By Bob Humphrey
One of the biggest obstacles most turkey hunters will face at one time or another is dealing with henned-up birds. Of course, this depends a lot on the timing of hunting seasons in relation to the turkey’s breeding seasons. Most seasons are set to begin after the majority of hens have been bred. However, a cold spring could delay mating, or a period of rain could result in nest failure, resetting the berrding clock. Regardless, early season hunters are often faced with trying to lure in toms that already have what they want, a harem of hens.
There are several ways to overcome this. One is to try and work satellite toms. During the breeding season, turkeys are a lot like elk. One dominant tom does most of the breeding while potential rivals constantly tag along hoping to get a little side action. These satellite toms can be called, but it requires a little finesse. Try calling softly. Think of yourself as a young hen who wants to join the flock but is timid.
If that doesn’t work, you could switch to jake calling. Jakes are the spike bucks of the turkey world. They’re like teenage boys; they have all the right equipment, but they don’t quite know how to use it. They also know they’re at the bottom of the pecking order. A jake’s yelp is slower, louder, and usually somewhat deeper in tone than a hen.
These younger birds, though excited, are still aware of their social position and when yelping, may often break into kee kees. Like a herd bull chasing off satellites — a tom may come charging in if he hears a subordinate calling his hens. Incidentally, this call, like the fighting purr, is also murder on younger toms and jakes.
If that fails, you can always resort to patience and dogged determination. Scout the birds you intend to hunt and look for daily patterns. Once you find a location the birds use on a regular basis, set up and wait. It may take hours, or even days, but when that unsuspecting limbhanger saunters within gun range it will be worth the wait.