Getting Turkeys To Come In Right Off The Roost

by Chris Bailey

The season is almost here. Here is a great tip on how to bring them off the roost.
Chris BaileyThe technique I used this year works great at getting turkeys to come in right off the roost. We shot seven turkeys in seven days. With five of the turkeys, the hunt was over before 06:15 a.m. I attribute our successes to good scouting, reading numerous articles, watching hunting videos, year round calling practice, and my father being a trapper who is very at home outdoors. 

The first thing to do, which has been said many times before, make sure your setup is where turkeys like to go. We never setup closer than 200 yards from the roost. 

We used Decoys; one Jake and three hens placed 20 to 25 yards out. The Jake was at the rear and only two feet behind the last hen.  The first calls I do are three soft tree yelps using a mouth call at 05:45 a.m. Then I wouldn't make another sound until 06:00 a.m., when I simulate four turkeys flying out of the tree using Lohmans Wing Thing, with one fly down cackle thrown in on my mouth call. The actual time you use will depend on when it is light enough to shoot, with the tree yelps being 15 minutes before you think the birds will hit the ground. I would then immediately start cutting and yelping very aggressively, using at least four different calls. To do this I use a mouth diaphragm in conjunction with a box, glass or slate calls, then switch diaphragm calls and friction calls. I let them have about a minute of the aggressive stuff, then sit tight for the next couple of minutes. 

The next thing they hear is soft stuff, contented clucks, soft yelps, and lots of purring followed with a few clucks. Once again I use two or three calls for the soft stuff. I then put the friction calls down and don't make a sound for the next five minutes. If we don't see turkeys by then I like to take their temperature with some very soft yelps on a diaphragm call.  The next day if I hunt in the same area I switch all of my calls.

Opening Day, April 26th, my father and I got our first double using the above routine. The hunt was over at 06:10 a.m. I took a 20 lb. Gobbler and Dad shot the Jake. The signal we used, so we would fire at the same time, was to say READY NOW and we would both pull the trigger on the NOW.  I got lucky that the big boy was on my side.

The very next day in the exact same spot I called a Jake from the roost and watched him come in from the other end of a large field. The turkey came in like he was on a rope, and the hunt was over at 06:15a.m. I shot a bird in another setup at 11:00 a.m. that same morning and that filled our tags in Ontario. We traveled to Ohio on Wednesday April 28th, and I roosted a bird that night. The following morning we hunted together with plans of doubling up, but only one bird came in, so my Dad took the shot. The big Tom weighed 22½ lbs., had 1¼ inch spurs and a 10 inch beard. This hunt was over at 06:10 a.m. My Father shot a 20 lb. Gobbler at 08:30 a.m. the next day using his style of less aggressive calling.

The ultimate test of this calling routine came on the morning of May 3rd. The previous day I found what looked like an excellent strut zone. We had to climb a very high hill, and there was a nice clearing on the top, with a lot of scratch marks in amongst the trees. I made a bad mistake though; I should have owl hooted at the bottom of the hill, because when we got to the top and I hooted, I found out the turkeys were on another hill. I decided to sit down and follow the calling routine, we threw in one twist; Dad used two of his calls. I didn't even get to give them the soft stuff, because the turkeys flew from their hill to ours and landed about seventy yards away. They came in like all the others, just like they were on a rope. I shot one of the three Jake's at twenty paces. The time was 06:04 a.m.

My Dad took a friend of ours hunting on May 14th. They said the bird never made a sound until it hit the ground, when it made three yelps and went the other way. We tried the turkey again on May 18th; this would be my first day hunting in Ontario since April 27th. I wasn't to sure about using aggressive calling to a bird on the roost late in the season. But the calling sequence had been so successful that I decided to stick with it. We knew that there were three Jake's and a mature gobbler roosting roughly three hundred yards from our setup. 

The decoys were placed 25 paces out in front of our buddy, who had never shot a bird before, and we sat ten paces behind him. The mosquitoes were unbelievably bad. I did the tree yelps at 05:25, then hit them with the fly down downs at 05:40, and followed immediately with the aggressive stuff. The birds never made a sound. I was starting to get worried when they still didn't respond to the soft stuff, so I gave them an assembly call at the end of the soft stuff, and the one Tom hammered it. The gobbler was coming from the woods to our open field setup and judging from his gobble, he seemed to be in a hurry. I noticed at this point that our buddy the shooter was still swatting mosquitoes. We tried in vane to get his attention but the bugs had his complete focus. I made a decision to do some soft yelps to get the bird to get his attention, the Tom gobbled around a hundred yards out and our friend finally stopped with the bugs and got the gun ready. The purrs and clucks I threw in were to give the bird some reassurance, in case he saw any movement, he hammered that as well. The two-year-old Tom gobbled at everything I did after the assembly call. He met his waterloo at 05:50 a.m. and sported a nice thick beard over 8 inches long.

Success in hunting is due to a variety of factors; I feel having complete confidence in the products you're using is vital. I carry a minimum of twelve calls with me each day, and when you switch the ones you're using regularly you need to own many different calls. 

I would like to make mention of my favorite products. 

The friction calls I use the most are Quaker Boys Clover Leaf and Grand Old Master; Knight & Hales Double Sided Gobbler and Hen yelper, their Ultimate Push Pull call and Ol' Yeller; Southland Game Calls Slate; Cody Calls Spec 2 Glass.

Diaphragm calls: Southland Game Calls April Special, Spring Delight and Mountain Top Cutter; Knight & Hales Screamin Hen 2 and 4; Quaker Boys Old Boss Hen, and World Champ; Lohman Game Calls model 812 and 811; Mad Calls High Ball.

Lohman Game Calls Wing Thing is the best wing simulator device. Locator Calls that I prefer are Knight and Hales Shock Gobble Owl Call and H.S.Struts Red Wolfe Gobble Call. Turkey hunting videos are an endless source of information, my favorites are: The entire Knight & Hale Ultimate series 1 through 5; Quaker Boys Successful Turkey Tactics Part 1; H.S.Strut's Cutt'n & Strutt'n 2; Cody Calls Slate Glass n Longbeards; Lohmans Wild Turkey Challenge 4, in this video I really like the way they include the birds weight, beard and spur length after each hunt.

This calling technique is not going to work 100% of the time, but the fact remains that we had incredible success this year getting the birds to come in right off the roost. The theory behind the technique is to be the first sound the bird hears in the morning. Then you want him to think four hens just hit the ground and are really excited, wait a few minutes and play hard to get. The idea behind the multiple calls is because the gobbler might be reluctant to come in if he already is with a hen, unless he's leaving her for numerous hens. The gobbler is already coming in fast when he spots the Jake decoy and rushes right on in, to prevent the jake decoy from moving in on these hens in his territory. Turkey hunting just seems to get better every year.

Chris Bailey

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