It was opening day of the Spring turkey season, as the sun had just set in the western sky, as we walked out onto a point running through the center of the property we hunted.
Our plan was to try and locate the turkeys before they went up in the trees to roost, to put them to bed.
As I pulled my owl call out of my turkey vest, when a coyote started to howl off to our right, then another joined in up north and before long, there were coyotes howling all around us.
Before I had a chance to use the call, gobblers started shock gobbling at the howling and we soon realized that not only were we surrounded by coyotes, we also had gobblers all around us.
During the spring turkey season, which runs into May in the upper Midwest, one of the most important things you need to do before you can hunt turkeys is to locate the area that the birds will be located in the morning.
In order to do this, you have to do as we had, get out just at dark and try to get a Tom to shock gobble.
When a turkey shock gobbles, he isn’t trying to bring a hen in; he’s been shocked or surprised by a sound and gobbles. It’s similar to humans when something surprises us and we say, “what was that?”
I’ve had turkeys’ shock gobble to a car door being slammed, planes flying over, owl hoots, crow calls and coyote howling.
In the evening, when putting turkeys to bed, I use either the owl call or a coyote howler.
Unless you’re desperate, you don’t want to use a coyote howl during the day. When a turkey that’s on the ground hears a coyote howling nearby, he knows that he’d better keep his bill shut or he could end up as the main course on that coyote’s menu.
Since the owl call, the old “who cooks for you” sound has been used and abused for years, I’ve found that gobblers are more apt to shock gobble and continue to gobble in the evening at a coyote howl than they are to an owl call.
During the day when gobblers have a tendency to go silent, you can get them to shock gobble with a crow call.
As you know, crows are very vocal and there’s nothing they’d rather do in their spare time than to aggravate another bird.
Once they’ve found something they can pick on, it doesn’t matter if it’s an owl or a turkey; they get loud, calling all of their friends to the party.
During the day, most Toms will shock gobble at a crow call, they may only do it once, but they will do it.
This is why I use a crow call during the day to try and locate a gobbler that really isn’t in the mood to gobble.
It might be that he’s busy feeding or has a harem of hens and doesn’t want to gobble back at a hen call, so during the day a crow call will do a nice job locating them.
There are a few simple rules that you need to follow when using locator calls.
You want to find a spot that is quiet, out of the wind and away from other noises.
Turkeys have tremendous hearing and will shock gobble from long distances, so you need to really listen in order to pick up those far-off gobbles.
Make sure that everyone with you is listening and not shuffling the leaves or talking as silence is golden when it comes to locating a gobbler at sunrise.
Don’t start out blowing your call too loud as a gobbler might be just over the rise or around the bend, so start your calling or howling with less volume and pick it up after you get no response.
One thing that I’ve found that I don’t want to do when I put the birds to bed is to use a hen call.
Turkeys may not be the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they can become call shy, especially if the call is used to locate birds just before dark.
Hens generally aren’t really vocal unless they are made mad or aggravated and once, they hit the trees, they are pretty quiet, so I never use a hen call in the evening.
By following these simple rules and not over calling, your next turkey hunt will be much more successful once you know where the birds are going to be in the morning.
Gary Howey, Hartington, Nebraska is a former tournament angler, fishing & hunting guide, an award- winning writer, producer, photographer and broadcaster and in 2017 was inducted into the "National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame."
He developed and was the Producer-Host for 23 years of his award winning gary Howey’s Outdoorsmen Adventures television series and the Host of the award-winning Outdoor Adventures radio program carried on Classic Hits 106.3, ESPN Sports Radio 1570 in Southeastern South Dakota, KWYR Country 93 AM and Magic 93 FM in Central South Dakota, As well as on KCHE 92.1 FM in Northwest Iowa. If you’re looking for more outdoor information, check out www.GaryHowey'soutdoors.com , and www.outdoorsmenadventures.com, with more information on these Facebook pages, Gary Howey, Gary E Howey, Outdoor Adventure Radio, Team Outdoorsmen Productions.