By Cole Daniels
It was one of the toughest turkey hunts I’ve ever had and it was about to come to an abrupt end. A gobbler sporting an eight inch beard strutted up the logging road with love on his mind. My single hen decoy appeared to be just what the doctor ordered for this guy. But unbeknownst to him, today’s prescription was a screaming hot load of #5’s. At five yards from the decoy, he decided something wasn’t right. But it was too late for him. The safety was off and with a tap of the trigger, it was lights out for this last minute gobbler. I validated the tag two hours before the close of my season. Some hunts are just more difficult than others, but learning from the experience is what makes us better hunters. Here are a handful of some of my hard learned lessons.
There is a small group of veteran callers who possess the talent to make a wide variety of calls with a diaphragm call. Most of us are relegated to two or three good turkey sounds with the mouth call. For that reason, switching calls is the way to go. Changing calls also makes you sound like more than one hen. Try making your probing calls with a box or slate calls. Most hunters can easily learn several different calling techniques with boxes and especially slates. When you know a gobbler is close, put down those calls and go to your diaphragm. This will mix up the sounds and provide hands free calling while preparing for the shot.
Fair Weather Hunting
Sure, you can hunt turkeys in the rain. Some hunters prefer it. Hunting sunny days is far more productive for me for a number of reasons. Of course, it’s just more comfortable and enjoyable to be out on sunny days. As far as turkeys are concerned, they are more likely to be in open areas when the sun is shining brightly. The heat warms their body during the cool days of spring and I believe they know their feathers are more dynamic in the sunshine, thus increasing their chances for a breeding opportunity. An open country tendency makes finding birds a lot easier while scouting or running & gunning. Using the sun to your advantage is also a great idea. If you are trying to sneak in close to birds in the afternoon, a western approach is beneficial. Turkeys have to look into the sun to see your movement which is pretty tough with the glare.
I have shot turkeys that have run down a hill toward my decoys, but on those days pretty much anything would have worked. In most cases, turkeys like to cross flat terrain or move uphill to decoys. It’s easier for gobblers to see danger when walking pastures or going uphill. One of my favorite tactics for hunting turkeys in a valley is to place a few decoys at the top of a ridge so that their silhouettes are easily spotted from below. Then I’ll try to set up twenty yards downhill from the decoys. As gobblers make their way up the hill, I’ll be in perfect position if they stop short.
Turkeys don’t carry cell phones or pocket watches. They literally have all day. Their only concern is survival. They are not worried about being home by noon to watch a baseball game or to paint the house. Trying to rush a turkey into doing what we want it to do is a big mistake. Some hunters will amp up the calling after a half hour of conversation because they get too impatient. If a gobbler is still talking to you, he’s interested. Don’t ruin the hunt by getting too aggressive due to impatience. Let him do what he wants to do in the time he wants to take. Just be ready when the moment arrives.
Turkey hunting is not easy. Statistically, turkeys one of the most difficult game animals to harvest. But turkey hunting isn’t rocket science. Spending time in the turkey woods and learning from your failures is the best way to improve skills and start filling tags.
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