Avoid These Mistakes To Get The Right Setup On A Gobbler

Heath Wood // Freelance Writer Photographer

Heath Wood looking for turkey's next to creek.

After agreeing to accompany two good friends while turkey hunting on their family farm, I found myself being designated as the group's caller, and they would be the shooters.

The two friends of mine were relatively new to the sport of turkey hunting. Being new, they were not the most experienced callers. With that being said, when we finally got on a gobbling tom, I instructed them to sit, and both face ahead in the toms direction. 

After setting them up, I fell back twenty yards directly behind them and began calling. When I first sat down, I noticed a woven fence running up the hill towards the gobbling tom. Because it was my first time on this property, I did not know where the fence line leads. However, the tom sounded like he was further to the right of the fence, which was the side that I placed my two friends to get a shot.

As the gobbler approached, I knew that the guys should be able to see him and make the shot at any moment. As I waited for a boom from their shotgun, I heard drumming and dragging of wings as the gobbler barely skirted around to the left of where they were sitting. He was well within range, yet over the peak of the hill, enough to make a shot impossible. While wondering why wasn't a shot taken, I caught a glimpse of the big tom turkey making his way down the woven fence to my left, still to the left and out of sight from where they were sitting. When the gobbler made it to ten or twelve steps from me, I had no other option than to take the shot.

I truly felt bad for making the shot on the tom intended for one of my friends. The tom had circled them and practically jumped into my lap without them ever seeing the tom. After celebrating and recalling how the hunt unfolded, we topped the hill to notice that the same woven wire beside me made a ninety-degree turn to the right, continuing to run along the other side of the hill.

Heath Wood walking in for a morning turkey hunt.

A woven fence can act as a steering course when a turkey is responding to your call. Specific landmarks, man-made objects, and ways of the land can alter a turkeys route. If one has done their homework and will avoid these distractions or use them in your favor, calling a gobbler into gun range can be much easier and less aggravating for the hunter.

Many hunters have had a turkey hang up on the other side of a fence at one time or another. Like the woven wire fence that I experienced, turkeys are notorious for not wanting to go through or fly over obstacles when going from one point to another. I have experienced this same hesitation when turkeys are on the other side of a creek, river, or other natural landmarks that altar a turkeys route. These types of distractions are to be avoided or used to your advantage when calling to a gobbler.

Heath Wood getting setup with his Swagger Stalker QD while turkey hunting.

As when calling in the turkey that skirted my two friends and eventually gave me a shot opportunity instead. Using obstructions such as a woven fence can steer turkeys in your direction if set up correctly. The key is knowing where all of these obstructions are before hunting. By scouting an area before the season, the hunter can know where landmarks, fences, etc. are to use them to their advantage or avoid them when setting up on a gobbling turkey. A turkey, specifically a gobbler, desires to take the quickest, easiest route when responding to a hen calling; the fewer obstacles, the quicker they will come.

If the hunter doesn't have the opportunity to scout before the season, I suggest using an online hunting map app such as OnX Maps to scout instead. These maps can give the hunter a 2D view of how the land lies, where creeks and rivers are located, giving the hunter a game plan before setting up and calling to a gobbler.

Another mistake often made when setting up is sitting too far away from landmarks, creeks, or obstructions like a fence. As with the earlier mentioned hunt, if I had known before setting up my two friends that the woven wire turned and ran their way as well, I would have sat them up further to the right, close to where the fence made the turn because it would have naturally steered the gobbler into coming into range.

I have always been a fan of getting as close to a tom gobbling as I can before I set up and begin calling. Again, the shorter the distance between you and him, the fewer distractions for him to endure when coming to a call. When natural landmarks or distractions such as fences or water bodies keep me from close to the preferred distance, I set up as close to them as possible. By setting close to the detour, I am still in shooting range when the gobbler decides to hang up.

Heath Wood leaving the woods after a turkey hunt.

The last location for a natural possibility for a gobbler to hang up is in open areas such as a field. A large green field or a big crop field looks ideal to the hunter for a place to call in a turkey. However, they can also create a natural hang-up if he doesn't like what he sees.

When a gobbler enters into an open area without seeing what he has been hearing, he feels unsafe and will hang up the same as having a barrier such as a creek or a fence, or he may leave the area altogether. To provide a comfort zone and urgency to come into closer range, one must use two or three decoys. Using decoys provides realism, comfort, and a reason to come check out your calling.

A gobbler changing his destination plan is one of the worst scenarios that a hunter can face. Yet, with suitable systems in place as well as a solid game plan, an indecisive gobbler could very well be a thing of the past.