Wild Turkey Tip: Calling All Hens

The author guides a first-time turkey hunter to a Wisconsin gobbler, thanks in large part to a chatty hen.

Wild Turkey Tip: Calling All Hens

The author (left) and Nick McLafferty pose after a memorable morning in northern Wisconsin.

I am not a turkey hunting guru. I rank myself as a novice whose skills at calling are usually relearned and sharpened via YouTube sessions a few weeks before season each year. Though the lesson in this story may seem like a no-brainer to some, the outcome was too fun not to share.

Now, I have had success on a few gobblers over the years, and last spring a long-time friend of mine, Nick, expressed interest in trying his hand at the sport. I told him to apply for a tag in northern Wisconsin, and I’d be happy to take him out. 

Fast-forward to Friday, May 13, 2022, a date supposedly deemed unlucky. Upon Nick’s arrival, I gave him a short rundown on the basics of turkey hunting and handed him a Mossberg 500, short-barreled turkey edition 12-gauge with a Bushnell red-dot scope fixed to the top rail. He loaded in three old-school Federal Premium No. 4 Turkey Thug shells, and we hit the woods.

Owl hooting on the walk in raised our hopes of success as a few gobblers sounded off nearby in reply. We made our way to a small blind thrown together from some old pallets and pine boughs positioned on top of a hardwood ridge, about 100 yards in from the edge of a green hayfield. Roughly 25 yards in front of the blind I placed a Flextone Thunder Chick breeder hen decoy with a Flextone Thunder Jake a few feet behind her. 

As daylight started to break, I let out a few soft wakeup yelps with a Woodhaven Ninja Hammer mouth call and was instantly rewarded with several responses, one of which was a hen roosted much closer to us than the toms gobbling in the distance. 

Silence soon ensued, indicating the turkeys were down from the roost and on the move. I let the Woodhaven crack and immediately following my sequence of yelps, the nearby hen mimicked my notes. It was easy to tell she was on the ground at this point and headed our direction. The next time she made noise, I cut her off with my call and she retorted with a loud series of notes herself. For several minutes, I did my best to recreate the sounds she was making, and vice versa, switching between the Woodhaven Ninja Hammer and a Woodhaven Red Ninja Power V to get it done. This exchange set a charge to the woods, coaxing a few gobblers to join in the vocal fun.

Nick shouldered the Mossberg and got ready. Soon after Nick turned on the red dot and aimed toward the decoys, the hen appeared out of a thick bottom to our right about 100 yards away. She was on a mission to confront her challenger. Close behind her was a full-strut longbeard announcing his arrival with a loud gobble.

He followed the hen, giving us the ultimate show of splitting and drumming the entire way until he had a visual of the decoys. After spotting our dekes, he made a beeline for them without breaking strut until he was at 25 yards, directly between the two decoys. He slowly turned, providing a clean head shot. It was 5:55 a.m. on Nick’s first turkey hunt, and we were done.

The lucky hunter admiring his first wild turkey.
The lucky hunter admiring his first wild turkey.

This scenario was a turkey hunter’s dream. A perfect out-of-the-roost hunt of a tom locked up with a hen. As previously mentioned, I consider myself a somewhat greenhorn turkey hunter. I had seen my fair share of videos and read plenty of articles about calling to hens, but this was the first time it played out firsthand. 

Don’t be afraid to get chatty with hens, especially during the later season lockdown phase. Though that may be common knowledge to most avid turkey pursuers, it's a good reminder for beginners, or those just learning to call. If a hen is responding to your calls, just keep talking to her, and let her be the best decoy a hunter could ask for.


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