CHARGE A FLOCK
REMEMBER THAT SCENE from Top Gun when Maverick tells Goose he’s going to let the enemy fighter jet get closer? To Goose, the tactic seemed counterintuitive, if not crazy. That’s exactly how I felt when my turkey guide, Jimmy Warner, told me he was going to run off the jakes in front of us.
“You’re gonna do what?” I mouthed through my face mask. We’d taken an hour to slip into position undetected. Generally speaking, a group of turkeys has a calming effect on other turkeys, so I couldn’t believe that Warner was about to blow it all by running them off. But that’s exactly what he did when he leapt to his feet, waved his hat, and sent the mob flying. Thirty minutes later, a gobbler crept in, now uninhibited by the band of randy jakes, and I nailed him. As it turned out, Maverick— and Jimmy—knew what they were doing.
Here are a few other times when it makes sense—however wrong-headed it might seem—to charge ahead instead of melting into the background.
bust the flock In areas that produce large annual hatches, jakes can band together like a high-school clique and harass solitary gobblers into conceding some turf rather than fighting it out. Jakes can be especially aggressive with decoys. If you are hounded by groups of jakes and not seeing mature gobblers, then employ the same tactic that Warner used. Get up and run off the adolescents, then sit back and call softly. Often wary gobblers will sneak in without a sound.
run with the bulls Thanks to some scouting, Warner and I knew turkeys liked to loaf in a large feedlot on a working ranch in Oklahoma. But the lot was almost completely open, with no way to approach the birds undetected. So Warner did what any turkey guide in ranch country would do: He opened a gate and quietly shooed cattle toward the feedlot, then we slid in behind the yearlings until we found cover in a corner of the lot. The cows dispersed, and we called in the turkeys.
try a high-speed fan charge Using a turkey tail fan to approach gobblers is nothing new, especially for Westerners, who are long on vistas but short on cover. Most hunters use this fanning tactic—which has recently been given the grim name of “reaping”—to pique the dominance instinct of a tom and lure him into range, or to shield a hunter’s movements in order to get into better position. But in the right circumstances—a last-gasp effort to kill an open-field tom in an area where you have exclusive hunting access—you can modify the technique and actually charge the turkey. Hold a large tail fan to shield as much of you as possible, then run toward the gobbler until you get within gun range. This high-stakes tactic works only occasionally—maybe once every five or six times—and when it doesn’t work, it will spook the bird into the next township and stymie any follow-up approach. But when it’s your final opportunity, and you are sure no other hunters are working the area, then it can save a hunt where more conventional tactics failed.