Why Gobblers Hang-up and What to Do About It

Written by Big Game Camera Man on Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Every seasoned turkey hunter has had this experience:
On an absolutely beautiful morning, sunny, clear and crisp, with turkeys gobbling very good, they pitch down off the roost and you start working a tom.  He thinks you're a hen, he's interested, the volume of his gobbling is rising as he comes your way, he's making his grand entrance—then, Bam! He hangs-up on you!

In many cases, this happens when the tom is 40-75 yards out.  He goes into a strut zone  (or strut pad).  Now the bird is playing the game; he's in full-strut, spitting and drumming, going back and forth doing a version of a crab-walk in the strut zone.  He expects the hen to come to him.

I've witnessed turkeys doing this for hours at a time—the bird has no appointments to keep.  A wild turkey has no sense of time; his day is sunup to sundown, and he'll show up when he wants to.  

Sometimes, the tom hangs-up for a clear reason; there may be an obstacle between him and you.  It could be a small creek, a fast-moving stream, a property-line fence or old stone wall, a thicket or blow-down, a road with traffic (even light traffic), or it could be because you're below his level—turkeys are much easier to call uphill rather than downhill.  He may be standoffish or stubborn for a less-clear reason, say, because he's had a  bad experience in that place with predators or farm animals or equipment.  You can get some idea of what the obstacles might be while doing your pre-season scouting.

In dealing with a hung-up tom, here are tricks that  have worked for me:
- try switching-up your calls-give him something he hasn't yet heard - try increasing the time between your calls—space them out
- if there's enough cover between you and the gobbler so that you're 100% sure he can't see you, rake and scratch the leaves around you like a group of hen turkeys feeding
- if you're sure the tom can't see you, just stop calling, drop back 85 yards, wait 25 minutes, then all softly, not aggressively—try to convince the tom that the hen is walking off, no longer interested.  If he gets that idea, he just may come out of his skin.

Above all, in dealing with a hung-up tom, be patient.  His own curiosity is what's going to get him in trouble, but you have to allow time for the scene to unfold.   When he does come off his strut pad, he'll be very serious  and may come so close that he'll almost melt into the barrel of your shotgun.

Be safe, lots of luck!

Keep the tradition alive.  Take a youngster hunting or fishing!

About The Author

I’ve been in the business of filming hunts for 24 years now. I have hundreds of hours of...

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