The Quiet Gobbler
As the 2023 turkey season approaches, I reflect on seasons of the past. The last turkey season was a successful one and added many new stories that I will treasure for years to come. From successful youth hunts, some first-time gobblers, and some great hunts with some of my usual spring companions…the last few seasons have been very good to me.
As with any season, I have taken away some good lessons from the teacher and re-enforced some lessons from years past. A consistent theme for me this past year was dealing with the ole sneaky quiet Tom. Most turkey hunters have dealt with this quiet bird whether they know it or not. With a few of my stories from this past year maybe you will realize you dealt with one too this season and didn’t even know about it.
Anyone who accompanied me in the turkey woods back in my early twenties can attest that I was fairly aggressive in my approach to pursuing gobblers. The phrase “the squeaky wheel got the grease” could easily summarize many of my youthful turkey hunts. Not to say that I wasn’t patient when I needed to be, I just couldn’t help myself but to go after the most vocal gobbler around. I would often walk right through known turkey haunts trying to “strike up” a hot tom or leave a quality set up in pursuit of a distant gobble. As age, experience, and joint pain have become part of life, my turkey hunting strategies have evolved as well. I have replaced “run n gun” strategies with “finding a good place to set up” and I don’t find myself “belly crawling” around the forests and fields much anymore (although I’m still not afraid to pull those tactics out if needed).
With the gradual change in my strategy a strange thing happened….I still killed turkeys. The gobbler that I once would have considered uninterested in my calling or “henned up” and left for one that was really vocal now is a gobbler that I will wait out until I put him in front of the gun. Often times this happens very quickly. About the time that 20 year old Corey starts whispering in my left ear, “let’s leave this boring gobbler and go chase that hot gobbler a ½ mile away”, much more mature (lazy) Corey whispers in my right ear “just sit here and wait…it’s a comfortable spot…I’ve got good cover….turkeys like to hang out here…I have a candy bar in my vest…that sun sure feels good…whoa! Did you hear that?…sounded like spitting and drumming!!”. Next thing you know, out comes the strutting gobbler and the safety comes off.
Given the experience that I have now I just know that years ago I walked away from gobblers that were minutes from my set up to pursue a more vocal bird. I still sometimes give in to urge but most of the time patience is king for me anymore. The hunt that I described in the paragraph above happened not once…not twice…but 6 times this spring. I had some other hunts this year where we dropped super-hot gobbling toms, but more than half of the successful hunts were the result of a quiet gobbler sneaking into our setup and only gobbling once they were very close or not at all. On one occasion I was actually standing up to leave and saw the top of a tail fan coming over the hill.
So this upcoming season, when you are tempted to leave that quiet tom turkey to pursue that distant gobble, remember this story and wait another 10 or 20 minutes and see what happens. You may be surprised on how quickly your hunt will turn around.
Corey J. Wilkinson
Last Updated: April 10th, 2023