With names like “The Call Girl” and “The Thief” you would think we were talking about titles for a steamy Lifetime movie instead of essentials for turkey season. The season of the thunder chicken is upon us; we’ve spent months preparing ourselves to trick old Tom into thinking we are a Lil’ Nasty hen. Here are some of the top-rated turkey hunting products and some of my personal picks.

Early Season 

Early season gobblers are full of testosterone and looking for fights before they are looking for love. The hens haven’t been bred yet and gobblers are looking to secure their females.

There’s a lot of competition at this phase. Since the females have just broken away from their respective family groups, they’re playing hard to get . . . like all classy ladies do.

During the early season, use a breeding pair. Ol’ Tom is most likely to start a fight with another gobbler to steal his gal and claim her for himself.

I like the self-inflating Flock Pack by Cherokee Sports. Self-inflating means easier transport and set-up on hunting day. These decoys use a photo printing process which prints an actual photo of a wild turkey, increasing realism.

Calling in early season is the most fun. It’s what you’ve been practicing for all year! This is when the gobblers are most attentive to your calls and responsive.

Use aggressive yelps with a few ego bruising insults (in Turkey lingo of course) and lots of cutting. Check out the Primos Gobbler “Shaker Call.” It’s loud and perfect for challenging or locating gobblers.

Mid Season 

This is the Sodom and Gomorrah of turkey season, where respectable lady hens become Super Freaks looking for a Lil’ Hookup (wink wink). Hens literally throw themselves at strutting Tom’s and all their decorum goes out the window.

The usually cowardly, less confident Jakes (younger males) are even daring to steal a gobbler’s girl during this phase. With all the commotion and excitement, breeding the gobblers become less vocal.

Instead of calling to Tom during mid-season you’ll need to start talking to the hens.  Try to imitate her calls and get them to talk back in hopes that a gobbler nearby will come out to look for her.

During this time she’s most interested in feeding. She may leave her Tom during the day to get some grub. Tom won’t be too far away and you can easily lead him out into your sights if he thinks she’s hot.

This is usually a frustrating time to hunt. The gobblers tend to go silent for hours at a time. Get ready to spend long periods of time waiting and listening. But don’t stay in the same place. If you see a group. you’ll need to try to get ahead of them. Use your Jake and hen decoys.  

Late Season 

This is the most difficult time to hunt turkeys. The gobblers have lost all their mojo. They went from testosterone-filled gym junkies to picking out mini vans and planning their man caves.

The hens are almost all in the nest and gobbling is scarce. The turkeys have had all the fun they can handle.

During this phase refrain from calling too much. Use softer, sweeter more comforting sounds like the cluck and purr and get ready to sit and wait. Use solo hen decoys. There may be a gobbler looking to stray from his nesting females in search of some comfort and distraction.

During this phase the gobblers are also less likely to concern themselves with rival birds, so you can skip the challenging gobbler calls. Stick to what you know . . . the birds need shelter, food and water. Many late season birds are taken near the roost after fly down.

As you can see turkeys are not much different middle-aged single males, looking for love in the all the wrong places. But with the right equipment and strategy, you have a good chance of a harvesting your thunder chicken.

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11 Responses to Turkey Hunting: Matching Calls and Decoys to the Season

  1. What really brings in an old Tom? A jake. I have literally shot toms off of a jake decoy after they ran 100 yards to stomp it to death.
    I shot a jake and had it stuffed years ago. I put it in the field with some blow up hens and then do very rare gobbles and lots of cuts. The turkey near me are very wary, but this set up never lets me down, as long as I can get them in eyesight.

  2. “As you can see turkeys are not much different middle-aged single males, looking for love in the all the wrong places. But with the right equipment and strategy, you have a good chance of a harvesting your thunder chicken.”

    That’s funny. As a “middle-aged” single male, I have my choice of many young desirable “hens” .Who are all quite eager to “breed”. As far as “thunder chickens” go, I have never owned a Trans Am….

    • Based on your nick, is it safe to assume it was a Scirocco or GTI?

      (I drove on three wheels in my 89 Civic Si…)

      • I had a variety of Honda Civics back in the 80s. Great cars, would love to have one as commutabeater but they just didn’t survive in the MW. As to handle, it actually references a particular SOHC V8, and you were in the right ballpark, as they are now part of the VW family.

  3. Very nice, Liberte!
    This article was all about “how it’s done so you can do it too”. We need more like this.
    Thank you!

  4. “As you can see turkeys are not much different middle-aged single males, looking for love in the all the wrong places.”

    Hrumph.

    The ‘wimminz’ of the species have been known to exhibit similar behaviors, in my experience.

    And some of us have been known to like it. 🙂

    Especially when they can get downright insistent about it… 😉

    (Yes, ma’am !)

  5. If you set up properly you won’t have to resort to playing with turkey dolls to kill a gobbler. If the turkey has to come to where you are to get a look at the hen, it doesn’t matter if you have a decoy or not because the gobbler won’t be able to see it until it is close enough to shoot. Decoys are unsporting anyway. Turkeys aren’t smart enough to tell they’re not the real thing and they don’t get to fly over to check them out before committing. There’s more that’s just plain wrong with that article, but I’m not here to write a book. I would, however, suggest you get some handmade calls from a maker that puts in time to make sure each call works well. Those mass produced calls can work, but they’re harder to use well.

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