Here is a quick tip for some of you turkey hunters out there – when the calls aren’t working, don’t be afraid to get out and tango with some turkeys. It’s a not a new technique, but it has stormed back to popularity the last couple of years – it’s called turkey reaping and uses the same techniques Native Americans used while hunting turkey, deer, and buffalo. Instead of hiding under an animal hide, you hide behind a fully expanded turkey fan and stalk your prey.
Despite the beautiful weather Wisconsin had early this spring, the turkeys were still flocked up pretty good. This severely reduced the effectiveness of calls and decoys. Toms simply were not leaving their hens for some yelping decoy. I typically like using a strutting tom decoy with a breeding hen early on in the season because the boys are usually trying to sort out their dominance and hate intruders. The first couple of mornings, I was counting on being in the game the first 15 minutes of daylight. The gobbling was intense, but those smart old birds managed to fly down onto neighboring properties every morning. Having to go to work, I couldn’t sit and wait them out…until Saturday that was.
Another 4:00am wake up call, a new set-up spot, and the same results. Unfortunately, twenty minutes after first light, 20 – 30mph wind gusts swept in and kept the birds from strutting in the big open field they usually did. After the decoys blew over from the wind, we decided to follow some gobbling up through the hardwoods into a smaller, secluded field. Sneaking around a thick point, we caught a glimpse of a group of birds which included three strutting toms! We managed to set up our full-strut tom decoy with a breeding hen on the edge of the field unnoticed and began calling. After initial interest from a few jakes, they turned back to be with the group. Time was closing in as they were less than 50 yards from making it onto another property. With nothing to lose, and the calls and decoy clearly not working, it was time to become an intruding tom. My buddy slipped back, grabbed the turkey fan out of the decoy and handed it over to me. As I began to belly crawl with the fan in one hand blocking my body and the gun in the other, I had no clue as to what was happening with the birds in the field. I slowly made my way around the corner and all of a sudden I heard my buddy say, “Holy cow! Get ready to shoot, they are coming fast!”
Barely catching a few glimpses through the wind-blown feathers of the fan, I scooted my legs up under my body to prepare for the shot. Three jakes were leading the charge with the three toms following up 25 yards behind. The jakes were storming me and I thought I was going to have to shoot one of them in self-defense! I had to keep letting them come so the toms would eventually be in range. Finally, with the jakes at three yards (no lie), I dropped the fan, shouldered the Benelli and flopped a beautiful longbeard!
WHAT A RUSH!
So as you see, sometimes actions speak louder than words…or yelps. In farm country, there is nothing more frustrating than watching toms strut around out in the middle of field while your calling is ignored. Day after day of this gets old, so now I always have a turkey fan by my side in case I need to close the distance. Some don’t always agree with this method of hunting, and it’s certainly not my go-to method, but it sure is exciting! Not to mention effective.
This method of turkey hunting can be extremely dangerous. Hunters should avoid using this method of hunting on public or leased lands, or anywhere that there may be other hunters in the area. Hiding behind a strutting tom decoy or fan should not be done in dense forested areas. Use extreme caution.