10 Tips for Tag Teaming a Tom
By Bob Humphrey
1. Hands Up
The first and perhaps most obvious advantage of pairing up is the benefit two free hands. One hunter calls, while the other sits ready with gun or bow to make the shot. This eliminates the need for any risky, last-minute movement.
2. Over the Shoulder
We’ve all witnessed it: turkeys have an uncanny knack for approaching from the wrong direction or over your right shoulder (if you’re a right-handed shooter and vice versa if you're not). You’ll never beat them on the draw so the only hope for a solo hunter is to wait and hope the turkey circles around, still in range. Teaming up allows you to double your field of fire, covering a bird's approach from several different directions. Under the right conditions, and with righthand and lefthand shooters, you can even cover almost 360 degrees. This ensures a shot no matter from what direction a bird approaches. Having an extra set of eyes doesn’t hurt either.
3. Doubling Up
Two guns also gives both hunters an opportunity to tag out should multiple birds come within shooting distance of your setup. Sure, a solo hunter can double up as well, but I’ve reached that stage as a hunter where it’s more about the hunt and I’d rather save the second bird for another day. As a side note, two hunters need not fire at the same time. I’ve found the old “1-2-3, shoot” routine often goes awry. Let one hunter take the best available shot, or the bird on their side. If other birds remain, the second hunter can follow up. Subordinate birds will often pounce on their fallen comrade offering an easy shot.
4. Hang Ups
One of the more common sources of frustration for turkey hunters is hung-up birds. They know where you are, but just aren’t confident enough to commit. All a solo hunter can do is sit, wait and hope. With paired up hunters, one can make a strategic move. Have the shooter remain in position, while the caller moves directly away from the tom, sets up and calls again. The theory works like this: hearing the hen moving away, the gobbler will think she’s leaving and advance. It won’t always work, but sometimes is good enough odds for a turkey hunt.
5. Stake Outs
Pre-season scouting and patterning birds is one way to significantly increase your chances of bringing home a butterball. But just when you think you’ve got them figured out, turkeys will change their routine. And some birds don’t have one. One morning they’ll leave the roost and go one way, the next day they’ll capriciously go another. By splitting up your two-man team, you can cover two possible travel routes, doubling the odds of someone being in the right place. Safety and communication are paramount. Have a plan for where each hunter will be and stick to it. If you have to move, text your partner and wait for confirmation they received it.
6. More Stake-Outs
While running and gunning, you can also implement a variation of the previous tactic. As you’re trolling along and stopping to call at intermittent locations, pick a likely spot, leave one hunter to set up and wait while the other continues on. It’s not uncommon for a bird to come to a call slowly, silently and reluctantly, arriving long after a solo hunter has moved on. Again, safety and communication should be stressed.
7. Different Strokes
Turkeys can sometimes be extremely fickle about responding to the tone or pitch of a certain call. Sometimes you have to empty your vest before you find the right one. Having two hunters doubles the possibility of striking a receptive note.
When turkeys are still in larger flocks and it’s tough to pull individual birds away to the sound of a solitary hen,this next tactic can be particularly effective early in the season. Two hunters calling at the same time might sound a lot more appealing, and could even represent a challenge to territorial hens. As a side note, this might also be a good time to build a decent decoy spread. Instead of one, two or three, put out a half dozen or more decoys with a strutter, a jake or two and multiple hens.
9. Them’s Fighting Words
Another variation of this is fighting purrs, used to imitate sparring rival males. A solo hunter can do this, but it sounds a lot more realistic with two callers. You may not get the boss tom, but subordinate satellite birds are like kids on a playground. They no can’t resist a fight.
This last one is more of a benefit than a tactic. Hunting with a companion allows you to share the experience, making it that much richer. Many hunters cite camaraderie as one of the major reasons they hunt. And as my old friend Jim Casada once said, “In the school of the outdoors, graduation day never arrives.” You can always learn something from the birds and from your hunting companions. By sharing ideas you might also be able to plan a more effective strategy when taking on a particular bird.