- Steve Bowman, Outdoors
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Every turkey hunter knows locating a gobbler, preferably one that will gobble, is the first step of any successful turkey hunt.
It requires much more than optimism and enthusiasm to find a hot gobbler and fan its fire of passion so it is anxious to work.
If a turkey hunter's scouting work has been done, he will be reasonably sure when those calls are made a turkey will hear them. His hopes will lie in getting that gobbler not only to sound off but to move within the critical distance where a shot can be taken.
That's why locating the right bird is a necessity before the rest of the hunt can begin.
"The problem with turkeys is, one day a turkey may gobble a lot, then the next he won't gobble much at all or he may go totally silent,'' said Harold Knight, a call manufacturer and turkey hunter. "Some days he's more excited than others, so you have to be prepared to move to find a turkey that is vocal and ready on that particular day.''
Knight said if he has located 10 gobblers, he knows maybe half will gobble.
"So in the first hour to hour and a half, I'll move from one place to the next trying to locate a turkey that is really sounding off,'' Knight said.
Hearing the gobble a second time can mean the difference between spending the morning waiting for an unworkable turkey or trying to find one that is ready to do something.
Knight and partner David Hale recalled a story when they were taking two friends and clients hunting on the last day of the season.
On their first stop, Knight called and a turkey answered. Hale said the two friends got excited and started getting ready to hunt.
"I said, 'Whoa, don't get in such a rush. We're not going to that turkey until Harold makes him gobble again.' '' Hale said.
When Knight's second call didn't get a response, they started to move to another spot despite the protests of the two friends.
"They couldn't believe we were driving away and leaving a gobbler,'' Hale said. "I told them all he did was shock gobble.''
Hale said the group drove about a mile and repeated the process. Again Knight's call was answered by a gobble.
"Same deal,'' Hale said. "The hunter got to snatching at his gun case. I repeated, 'Not until Harold makes him gobble again.' ''
After two more calls, no gobbles came, so Knight and Hale herded the two hunters back into the truck.
"That's when this guy said, 'I can see right now either you don't know anything about turkey hunting or I don't know as much as I thought. That turkey gobbled right in front of us, and I'd be setting up on him right now.'
"I said, 'That turkey's not going anywhere. We can always come back to him later in the day.'
"When he didn't answer that second time, that indicated he only shock gobbled. He probably would have gobbled if you'd slammed the car door. He didn't gobble because it was a hen, only because it was a sudden noise.''
Hale said the group repeated the process again, and the fourth time the gobbler answered Knight's second call.
"We went right to the turkey, and the hunter killed a turkey in just a few minutes,'' Hale said.
There are times when a gobble doesn't mean a turkey is ready and willing to work, and hunters who try to find the one that is ready can cut off a lot of time waiting for something to happen.
"We might have wasted time on those turkeys that shock gobbled,'' Hale said. "Shock gobbling isn't always the answer. It tells you where the turkey is, but after that, you've got to see if he'll work.
"If he doesn't answer that second time, at least you can come back later in the day and try him again.''
Second gobble signals turkey's ready to work