I don't know how many satellite toms I have killed over my turkey hunting career as both a guide and as a hunter but, the number I have seen fall has got to be getting close to 100! However, I do know that I have seen more satellite birds take a dirt nap than dominate birds; that is for sure. In fact, Satellite gobblers are the saving grace of the turkey hunting world. As my buddy Keith says, Satellite toms just act like they are supposed to. Also, most satellite birds are no more than two year olds. They can be older, but rarely are there two year old Toms tending rafters or flocks of hens because these satellites are the outsiders, the misfits, and the losers. Thus, they are ostracized from the flock and forced to live on the fringes of the turkey society and they are placed there and kept there by older, stronger, mature Toms, who tend to the flock and do almost all of the breeding.
As a result of all this politicking and butt kicking, there are a lot of lonely toms roaming around during the spring-time and, although this may be a calamity for the turkey, it's an opportunity for the turkey hunter. The trick is to know when and how to approach these satellite toms.
First, there are two distinct times to try to take these satellite Long Beards during the early morning hours as the sun is coming up and the birds are just coming off their roost and later in the day when the hens are leaving the flock to tend to their nests. In both cases, your timing and knowledge of the ground you are hunting is paramount.
Hunting Wild Turkeys off the roost is a straight forward affair. Do some homework the night before. Find out where the birds have put themselves to bed and make a game plan about how to approach them in the morning. Also, remember that turkeys won't spook at movement in the dark because they are familiar with the sounds that deer and other nocturnal wildlife make while moving around in the dark. So, make your move early to locate roosting birds. Then, if you can, set up with the dominate birds on one side and the subordinate birds on the other because the hens will always go to the dominate males in the morning so their position is relevant. Then, follow the birds lead and make subtle calls only when they start to call. Most of the time, the dominate bird will only fly down after a number of hens have collected at the bottom of his tree. However, most satellite birds will make their way to the dominate bird's tree looking to head off any Hens. Therefore, this is why you should position yourself between the dominate birds and subordinate/satellite birds so you can intercept any incoming targets.
But, if you don't have any luck in your AM turkey hunting adventure, don't worry. Late morning and mid-day can be the most productive time to kill a satellite Long Beard. Remember that satellite Toms are just that; satellites. They exist on the outside of the main body of birds and are looking for any hen that might stray away from the flock. Thus, these birds will try at every opportunity to mate with receptive hens and are successful a good deal of the time. However, during the mid-day loafing period, most hens have either been breed and are content to continue about their loafing, or go to tend their nests.
Thus, with most of the hens ignoring the advances of every tom in the area, the lonely boys go looking for some new action and this the time for the run and gun tactic for turkey hunting because the mid-day hunt for satellite Gobblers is a very effective way to put a bird on the ground. Because these satellite birds are more receptive to new hen calls during this time of day, if you can strike a bird after 10 o'clock, then in most cases, he is as good as Thanksgiving dinner.
So, the next time you are on a turkey hunt and find yourself watching a group of birds tended by one or two dominate Long Beards, also look for the satellite gobblers on the edges. More often than not, satellites save our hunts. They gobble, strut, drum, spit, and do all the things good toms are supposed to do but they are often far easier to bag than a dominate bird.