A turkey hunter recently said that the reason many long-time turkey hunters are bald is primarily from pulling their hair out in frustration with henned-up gobblers. But some hunters excel with these tough, old birds and Steve Cobb of Union has a gameplan for doing exactly that.
Cobb is a seven-time state turkey calling champion as well five-time S.C. Open calling champion. In addition, he has been on the Pro Staff of Hunters Specialties for 17 years of the 35 he’s been hunting turkeys.
“There no one, single method that works every time on henned gobblers, but the techniques I use depends on the individual situations,” Cobb said. “If one tactic doesn’t work, I’ll use another. Successfully calling henned gobblers gives any turkey hunter a real sense of accomplishment, a highlight of the season.”
Here are a few of Cobb’s ideas on henned-up gobblers.
Wait until the hens leave and work a lonely gobbler.
“For those with tons of patience, this can work well; however, it’s not my favorite tactic,” Cobb said. “But in turkey hunting, sometimes it’s the right call. If you’re restricted in how far you can range because of other hunters or land confinements, this tactic works. My strategy is to stay put and give a few soft yelps every 30 minutes. Later in the morning, the gobbler will be henless. I am always listening for a gobble. When he starts to gobble on his own, he is looking for a new hen. At this time you can call a little more aggressive.”
Make a move to pique his interest.
“If the gobbler is staying in the same place with his hens, you can move to a different location, preferably one that he’s naturally inclined to go,” he said. “If you’ve scouted the area and know the land, you can put yourself in the right position. Gobblers have areas they prefer, and if you can get to one of these places, you have a chance to call him off the hens. I use a crow call when I am moving because this gives me an advantage of keeping up with the gobbler’s location until I reach a place that I think he will come.”
Get into a calling fight with a hen
“I’ve had this tactic work a lot, and it can be super exciting,” Cobb said. “If the gobbler won’t break and come, and you can get a hen cutting at your calls, mimic her calls aggressively. If I call the hen or hens come to my location looking for the source of the sound, usually the gobbler will follow. Everything she does, I do right back at her. I may use a slate or a mouth call – whatever she answers best. That’s why changing calls can be good; you may not get a gobbler to come, but a boss hen can get stirred up and the result will be the same. Beware; there will be a lot more turkey eyes looking for you.”
Course the flock movement and get in front of them.
“When a gobbler and hens are moving in one direction, you can often quickly get in front of them, especially if you know where they headed, such as a field or open area,” he said. “This is where preseason scouting helps tremendously; you’ll know where these areas are in advance. I again use a crow call to monitor the any location change of the gobbler as I move.”
Sound like multiple hens – which calls to use or pair up.
"This one of my favorite tactics, and I often use it with henned-up gobblers,” Cobb said. “I will use a mouth call and alternate with a box and a slate, sounding like several hens. The intent is to get the gobbler’s attention. If a hen responds, call back at her with the same language she is using. The use of multiple calls can work great, but once the gobbler is on the way, you’ll have to be careful about movement. I try to finish with just the mouth call.”
The buddy system.
“Hunting with a friend has more advantages than some think,” he said. “I get as close as I can without risking bumping the birds and set up the shooter. I have my buddy stay put and start walking and calling, going away from the gobbler. It sounds like the hen is leaving, and the gobbler frequently ends up in your buddy’s lap. Henned gobblers have fallen to this trick many times.”