A good hunting buddy is hard to come by. If you can find a friend who will follow you to the ends of the earth, vouch for all of your lame excuses with your wife, and keep your secret spots secret- then by all means hang on to him! There’s nothing better than sipping hot coffee on a rainy fall day with your buddy in a duck blind, or helping him drag a giant buck out of a swamp. Hunting with friends who share the same passion for the outdoors simply magnifies the entire experience. While not all hunting situations allow for a buddy to tag along, turkey hunting often does. There are a few effective ways to turkey hunt with a partner. Here are some that have worked for me.
The ambush plan is simple but requires some precise planning. One hunter, the shooter, needs to get set up at the ambush point, and the other hunter, the caller, will get set up twenty to thirty yards behind him. This strategy calls for one gun which the shooter will have. The idea is to get set up in a location where the caller will lure a tom into range. Since the tom is focused on the caller so many yards back into the woods, he’ll try to cruise on by the undetected shooter, and end up in the fryer soon after. The locations of both the shooter and caller are really critical here. The shooter needs to be well hidden, but also in an area easy enough for a tom to travel through. The caller needs to be set up where the approaching toms won’t be able to see him. If the toms can see where the calls are coming from, they may hang up in suspicion. Ideally, this tactic will be executed on a field edge, where the shooter is near the edge of the field, and the caller is well off the field, either below a rise or up on a hill. Another possible location is an old logging road, where the shooter is ahead of a bend, and the caller is around the corner. The toms should walk down the road toward the calls and end up at your taxidermists shop. The ambush tactic worked years ago for my friend Matt to harvest his first turkey. I was up on a hill, and the toms had to leave the field to investigate the calls. They did not anticipate Matt waiting below a small rise for them to appear. They sure gobbled loud, and Matt did not hesitate to pull the trigger on the first bright red head he saw crest the rise.
The author’s hunting buddy Case Allen with a giant Michigan Eastern subspecies wild turkey.
The Crawl Back
I don’t really know what else to call this, but here’s how it goes. Two hunters sit right next to each other. One guy calls, and the other one sits with his gun raised, anticipating a turkey to pop up at any time. If it works out like this, then great- kill the bird. Quite often, it doesn’t work that easy, so here is where the crawl back comes in handy. When the caller catches the attention of a lonely tom, he calls him in. Quite often the tom gets “hung up” where he’ll strut and gobble all day long, but just out of shooting range. This is where the caller earns his keep. He turns around real slow, and belly crawls away ten to fifteen yards then calls again. The tom will think that his hen is leaving, and he’ll come after her, into shooting range. If the bird doesn’t come close enough, the caller should keep moving back till he does. This tactic should have worked for my brother and I a few years back. Covered in mud, I crawled back behind my brother. The tom fell for it and after hanging up for a good twenty minutes, he finally committed to coming in a bit closer. He also was paying very close attention to everything, and he caught my brother moving a bit. Oh well, can’t get them all! We still had fun and made a great memory.
How often have we turkey hunters hear a gobbler shooting his mouth off all morning long on the roost, only to wander off the other way when he fly’s down? I am convinced that most hens get jealous, and if they hear you trying to compete with them, they’ll lead the tom away. For this strategy to work, each hunter will need a gun, and it will take some effort. The night before the hunt, make sure to have at least a few different toms roosted. Calculate each possible route of travel from the morning roost for those toms. Then the next morning, pick one of the roosted toms to hunt. Send in the buddy really early, before the songbird’s even start chirping, to one side of the roost. Ideally he will set up on one of the possible travel routes. Wait another hour, have a cup of coffee or some more shuteye, and then go set up near the roost. Still sneak in like you normally would, set up a nice decoy spread, and call real loud and aggressive. One of two things will happen. You could hope for the tom to fly down into your setup. If he does, kill him. Chances are the hens he is with will get a bit uncomfortable and you’ll end up “bumping” them. They will fly down and go the other way, directly into your buddy’s setup! Wait a few minutes after you hear him shoot to shoot him a text, just in case he’s got to wrestle with the bird a bit.
Jason with a beautiful spring gobbler he took one morning in Michigan.
Spice It Up A Bit
There’s other ways a good buddy can help add a little icing to the cake. The first thing to be sure of is that your buddy is well hidden so that his movements can’t be seen by any approaching turkeys. Try rigging up a decoy with some mono filament fishing line whereas the buddy can give it a tug now and then to add some realistic movement. ALWAYS be sure to check local hunting regulation son the mono filament strategy- it’s not legal everywhere. The buddy can break dry sticks, scratch leaves, and mimic a few wing beats with his baseball cap for good measure. All of these little extras can also easily be done by a solo hunter and help the setup look even more realistic. But, it’s nice to have a buddy around because they are also really hard to pull off when a tom is hung up on a decoy set at 60 yards and the hunter doesn’t dare move.
Act Like A Team
As with any hunting situation, make sure you know where your partner is. Unfortunately several well meaning turkey hunting teams end up shooting at each other each spring. Bringing a blaze orange hat with you is a good idea. Always have 2-way radios or cell phones to best communicate. We can’t stress this enough, make sure to always know where the other person is. Have a camera with freshly charged batteries. Enjoy yourself. Teaming up on toms is a great way to get out and extend your season. Remember, be a good hunting buddy- and don’t be offended when your partner blindfolds you on the drive in to his secret spot!