Unhang stubborn turkeys

Preston Pittman learned that to take a hung-up gobbler home, you must get inside his mind.

How far are you willing to go to get your turkey to go all the way?

To take a tom turkey that’s hung up, gobbling his head off, not coming within gun range and driving you crazy, I’ve learned these solutions from some of the nation’s best turkey hunters.

“Take cover” in cow manure

Preston Pittman of Lucedale, Miss., once put cow manure smell on himself to bag a hung-up bird.

“A friend offered for me to hunt a turkey he’d hunted for some time in a farmer’s 40 acre cow pasture with a row of privet hedge dividing it, a hardwood and timber forest above it and a creek running through it,” he said.

Brad Harris cupped his hand beside his mouth and threw the turkey call behind him to make a hung-up gobbler think a hen was walking away from him, and he’d better hurry up for the chance to breed her.

Pittman selected a stand site inside the privet hedge where he knew the turkey couldn’t see him, gobbled at daylight and gave light tree calls. The tom gobbled in response, pitched out of a tree and landed in the middle of the cow pasture about 100 yards away — gobbling and strutting. He walked straight toward Pittman, before stopping 65 yards away, standing still a few minutes and then running back into the woods, although Pittman knew the bird hadn’t seen him.

Turkey gobblers make other sounds besides vocalizations, and Preston Pittman has found that if you learn these sounds, you can bag a tom without using turkey calls.

Pittman didn’t call the next morning but waited until the turkey flew into the field. Pittman gave subtle clucks and purrs. The gobbler moved toward Pittman but again, stopped 60 yards away like a brick wall was in front. He changed to a slate call and a box call, however, nothing worked.

After hunting that turkey for eight days, Pittman realized that every time he called, a cow would come over to Pittman’s stand to investigate what was making the call. When these cows smelled a human being in that fence row, they’d turn around and run back into the pasture. This wise gobbler always watched the cows. On the ninth day, Pittman rubbed liquid cow manure over his hunting clothes.

“Once the cows came to the fence and smelled what they thought was another cow, the gobbler relaxed and came in, thinking he’d find a girlfriend, and I took him,” Pittman said. “Pay attention to everything around you to determine how to take a hung-up tom.”

Use turkey sounds, not calls

Preston Pittman grew up hunting public lands in the DeSoto National Forest. Many who hunted there had hunted a tom that gobbled good in daylight hours, but always shut up and left before the person hunting him arrived. Pittman went into the woods at 2 a.m. one morning and set-up about 60 yards from where he’d roosted the bird the evening before. He took a nap until just at daylight when he heard three other hunters calling.

“With a turkey’s wing, I made a fly-down sound, brushed that wing up against the side of a tree and scratched in the leaves with my gloved hand for 30 minutes until the tom appeared, and I got him,” Pittman said.

Learn Tom’s schedule

Another tom that Pittman and others hunted for more than two years finally was taken, once Pittman learned the bird’s schedule. He left after roosting the turkey, riding back into the woods on a bicycle about midnight and stopping 60 yards from the roost. He unfolded a camo sleeping bag and slept until the tom gobbled, and then Pittman gave a few soft tree calls.

“I thumped the ground to sound like a hen going to the bathroom from up in the tree, and her droppings were hitting the ground,” Pittman said. “I used a turkey wing to make a fly-down sound, gave a few clucks and purrs and scratched in the leaves like a hen feeding. I took that hung-up tom because he didn’t hear a vehicle on the nearby road and I hunted him from a different direction. Some turkeys are 100% not callable, but that doesn’t mean they’re not killable, if you learn their schedules.”

You must decide if you want a turkey that stays on an island in a swamp bad enough to get wet.

Wade water

Several people had hunted a bird that always hung up, while roosting on an island in a swamp with waist-deep water. No one wanted to wade the 70 yards to the bird, but Pittman finally did.

”This tom always flew from tree to tree in the swamp once he heard a hen calling,” Pittman said. “If he didn’t see a hen, he wouldn’t fly down. I called from out in the water, the turkey landed in a tree about 30 yards away, and I shot him.”

Throw your call behind you

Brad Harris, a well known turkey hunter and videographer from Neosho, Mo., said that he’ll move 50 yards toward the bird’s hang-up spot.

“Then I’ll cup my hand over my mouth and turn my head. Using a diaphragm mouth call, I’ll throw the call behind me. The turkey will think I’m the same hen calling from the same spot, start strutting and move into my gun range where I can take him.”