8 Steps for Taking a Turkey's Temperature

Calling too much and not calling enough are two of the biggest mistakes hunters make when calling a wild turkey. The challenge is determining just the right amount. Doing that is an interactive process sometimes referred to as taking a turkey’s temperature.

Here’s how it works.

Let's say you scratch out three loud yelps and get an immediate response from a randy gobbler. The game is on, but it’s just begun. How you proceed could well determine the eventual outcome.

1) Start Subtle

Just because he answered, doesn’t necessarily mean he’s interested. Turkeys will gobble at a crow flying overhead, an owl hoot or the creak of a rusty gate. Try a few soft clucks and see if you get another reply. If and how he responds will determine your next and subsequent moves.

2) Mum’s the Word

If the bird remains silent, you should do likewise, but don't give up yet. Sit tight, wait a few minutes and try him again.

3) Easy Does It

Call again. Start out conservatively and see if you can eke out a response. If he reacts tentatively, keep your calling subtle. You want to keep his attention without scaring him off. Does he seem to be getting closer, or is he staying put?

4) Be Modest

If he’s coming your way or seems to be responding to your calls — but still not aggressively — continue with spaced out, restrained calling. Make a few light yelps, and maybe add some purrs.

5) Turn Up the Heat

If he’s responding immediately, cutting you off and getting closer with every gobble, try firing him up. Try some aggressive cutting. If it shuts him up, back off. If it fires him up, pour it on.

6) Beat the Competition

If he’s alone, he’s far more likely to continue your way. If he’s in the company of a jealous hen, she may have other ideas. Listen not only for gobbles, but for hen chatter. If you hear a bossy old hen trying to pull him away, your only recourse is to out-talk her. Mimic what she says, but with more fervor and more notes. Cut her off when she starts to yelp. It’s do or die now. She’ll either lead him away or straight to you.

7) Shut Up

They’re closing in now, so there’s no need to call. Turkeys have a remarkable ability to pinpoint the source of a sound, and if they’re inclined to, they will come right to your location. By calling now you only risk souring the deal. By going silent you might make them more curious or anxious to locate the source of your calling.

8) Close the Deal

If they’re coming, you need do nothing more but click off your safety, sit stock still and watch. But if the bird or birds hang up, they may need a little subtle coaxing. Give them a few soft purrs and scratch in the leaves a few times as a reminder and a reassurance you’re still there. Then listen for footsteps, the deep booming of a strutting tom or the soft purrs of a hen. The moment of truth is at hand. Let the decoys do the rest.

Even if you played all the right notes, there are never any guarantees. That’s why it’s called hunting. But if you take a gobbler’s temperature and let his mood dictate how you call to him, the odds of a successful conclusion become much higher.

Featured photo: National Wild Turkey Federation

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