Raucous gobbles echoed through the forest as the tom edged closer to my calling position. Then suddenly, his forward progress stopped. Through the woods, 75 yards away, I could see the fan of a big, strutting bird as it glowed in shafts of sunlight.
His approach had stalled. Well out of shotgun range for me, the bird had hung up.
Was I upset? No.
Seconds later I heard the report of my partner’s 12 gauge shotgun. He had been positioned 50 yards in front of me. The big tom had come in exactly as we’d hoped—too far away for me but right in my friend’s lap at 25 yards.
We certainly weren’t the first turkey hunters to use this particular two-man tactic. But there are several other less-known variations on how you can team up with one or two other hunters to up your odds on harvesting a tough spring gobbler.
During my formative years as a turkey hunter, I was fortunate to tag along with some true experts such as Jim Clay, Rob Keck, Will Primos, Eddie Salter, and Kelly Cooper. It was only natural that they would do the calling. Several of them were multi-time World Champions.
One of the first team-work tactics we used then was for the expert to sit on one side of a tree and me at a 90 degree angle or even on the other side. Often toms will come in from the side or circle around. With this method two hunters can be ready and the tom can be taken in any direction for 360 degrees. It’s also a great tactic for young hunters when you want to coach them quietly on what to do as the bird is bearing down.
Other times the plan would call for me to sit 20-50 yards farther out towards the calling bird. After harvesting a number of gobblers this way and improving my own calling, eventually I would take the farther back calling position and let a friend sit out front who had less hunting experience and was eager to bag a bird.
Sometimes, though, a tom will circle around and the person calling will get the opportunity for a shot. Always know exactly where the other hunter is when using this approach.
In general the hunter in front should not call. But if a tom is slightly hidden by brush or starts to stray off course, a cluck or purr from him is often enough to get the bird to step into the clear for a shot.
Another situation where two hunters can effectively work together is when they locate a roosted tom that is known to fly down in two different directions. Jim Clay, founder of Perfection Calls, and I used this tactic to work a Virginia bird that had stumped local hunters for several years. He took a position along a creek where the gobbler sometimes went for water. I set up near the closest wheat field where the tom would fly down to strut I was the lucky one that day. The tom came in quickly to my quiet hen talk. He sported a 12 ½-inch beard and long sharp spurs.
Another approach is to set up 30 or so yards apart and have both hunters call to imitate a flock of hens. One or both hunters can also use two calls at once to imitate a group of birds and really excite nearby reluctant toms. This raucous symphony of hen sounds is more than most gobblers can resist. Whoever has the first good shot takes the bird.
This is also a good tactic to use on fields where you might not know exactly where turkeys will appear. A few decoys can be a big help in this case.
Yet another double-team approach is a tactic champion caller Kelly Cooper showed me that he dubbed “float calling.” With this strategy, one hunter sits as close as possible to the located bird while another person behind him does the calling.
But that rear hunter doesn’t stay stationary. He moves back and forth like a real hen would. He can sometimes actually “steer” the bird to the hunter waiting in ambush by moving in different directions and redirecting the tom right into the waiting hunter’s lap.
Cooper used this tactic to steer a public land tom into a clear spot 20 yards in front of me on a public land hunt in New York’s Catskills. The 19-pound bird sported a thick 11-inch beard.
Sure, hiking alone through the woods and calling a bird in by oneself is the ultimate way to hunt spring gobblers. But at times two hunters–or even three–can fool birds that would be impossible to take on your own.
And it’s fun to have someone to share your success with when a big tom hits the ground.