photo of mourning doves

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I only had anhour to hunt before the noon closure, so I hurried to my best spot. But in myrush, I bumped a big tom and three hens from the area. My first instinct was tomove to another place altogether. However, there was no time for that. So I setup nearby and called halfheartedly every few minutes.

It was 11:50 whenthe tom appeared. He never gobbled but strutted confidently to my calls, intenton finding the hens he’d lost. When the chime on my watch announced noon, I wasalready wrapping a tag around the bird’s leg.

That was thefirst gobbler I’d ever shot after having spooked it, but hardly the last. Inthe many seasons since, I’ve bumped numerous toms, even missed shots at them,and later worked the same birds into gun range on the same morning.

Turkeys willrespond immediately to a threat. Once they feel safe again, however, it’sbusiness as usual. And turkeys are social birds. In the wake of a bumping, theyassociate companionship with safety. This trait is only heightened in spring,when gobblers are already wanting company. Here are five tips for turning abumped bird into a bagged one:

[1] Relocate to anearby spot that the bird doesn’t associate with danger. Make a loop using theback of a hill or a creek bed to hide your exit, then set up again. This alsogives the tom some time to settle down.

[2] Situateyourself where you can see well and stay comfortable. Keep your gun poised onyour knee and your eyes roving for a tightlipped tom.

[3] Wait awhilebefore calling. How long depends on the individual bird and his mood. I’ve hadtoms gobble on their own only minutes after being shot at. Others might take anhour to feel good about the world again. Set up, get comfortable, and bepatient.

[4] Change calltypes. If I was running a diaphragm call when I bumped a given bird, I’d switchto a slate or glass call on the chance that the gobbler might associate theoriginal call with the recent danger.

[5] Moderate yourcalling volume. Start soft and slow, with clucks, purrs, some whiny yelps, evena kee kee. You want to sound like a lost turkey looking for a reunion. If a tomresponds, let the frequency of his gobbling dictate how aggressively you workhim. Otherwise, assume the bird is close by and stay ready for him to slipsilently into gun range.


When you have a gobbler in your sights at close range,aim at his neck, not his head. Centering on the head will send the top half ofyour shot pattern harmlessly over the bird. But if you put your bead just abovewhere the feathers meet the neck, the entire load stays centered on the vitalarea.