CHARGE A FLOCK

Outdoor Life - - FEATURES - —J.J.

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.

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