In the hilly part of the Canadian Shield where I hunt turkeys, one of the most common scenarios begins with a gobbler sounding off on a ridge top. When this happens, if you aren’t up there already, you have two options: you can either call that bird down or move up the ridge to close the gap. I’ve taken birds both ways. Before you decide, here are a few things to consider.
You have two options: run and gun or sit and call
Run and gun:
• Often, the birds you encounter in hilly country are close and it doesn’t take much of a move to get within gun range.
• Spring cover and topography in hill country often allows an undetected approach.
• If a gobbler is calling and strutting along a ridge top, you can wait until he steps out of sight beyond the crest of the ridge top before you move.
• It’s risky. One wrong move gets you busted.
• Not advisable if other hunters are nearby.
• Move only when terrain and cover hides you from the gobbler.
• If the gobbler goes silent, don’t move until you can confirm his location by sight or sound. He could be searching for you.
• Use distant sounds such as chainsaws to mask your approach.
• Ensure other birds will not bust you before you move.
• If the gobbler is strutting predictably back and forth along a ridge top, wait till he gets to the far end of the strut zone before moving. Ideally you will intercept him on the return.
• If the gobbler retreats down the other side of the ridge, set up on the reverse slope on top and try to call him back.
Sit and call
• You stand a better chance of remaining undetected and not spooking a bird.
• He’s probably going to quickly see your decoys.
• Gobblers run ridges because it allows them to be better heard and seen by hens and gives them a better vantage point. Therefore they are sometimes reluctant to leave high ground.
• The gobbler might draw in hens from a distance or from the other side of the ridge. When that happens, you are beaten.
• If a fence or other obstacle is between you and the gobbler, he might not cross it.
• Once he sees your decoys, shut up or call sparingly.
• Be patient. Sometimes it takes time for them to decide to leave the ridge top.
• When that gobbler does commit, he’s probably headed directly to your decoys to display.
• If you aren’t using decoys, position yourself to face the gobbler’s likeliest approach. Often, this is down the most gentle or open part of the slope.
• Decide on markers that define your effective range and be prepared to shoot when the gobbler provides a good shot opportunity within it.
• Take the first good shot opportunity. There’s a lot of cover and uneven terrain in the Canadian Shield and it’s possible for a gobbler to spend a lot time within range yet remain obstructed.