High ground gobblers

by Steve Galea | May 6, 2019
high ground gobbler feature

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:

Pros:

• 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.

Cons:

• It’s risky. One wrong move gets you busted.

• Not advisable if other hunters are nearby.

Best Practices

• 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

Pros:

• You stand a better chance of remaining undetected and not spooking a bird.

• He’s probably going to quickly see your decoys.

Cons:

• 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.

Best Practices

• 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.

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