Two turkey hunters with their big turkeys they shot

How to Deal With Call Shy Turkeys

Matt Dye 4.7.2017

The days of excitement, fast action, frustration, and defeat are coming to a turkey woods near you! If you’ve been a turkey hunter for a while, and are honest with yourself, you’ve likely experienced all these emotions more than once. Of course, we try to limit the frustration and defeat as much as possible. These two emotions often stem from unresponsive toms, also commonly termed “call shy” gobblers. However, I’m here to challenge that line of thinking, boldly stating, I’ve never met a “call shy” gobbler!

There are myths passed down through hunting camps all around the wild turkey’s range about the stubborn, hard headed, “call shy” birds. It seems every camp has the one bird that no one can call in. He may gobble once on the roost, then shuts up and never responds to a call again. This goes on season after season. It’s as if these gobblers live through the ages and defy death. Before you know it, you are trying to wrap your tag around the same “call shy” turkey your grandfather was chasing. Why is this myth so prevalent and how do you overcome it?

Strutting wild tom with a lone hen

The fact behind “call shy” birds is that turkeys are never forced to gobble. Even a world champion caller couldn’t get a response out of some birds! There is one thing that trumps even the best series of yelps and clucks one could make, and that is real hens!

A gobbler, especially a dominant one, will do his best to keep hens with him as much as possible. You’ve likely experienced subordinate gobblers sounding off on the roost, then another gobbler chimes in and all goes quiet. The dominant bird in the area has spoken. As a result the hens will go to him. A hunter can call and call, but won’t pull him away from the real hens.

This “call shy” gobbler has no reason to gobble now. It doesn’t mean the calling sounds bad or he is scared to answer the call, he simply doesn’t need to. It is important to remember that turkeys are survivalist. A gobbler with hens does not need to gobble. If he does, he is simply letting all of the predators around him know his exact location. Not a smart move for someone looking to survive and reproduce. By unnecessarily gobbling, turkeys are more susceptible to predation.

Is a “call shy” gobbler killable?

Yes, they sure are! There are two techniques that come to mind. First, get in quietly and close to him on the roost. Make a few soft tree yelps, replicate a fly down, and scratch in the leaves. He may pitch down and come investigate. Although it may be tempting to call, just be patient and wait!

The second tactic involves waiting until the late-season to chase him, which is tough in some states that have short seasons or designated week long time blocks. But if you can, this is the time most hens have been bred and are attending their nests during the day, in turn making these “call shy” birds grow lonely. Late season, during the nine to eleven o’clock hour and even the afternoon, can be the best times to harvest these birds. Scout the area this gobbler likes to frequent ahead of time, slide in and start soft calling. His lonesome self may get the best of him and bring him into range. Just remember to be patient because most likely, he won’t be announcing his arrival.


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