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What Turkey Hunters Want to Know Day 5: How to Take a Non Gobbling Turkey

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Editor’s Note: From a Google survey, I’ve learned what hunters want to know about hunting turkeys. Many of them never have turkey hunted before, and others have called longbeards but have specific turkey-hunting problems they don’t know how to solve. First a hunter needs to understand that each gobbler he or she hunts is an individual bird with his own traits, hunter experiences and survival instincts. So, no one answer will answer all turkey hunters’ questions for each turkey-hunting situation. If you have turkey-hunting questions you need possible answers for, email [email protected], and John will try to help. 

Wild turkey hunter with his trophy and a wild turkey hunter calling

Question: How do you take a turkey that won’t gobble?

John E. Phillips: Turkeys don’t gobble every day of turkey season. If there’s a gobbler that you’ve been trying to take that’s been gobbling every morning before and during the first week of the season but then you go to where you’ve heard him, and he doesn’t gobble, like me, you’ll be confused and frustrated.

Use Shock-Gobble Calls:

First, I’ll use some shock-gobble calls (like a crow, an owl, a pileated woodpecker or a coyote howl) or any other type call that makes turkey shock gobble when you’re hunting. I have a friend who hunts close to a river where tugboats push barges up and down it. Several times in the early morning, these tugboats will sound a horn to let a lockmaster know to open the gates of the lock. Every time that happens, turkeys will gobble. My friend takes an airhorn with compressed air in it into the woods, and if turkeys aren’t gobbling, he’ll blow that airhorn. Then every turkey around will gobble.

Hunt Blind:

If you can’t make a turkey gobble using one of these tactics, try and get within 100 yards of where you’ve heard a turkey gobble, Set-up in the dark to take a shot. Just as the light’s cutting its way through the darkness, give some very- soft clucks and purrs and/or soft tree calls. I call this tactic, “hunting blind,” because you don’t know exactly where that gobbler is, but you feel certain he’s nearby.

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Give Soft Tree Calls or Make No Calls:

Another strategy is to go to that tom from the opposite side of his roost tree, set-up to take him and give soft tree calls. Perhaps the very-best way to take this non-gobbling turkey is to go to the places you know where he feeds, meets his hens and/or struts, and not call to him at all. Five-time World Champion Turkey Caller, the late Ben Rodgers Lee from Coffeeville, Alabama, told me years ago, “If you’re trying to kill a turkey that won’t gobble, don’t call to him. Then you may kill him.”

Scout for Non-Gobbling Turkeys and Set-Up:

Scouting is the best remedy for taking a non-gobbling turkey. If you’ve done your homework and know where that turkey goes and what he does after he flies-out of his roost tree, set-up to take that turkey at one of those spots before he arrives. Sit still, be well-hidden, wait on the gobbler to show-up, and then take him. Some turkey hunters may call this “bush whacking,” but not me. Far more skill, patience and knowledge are required to take a turkey that won’t gobble than one that gobbles every time you call to him.

Expert Guidebooks on Turkey Hunting

Turkey Hunting Tactics

These 22-blockbuster chapters answer questions beginning turkey hunters as well as veteran turkey hunters have. In the Kindle version, you’ll also get links to 24-bonus videos made with some of the greatest names in turkey hunting to learn their best tips.


The Turkey Hunting Guides’ Bible
The quickest way to learn how to turkey hunt successfully is to either hunt with a turkey hunter with years of experience or a turkey-hunting guide. These two types of turkey hunters have solved most of the problems turkey hunters ever will face. 


This Audible book will help you learn how to call turkeys with two of the nation’s best, longtime and well-known turkey callers, Rob Keck, formerly with the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Lovett Williams, a wildlife biologist who recorded wild turkeys giving the calls that you’ll learn how to make on various types of turkey callers.


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