Quite often an unorthodox turkey-hunting tactic breaks the stalemate with a hung-up gobbler. Over the years, I have heard of many unexpected tricks to lure a gobbler to the gun.

I’ve also witnessed a number of very out-of-the-box attempts to use some tomfoolery to catch a gobbler off guard.

Here are some of the tricks that can seal the deal: 

Top decoy hat trick

Among my personal favorites was the time I watched Preston Pittman pull a plastic hen decoy down over his head (this was on private land mind you), and then crawl on his hands and knees out into a power line right of way in an attempt to close the ranks on five gobblers hung up down the clearing. 

The grass was just high enough to camouflage the “base” of the fake hen coming out into the open. I was hidden where I could watch the whole scenario unfold.

Immediately the gobblers looked right at the Pittman hen. When Preston started clucking, the gobblers went nuts and started running our way. It was the first real look at the birds, which all turned out to be jakes ­— too short-bearded to shoot. 

Despite that disappointment Preston proceeded with the ploy anyway just to see what would happen. I’m dying if I’m lying, but those five jakes ran up to within 10 feet of Preston, who was hunkered on the ground, before they realized something was amiss. When Preston stood up, those jakes took off like a bunch of bottle rockets all lit at the same time.

It was amazing. 

Of course, this is not a tactic I would universally recommend unless you truly know your hunting area is private and you are the sole hunter in the area. Still just trying something way out of the ordinary can sometimes make the difference in scoring or not.

Decoy foolery 

All sorts of turkey decoying tactics are pretty commonplace these days. Using hen decoys set out in plain sight can be a highly effective tactic in places where gobblers will show up on a regular basis. I have used two hen decoys quite successfully many times.

I had one gobbler run so hard clear across an open, plowed field at a hen decoy that as he ran past the plastic lady, he knocked her over, and then put on the brakes, raising a dust storm. He stopped 10 steps from my muzzle, and the Hevi-Shot quickly took care of business.

However, at times I have had gobblers stroll right by a setup of three hen decoys just out of gun range. They never paid the decoys any mind. One would think that any gobbler worth his salt in the field would have to check out an easy girl just standing in the open, but sometimes they are on a mission to go elsewhere. It matters not about the quality of the turkey calling, the amount or the tone: Some gobblers just have better things to do. 

Still, I rate the use of hen decoys high on my tricks list. Now, I also include at times a gobbler decoy. I have had very mixed results with those.

A couple of times a young, spirited 2-year-old bird has charged in and died in the process. Seasoned 3-year-old gobblers often just stand off to see what will happen.

Usually a live hen in the woods ends up distracting them away.

Turkey fan tricks

“Somewhere I had read about carrying a real turkey fan into the woods to use as a handheld sort of ‘decoy,’” Madison’s Bradley Martin told me. “I thought, ‘What the heck? I’ll try it. I hunt where nobody else is going to sneak in on me, so it might be worth a try.’

“I had hunted one troublesome gobbler all season, and nothing I tried would bring that dude within shotgun range. Every so often I would get a glimpse of the gobbler, but he would be way off at the end of a field just gobbling his head off and laughing at my calls. It was pretty frustrating getting out slicked every time I encountered this gobbler. 

“So it was time to bring the turkey fan out. Again, one morning I had this same gobbler standing in the open in a field gobbling at every call but never moving my way. I was well hidden back in the woods along the edge of the field, so I held up the turkey fan and started waving it back and forth, continuing to call.

“Right away I could see this might work. The gobbler quit gobbling and started coming my way. I couldn’t believe it. I continued to shake those tail feathers for another five minutes as the tom was coming for a fight.

“I finally laid the tail down and got my gun up. That fool gobbler quick-paced it right to where I was sitting, and pulling the trigger became the easiest part of the hunt.

“As my hunting friends would say: ‘Who would have thunk it?’”

Sometimes we forget that the wild game we hunt are indeed wild. And they are just as likely as we are to be fooled by something out of the ordinary.

Shaking a turkey tail feather fan is apparently one of those little unusual tricks that can work.