In my discussions over the years with turkey hunters, one of the more common topics that often popped up was that newer turkey hunters had no idea what a shock gobble was or how it could benefit them. It amazed me how many folks didn’t know what I was talking about when I mentioned the words “shock gobble”.
So what is a shock gobble and how can you use it to your advantage while hunting? A shock gobble is when virtually any type of sound elicits a male turkey to gobble. An example would be a turkey gobbling to the honking of a truck horn. Spring is the turkey’s breeding season, so love is in the air. A male turkey gobbles and struts to attract females, so that they can breed and propagate the species. As a gobbler sits in a roost tree all night long, his hormone levels rise and his sexual frustration builds up. As this happens, they have the urge to gobble at just about anything.
At first light, you will hear owls hooting or crows cawing. Oftentimes, you will hear a bird gobble to those sounds. This is a shock gobble. Crows and owls have nothing to do with turkeys mating, yet a male will still sound off to their calls. The Toms are gobbling to any noise that they hear, because they are in sexual overload. Their senses are in overdrive and their response is to gobble, which is why so many hunters will blow on an owl hooter at first light trying to locate a bird.
Generally speaking, at daylight it is pretty easy to get a bird to gobble or hear one off in the distance. As the morning winds on though, gobbling frequency becomes less and less as the birds sexual frustrations taper off. This is where shock gobbling really comes into play for a hunter, because if a hunter can get a bird to shock gobble later in the morning, it does two things. First, it lets you know that he is there, giving you confidence. Second, it increases your odds of killing him, because he is still somewhat stimulated. The key is getting one to gobble, which is much harder to do as the morning progresses.
There are all kinds of calls on the market to make turkeys gobble. Hunters Specialties offers several different types of crow calls as well as owl hooters to make an old longbeard bellow out. A lot of hunters will use a peacock scream or a coyote howl to make a bird gobble as well. I personally do not like a coyote howl as they are predators and I think in many cases, a wise old Tom will shut up and stay quiet if he knows a coyote is around.
I carry two calls in my turkey vest that are a must have in my opinion. The first is a pileated woodpecker call. It is a really high pitched, loud call that mimics a woodpecker. These fast, high pitched sounds will often get a gobbler to sound off. The other go-to call which I mainly use is a Canada goose call. Living on the Chesapeake Bay, the turkeys around here are no strangers to honkers. The majority of Turkeys in the U.S. have probably heard a goose at one time or another. The reason that I like a goose call so much, is that it is loud, but short in notes. I can make a loud honk and cut the call off quickly, so I am able to hear the gobbler respond back to me. Once you get a bird to gobble, you can move in for a set up. Just knowing that a bird is there is half the battle. With the knowledge of him there, the rest is up to the hunter to coax him into range.
So, as you hit the woods this spring, make sure you have a couple of shock gobbling calls in your turkey vest that you can pull out, to get an old turkey to speak. Once you know he is there, confidence improves. Fortunately, many times if they gobble, they will come! Remember, patience is a virtue in the turkey woods.
- Bruce Wilds