Turkey Hunting Myths Debunked
by Cole Daniels
The wild turkey is one of the most mysterious game animals hunters pursue. They are as adaptable as the whitetail. They are as unpredictable as the great black bears of the North. The wild turkey is just as wary as the pronghorns of the West. Their gobble is as intimidating as a bull elk's bugle. With all this going for gobblers it is easy to see why they haunt the dreams of hunters all spring.
Myth No. 1 Roosted Isn't Roasted
This is probably the most well known turkey hunting phrase. Even if a hunter roosts a bird it doesn't mean they will be tagging a gobbler the next morning. There certainly is some truth to that statement. However, it doesn't mean you shouldn't roost birds in the evening. Knowing where a gobbler goes to bed at night could be the most important nugget of information available to a hunter.
Myth No. 2 Gobblers Don't Chase Hens
We hear this one all the time. The experts say it's unnatural for a gobbler to pursue a hot hen. They say the girls pursue the boys in the turkey world. If that were the case, hunter success rates would resemble the approval rating of Congress. As usual, "the experts" are wrong... partially. Some toms will stand their ground and wait for a hen to come to him. However, most are more than happy to come running. Biologically, turkeys are wired just like every other mammal. Gobblers are loaded up with testosterone in the spring. Dominant toms are determined to protect their harem while satellite gobblers seek out breeding opportunities. When it comes to what turkeys will do, it depends on the bird, the day, and the conditions.
Myth No. 3 You Can't Call A Turkey Downhill
This is one of my favorite myths. It serves as a great excuse on turkey-less days. Yet, I don't have enough fingers to count the occasions I've witnessed gobblers charging down a hillside to get to my decoys. One such April encounter stands out in my mind. My roost hunt struck out so I set up at the mouth of a draw. Turkey sign was everywhere and the area was a natural turkey funnel. Serious gobbling echoed through the woods after just a few probing calls. Then a flash of red at the top of the hill was followed with more red and more gobbling. A half dozen toms dashed down the hill on a suicide mission. They never hit the brakes until they were on top of my decoys. I've never seen so many gobblers act so recklessly... and they couldn't care less about running down a hill.
Myth No. 4 The Perfect Habitat
Ask hunters what optimal turkey habitat looks like and most will describe rolling hardwood ridges bordered by agricultural fields. There is no doubt that is what turkeys and turkey hunters dream of. But it's not the only place to find turkeys. I've killed turkeys just a football field away from housing developments, at the edge of thick tag alders, and on the Nebraska prairie. Turkeys are everywhere. Duck hunters often point to a particular waterhole and declare it "ducky". The truth is, you can find turkeys just about anywhere. Don't rule out a potential hunting spot because it doesn't look like prime territory.
Take another look at these myths. They are all statements made by so-called experts attempting to make sense of a wild animal's actions. The only thing predictable about turkeys is their unpredictability. The best time to hunt turkeys is anytime and the best place is anywhere... law permitting of course.
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