When to Make The First Call

The magnitude of the first call when turkey hunting cannot be understated.

If it is made from the wrong place, a hunter's location easily could be discovered. If it is made at the wrong time, a gobbler, or his hens, could become suspicious and, instead of leaving the roost toward the hunter, they could fly out the other way.

Calling to birds on the roost is an easy conversation to get sucked into.

One day, the woods might be silent, provoking the hunter to try to make something happen. The next day, the woods might be alive with turkey talk and the hunter will have a hard time resisting the urge to call to every gobbler that sounds off.

In both of these scenarios, there is no clear cut approach, but there are some guideline to follow that will help ensure the first call the birds hear is at just the right time.


In scenario one, the woods are dead quiet and daylight is fast approaching. It isn't quite fly-down yet, but a hunter's scouting tells him the birds are roosted just over the ridge. In most cases, the reaction to this scenario is to let out a few soft calls and try to elicit a response.

When that doesn't work, the calling gets louder and more frequent, and, perhaps, a series of fast cuts gets a gobbler to courtesy gobble. The caller goes silent, so do the birds, and daylight comes and goes without any activity.

A likely scenario is the gobbler was roosted with his hens, the hens didn't like the possibility of an intruder stealing their tom, causing them to fly down away from the hunter.

Another possibility is the birds saw the hunter approach and know that something isn't quite right.

These are just two of many scenarios that attempt to quantify why calling at silent birds on the roost did not work.

Instead of trying to excite a gobbler to answer, a better course of action would have been to stop calling after only a few very light tree yelps and listen closely. If there are still no gobbles, refrain from calling and keep listening for the birds to fly down before attempting another call or making a move.

When it has been determined the birds have hit the ground, try a fly-down cackle or make a move to get in a better location before attempting to get back on the birds.

Opposite of quiet mornings are those mornings when multiple gobblers are fired up gobbling at every crow, car door, or train horn that breaks the morning silence.

They are double gobbling, triple gobbling, strutting on the limbs, and answering every call. It seems like every bird is just eating up every call and everything is going right.

The calling intensifies as fly-down gets closer, and, to cap it off, you let out the sweetest fly-down cackle. The gobblers go nuts, all obviously facing your direction and hammering incessantly begging for a response.

Pumping of wings ensue and birds drop from the trees as the woods goes relatively silent with only faint gobbles and hen clucks moving farther and farther away from your location.

If this sounds familiar, don't be surprised, it happens to every turkey hunter.

A likely scenario is that hens roosted apart from the gobblers, and the gobblers were trying to call the hens to their tree. In addition to your calling and the gobbling, a group of hens with a softer, more realistic approach had been responding to the gobblers and getting them to gobble.

The hens flew down early and waited under the gobblers, which answered your calls to attempt to draw you in closer. With live birds in front of them, the gobblers flew down and the hens lead them directly away.

In this case, the best medicine for a fired-up gobbler is just what the real hens gave them, silence and soft response on the limb. After they fly down, try to entice the group of hens to come your direction using soft purrs and leaf raking. If that doesn't work, let them get out of range and make your move.