I entered the fourth and last week of the Pennsylvania season a desperate woman.
On the final Saturday of the season, I set up a lone hen decoy in a secluded corner of a newly planted field and settled into a ground blind.
And wonder of wonders, as the morning sky blazed red at the horizon, I saw a tom turkey strutting silently, just over the crest of the field. I called, and he immediately gobbled, and came over the crest so I could see his whole body, still strutting.
For a few happy moments, I was thinking, today's the day.
Then, I caught a flash of movement.
A hen turkey was running across the field toward the turkey, my turkey, looking for all the world like a woman holding up her skirts and running down a dirt road to her man, home after four years away at war. The two slipped away into the woods, as I tried every call in my vest.
Can you call a tom from a hen? It's not likely. There's one quality you must possess in order to be successful while hunting henned-up turkeys.
Just ask Pennsylvania hunter Earl Thomas, who has shot 200 turkeys.
“You can try to call to the dominant hen, but a lot of the time they'll go the other way, and I've rarely called a gobbler away from hens,” Thomas said. “Try a variety of calls, and you don't have to be a great caller, you just have to be willing to stay in the woods long enough.
“If you're trying to call a gobbler away from hens, he has heard you and knows exactly where you are. Be patient, and he might return. I've shot a lot of birds by staying put and waiting.”
If you're noticing that tom turkeys are traveling with groups of hens, adjust your turkey decoys accordingly. If a gobbler has a harem, why would he leave them to come to your hens to joust with your gobbler decoy?
Later in the morning, when gobblers might be cruising alone, add a jake or gobbler decoy in a large group of hen decoys to throw out a challenge to the mature bird, Thomas advised. This can be especially effective when you also include a breeding-position hen decoy.
Thomas calls periodically, just soft clucks the majority of the time. If it's hot and sunny, he might set up in a shady area instead of positioning decoys out in the sun in an open field.
“You have to remember how much better their hearing is than ours, and even though you don't think your calls are carrying far enough, they probably are,” Thomas said. “And in the heat of the day, a group of hens will find a shady area to loaf, so you should do the same with your setup. Do exactly what a group of hens would do.”