they did not show, I would eventually start calling,....first conservatively, then aggressively. 
If, after that, I felt it was hopeless, I would either call it a spring....or head for another spot and hope for a last-minute miracle bird to end the season. 

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RE: Decision Time: The Oak Ridge Caper

Postby Bobbyparks » June 17th, 2010, 4:36 am

Since I like it rough and often when a particular bird makes it really challenging for me, I want to kill him that much more.

I'd definitely hunt this bird since it sounds like you're not hearing other birds around that you can hunt anyway.
As Jim B mentioned if you can roost the bird the night before andf pin point him you'll likely be able to set up closer improving your chances.

I would try this and if I could roost him I would REALLY push it in terms of getting in early and getting as close to him as I dared. In fact I'd get in there so early even if he heard me he'd have forgotten about it by daylight. If I had called to him before and he was un responsive and / or the hens lead him away, I would not call AT ALL and just wait and let it unfold. The birds could have went west, east, northwest etc because you were calling from the opposite direction each morning and thats the directions the hens needed to take him to lead him away from. your calling.
I know the routine all to well.

Likely if you called on 3 other days you tried all the "get the boss hens mad" or "soft, sweet and socialable" thing and they didn't come.

I'd hope for a break, let them flydown, scratch leaves if I thought it would help and only call if he was clsoe enough that just a little drift in my direction would get him in range. You already know what will happen if you realy start calling.

With a bird like this it really is a numbers game and it can take several attempts to cross paths and get within range of him.

That said the later in the season it gets sometimes the better chance you have of him beimng alone or being responsive. I've had birds that seemed impossible to kill and one day they acted like a 2 year old.

If......... you used decoys and you could get close enough to set up a gobbler decoy it might do the work for you, but getting in that tight and not making noise setting it up would be tricky and risky

Other possiblities if having a back up plan to try and circle around quickly on them if you thought htis was possible.

Another try might be to have someone else call in one spot and set yourself up on the opposite direction. Honestly this might be the best option and chance of killing killing him although with my luck that would be the day he decided to go to the call.

Okay all of this said and because I should really nail down what I'd do:

If I'm alone I do the get in early, set tight, and not call.

If I have a friend that I have confidence in I'd try and set up on both sides of them with one person not calling. If the birds head in any firection other than towrads the person not calling the understood plan would be for him to double time around the birds in a wide circle calling as he moved in an effort to slant the direction of the birds towarsd the non caller.

Low percentage probably, but what do you have to lose? It's the last day...out side of that it's handgrenades
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Cut N Run
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RE: Decision Time: The Oak Ridge Caper

Postby Cut N Run » June 17th, 2010, 8:11 am

I had a similar situation this season but on a bigger piece of property on a mixed hardwood & pine ridge. A atrutting gobbler decoy and minimal calling did the trick. I was able to use my second tag and to carry that gobbler out by the feet.
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RE: Decision Time: The Oak Ridge Caper

Postby rbewilson » June 17th, 2010, 6:06 pm

I will hunt that gobbler,I have hunted ones like him the last 2-seasons and and learn alot.Like get to the struting area and wait for him,and calling soft and every little.Hunt in the evening when he is going to roost if you can.Try to find where he is hang out inthe middle of the day,this one worked for me this year I used 2-calls at the same time cutting and purring hard like there was a fight going on,this got him going.

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RE: Decision Time: The Oak Ridge Caper

Postby TRapper » April 2nd, 2011, 4:13 pm

instead of going closer to him where i think he might be,  i would try and go set up at the opposite corner and use a big variety of calls to make it sound like his hens are at the opposite part of the property,  use different calls to tree yelp,  then fly down,  then wings hitting the air to sound like they are flying down there to try and trick him. 
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