The first out-of-state trip I took to hunt anything was after Missouri gobblers. The Show-Me State was all the rage in the late 90s, and the opportunities to bag a bird or two on public land were pretty solid.
The downside was that it was no secret. Between Missouri’s turkey reputation, the 1 p.m. daily closure, and limited public land, the competition was fierce. We figured that out long after the gobblers figured it out.
While the birds seemed responsive and quite vocal, their willingness to close the last 50 yards was rough. It wasn’t until a hunting partner and I were desperate to make something happen that we stumbled onto a strategy I still use to this day.
With nothing to lose, my buddy and I set up 75 yards apart on an oak-covered ridge and started calling back and forth to one another. Almost instantly, we heard a distant gobbler. As we called, the longbeard got more and more excited, and it became clear that he was on his way.
I figured it was a done deal until a shotgun blast nearly caused me to have a major chest grabber. Another hunter had slipped in between us and the gobbler and killed him when he was less than a football field away. It wasn’t an ideal ending to the setup, but it taught me something about pressured birds. They sometimes need to hear turkey communication that isn’t directed solely at them.
What I mean by that is, we typically hunt solo and call specifically to birds we hear gobbling. If we don’t hear gobbles, which happens a lot, we toss out some yelping sequences and hope to fire a bird up. This obviously can work, but a better way to take a dead time of the day and make it into something more exciting is to sound like multiple hens yapping back and forth.
If you’ve ever called in a real vocal hen, you know what the back-and-forth can do to nearby gobblers. They love hearing two or more hens yapping, and it only gets better if the hens start to go after one another. Instead of soft purring and yelping, aggressive cutting and yelping often triggers something in the neighborhood toms.
The good news here is you don’t need a real hen to make this happen. You just need a buddy who is competent enough at calling to hold up his end of the conversation. The best way to do this is to set up to cover two likely approaches, and to have a clear understanding of the situation.
Often, a buddy and I will set up with one hunter in an obvious spot, like a field edge. The other hunter slips into the timber 50 or 75 yards away to cover the backside. When dealing with pressured birds, the timber hunter is often the one who earns the shot. The key to this strategy is to think about how the birds usually encounter hunters and then give them something different.
Another strategy for doubling up on pressured birds involves a designated caller and a designated shooter. This works really well if you know where a gobbler is, but can’t get him to march right into the decoys.
In this setup, the shooter positions himself between the bird and the caller. The goal is to get the gobbler to move into range of the shooter, even if he’s hesitant to get too close to the caller. This is deadly for longbeards that have had negative encounters with hunters because as much as they want to fully commit, they often won’t.
They will, usually, come in close enough to take a look around. The shooter, who will be 50 to 100 yards from the caller, should be positioned to take advantage of the drive-by. This strategy is almost like cheating if you see a strutter along a wood line, or have scouted enough to know where a longbeard’s strutting zone is during the midday.
Tag teaming birds can be productive, but you need to set some ground rules to keep things safe. First off, everyone should clearly understand where they are supposed to be, and they should stay there. Someone repositioning without communication, or trying to belly crawl toward a bird is a recipe for disaster.
Secondly, establish where your safe shot opportunities will be, and then stick to them. When I’m hunting this way with a buddy, I prefer for both of us to be able to clearly see one another. This alleviates any confusion about where the safe shooting zones are, no matter what happens when the birds approach.
Lastly, set a time limit and a way to signal that you’re ready to move. We usually give the birds an hour or two per setup, but always establish that ahead of time. If one of us is ready to move, we will fire off an owl or crow locater call. This allows us to signal to each other it’s time to stand up, and can work to get a silent gobbler to reveal himself before we blow up our setup.
If you want to read about more turkey hunting strategies and tactics, check out: 3 Underrated Turkey Decoy Setups, Why Patient Hunters Kill More Turkeys, and How To Call Pressured Turkeys.