The beauty of longbeards (and jakes) is that sometimes you can make them tell you exactly where they are. Using a bird’s willingness to gobble and instantly betray his location is among the most beautiful and useful tricks in the book.
Eliciting a shock gobble is sometimes as easy as whipping out a crow call or even shutting your truck door a little too loudly. But, more often than not, it’s requires a strategic move that demands a better understanding of the birds themselves.
Understanding The Gobble One refrain that comes up often in turkey discussions is that hunters who make hen calls to attract a tom are actually fighting the natural order of turkey behavior. Gobbling and strutting are auditory and visual sales pitches to local ladies, who are then expected to come on over. The tom that seeks out the hen does not follow the standard evolutionary rules.
This is only academically true because thousands of birds are killed every spring when they choose to break the natural rules. However, many more do survive to gobble another day by strutting in an advantageous spot while waiting for amenable hens to come to them.
Turkey behavior and their vocalizations are an inexact science, but gobbling takes it to another level. Birds do it to tell the ladies and their rivals just where they are, but they also do it when they hear a loud noise. No one really knows why. Some biologists speculate the shock gobble is an involuntary response, more similar to reptile-brain biological acts like breathing or heartbeats than a conscious decision.
We may never truly understand why birds shock gobble, but the good news is, it doesn’t matter. Knowing that they do and how it can work to your hunting advantage is good enough.
Shock Gobble Options Good luck finding a run-and-gun turkey hunter who doesn’t have some type of locator call tucked into his turkey vest. Common options include calls made to sound like an owl, a crow, or maybe even a coyote howl. Gobbling works, too. There are commercial gobble calls available for this, but a better bet is to learn how to create a gobble with a mouth call. You look like an idiot doing it, but it’s as effective at eliciting a shock gobble as any call, though often not quite as loud. Plus, you can have it at the ready no matter what you’re doing.
The downside to a gobble is the potential safety issue, along with the fact that a fair amount of toms aspire to be lovers not fighters. If you simply want to know where another bird is, a gobble call will often help you figure that out. But if you’re set up and trying to work a bird in, gobbling is a big risk. A coyote howl falls into a similar category. This is a highly effective way to get birds to hammer in response but not a great call if you want birds to strut into your spread.
For pinning down roosted birds or for just general locating info, it’s hard to beat a coyote call or a sharp gobble. There are, however, better options for getting birds to sound off while you’re hunting.
Low Risk, High Reward Locators A common phrase amongst bass fishermen is "hooksets are free." In layman’s terms, if you think a largemouth has mouthed your flippin’ jig or a smallie could be swimming off with your weightless Senko, just set the hook. If you’re wrong, no big deal. If you’re right, it’s tight-line time.
Locator calls follow the same vein, particularly those that mimic crows and owls. While owls prey on turkeys plenty, I’ve never seen a bird turn and walk away after hearing an owl. They obviously don’t have to worry about predation from crows, so these calls are the most logical choice for all-day shock gobble attempts.
Proximity When the birds are in the mood, getting them to shock gobble is almost a joke. Any loud, sudden noise will do it, from about any distance as long as they can hear it. Other days, especially if you’re hunting Easterns, you might not have birds strutting around all day primed with hair-trigger gobbles.
This means you’ll have to be close(ish) to get them to sound off. Proximity is the secret sauce to all-day turkey talk and that goes for shock gobbles as well. Keep that crow call handy and use it often. Use it before you crest a rise, cross a ridge, or before you give up on a seemingly uneventful calling setup. This cheap insurance strategy will keep you from spooking birds and should put a few more on the butcher table.
There is one more aspect to shock gobbles worth paying attention to. You’ve got to blow that crow call or owl hooter with vigor and confidence. This is not soft, timid calling time. The sharper the call, and the louder the call, the more likely it is to set off a nearby tom. Just like with all of your calls, practice with your locators so that when it’s time to ply the nearby woods for a vocal response, you’ll do it correctly. And always, do it twice in a row. The first series of crow caws might only prime him up, but the second will set him off.