Turkey Hunting: Tales of Success – The Silent Tom

Have you ever been turkey hunting and encountered a tom that just wouldn’t gobble? You know he’s around, but he doesn’t respond to anything you throw at him. He seems weary of calls and suspicious of decoys. There are several reasons he might be acting this way. For one, he could possibly be a subordinate tom that wants to avoid any confrontation. On the other hand, maybe he’s just downright smart from watching all his other buddies singing away and slowly disappearing from the woods.

Regardless, the one thing you know for sure is he is nearly impossible to kill. No matter what you try, he can’t be enticed. It’s one of the more famous causes for turkey hunting frustration. However, killing this type of bird can be done, and I’ve done it. The following scenario is how I made it happen back in 2014.

The Conditions

  • West Central Missouri – MahoneyHQ
  • May 4, 2014
  • High 81°
  • 5-10 mph winds
  • Sunny, not a cloud in the sky
  • Field edge next to a recently mowed native grass field

The Preparation

The 2014 season started off unbelievably with several opening day birds killed in our group. The weather seemed to cooperate a lot more so than other springs. I had planned to kill my next bird on a media trip to Eminence, MO in the second week, but unfortunately couldn’t get it done.  It wasn’t for lack of opportunities though. The famous turkey slayer Mossberg was missing from my arsenal on that trip because my dad wanted my sister to use it for her hunt at MahoneyHQ during the same time. I was left with another shotgun that just didn’t have the same turkey killing vibes. So that’s my excuse for any misses that may or may not have occurred on the Eminence trip.

Back to the story at hand. Over the course of the next two weeks after opening day, my dad and I observed a lone gobbler in one of our best fields. He was always roosted in the same place and would rarely gobble. My dad hunted this particular bird with several people and no matter what they tried, he would not come in. No calling or combination of decoys could pique his interest. He acted outright spooked most of the time. However, his pattern became clear after multiple days of observation. He would roost on us, gobble only once or not at all, then fly down and make a bee line for our neighbors to the East.

When I returned from Eminence, we put together a plan to take this gobbler down. It was a simple one: put the blind at the corner of the timber where he always walked every morning towards the neighbors and try to intercept him. We did this about 5 days before we hunted him.

The Hunt

My dad and I were in the blind and ready to go by 5:30. Shooting time started close to 5:50. Gobblers were sounding off across the field from us almost immediately. There was not a peep coming from the area where we believed the silent tom liked to roost. Knowing it was my last day of turkey hunting in Missouri, I was trying to convince my dad to let me start calling to the other ones not very far away. He remained adamant we stay silent and wait. I argued that we didn’t even know whether this bird was even here or not. I didn’t want my last day to end up a waste because of a blown opportunity.

Suddenly, in the most serendipitous way possible, we heard loud wings flapping through the trees where we thought the silent tom roosted. A dark, black body glided out and landed in the field about 80 yards away. He stood on alert, surveying his surroundings. My dad raised his binoculars. It was the silent tom! Even though we scouted this bird for two weeks, we still almost couldn’t believe it. We had walked almost directly underneath him on our trip into the blind that morning. It was 5:55 AM.

After a tense minute or so, the tom committed to his morning ritual and headed right towards us. He closed the distance fast and was in range for about 20 seconds before I could see him from my angle. My dad kept whispering, “You better shoot. You better shoot. He’s going to spook. You better shoot.” But I couldn’t see him with the way we had the windows open in the blind. “Sshhh,” I said, as his bright, red head finally popped into view.

With the turkey slayer in my hands once again, my second tag was filled at 6:01 AM. Our plan to intercept him worked to perfection, and the silent tom had met his maker.


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