3 Ways to Harvest a Spring Gobbler

Turkey hunter walking in field with turkey over the shoulder

As a teenager, a friend and I spent several mornings together before turkey season's opening. Each morning before we had to be at school, we would travel the different winding dirt roads along the Mark Twain National Forrest and the Ozark Riverways in southern Missouri.

As young adults, we viewed those journeys as a fun way to start the morning. We would grab a cappuccino at the local gas station and search for the sound of turkeys gobbling as we drove and stopped along the public land roads. As older adults, we continued with the traditional joy rides and conducted some great scouting for the upcoming spring seasons. Every year, when the season began, we knew where most turkeys were located due to our many mornings of listening and scouting. As a result of our scouting, we typically harvested both of our birds each spring.

Almost every turkey hunter knows that sometimes getting a tom into close range can seem difficult or almost impossible. When I hit one of those dry spells or challenging seasons, I often revert to my younger days and return to what has worked in the past.


Scout Before Season

Scouting doesn’t mean only listening for gobbling each morning before the season. Even though listening for gobbles can help identify the areas where most gobblers are located, getting out in the woods and seeing where turkeys travel daily improves a hunter's odds when the season arrives. Finding areas where the toms go to strut, where turkeys roost each evening, and what the hen-to-tom ratio is like are all significant factors that need to be considered when scouting. If the hunter knows a turkey's everyday movements, they will know where to set up on the opening morning to help close the deal on a mature spring gobbler.

turkey hunter scouting with ebike

Use Locator Calls

Locator calls are one of the most overlooked tools for getting close range to a mature gobbler. Whether it is a crow, owl, peacock, or coyote call, locator calls are a sound that is not a turkey, yet when used, a tom responds by gobbling.

If hunters use locator calls to get close range to a gobbler, they are less likely to have a tom respond by coming close as it typically would with a turkey call. Getting closer before setting up to call means less distance for a tom to travel when responding, which equals less time for real hens to interrupt, or for the tom to get distracted and travel a different way. The hunter can quietly sneak into closer range by locating the tom's location with a locator call before beginning their calling attempt with actual turkey sounds.

hunter using turkey call to locate birds

Less Is More When Calling To A Gobbler

The number one mistake that many turkey hunters make each spring is over-calling. Mother nature intends for the hen to go to the tom when responding to calling for breeding purposes during the spring. As hunters, we try to reverse the natural intentions by getting the tom to come to us. When hunters call too often, they signal to the tom that the hen is very interested in meeting up to breed. If too much calling occurs, the tom will stay put, wanting the hen to come to him. Another aggravating natural habit that turkeys perform comes in the form of responses from other hens. When a hunter calls too often, other hens pinpoint the location, allowing them to sneak in between the hunter and the tom, stealing him away.

Instead, keep calling to a minimum, the other hens will not know the exact location, and the toms will become lonely and curious, making them search for the location of the calling. Making soft purrs and clucks periodically lets the tom know the hens are still in the area, yet he will think they are not interested in his gobbling. Only call enough to get his attention; when the tom begins to commit and starts heading in the right direction, stay quiet and let him come.

turkey hunter using mouth call


Outdoor Writer & Traeger Grills Outdoor Pro

Heath Wood resides with his wife Faron and their son Carson in Mountain View, Missouri. His writings have been published in many major hunting magazines such as Predator Xtreme, Bowhunting World, Deer and Deer Hunting, Gun Digest, Turkey Country, and Game and Fish. As well as several websites and blogs for over 15 years. His favorite topics include, but are not limited to deer, turkey, and predator hunting. 

Wood is a member of the Mossy Oak pro staff where he can often be found sharing tips and stories through his writings on MossyOak.com. He has also appeared on Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World TV, Hunters Specialties The Stuff of Legends, Hunters Specialties popular DVD series Cuttin' and Struttin', and NWTF's Turkey Call TV. Heath loves helping introduce newcomers to the sport of hunting and working with the youth in any way possible.