Let’s Talk Turkey: Pot and Box Calls

Georgia turkey hunting, the real thing.

  • Condition your Calls, Learn How
  • Friction Calls: Pot Call, Box Call
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No matter where you live, turkey season is not far away. In Florida, the gobbler season is already open! In Georgia, it starts two weeks away. Other states too, not far away.

Yelping, clucking, purring…pot calls, box calls, locator calls – it can be confusing, especially if you’re new to turkey hunting. Even if you are a veteran turkey hunter, there is always more to learn. Here is a 13 year old hunter with expertise for all of us to learn from.

In any case, it’s time to start practicing those turkey calls!

Learn more about the “HOW” from Georgia DNR biologist Kevin Lowrey and competitive turkey caller Chase Crowe, as they share some tips on how to call a gobbler into your neck of the woods.

 

TURKEY HUNTING SECRETS: “Tag Them” – Part 3 of 3

  • Read the Bird, Listen to his Gobble
  • Understanding Gobble Talk and RESPONDING, or NOT
  • Over-Yelping, Biggest Secret to a Wise Old Bird
Some of the biggest turkey can be fooled with one simple trick that you can learn, see below. Jim Monteleone Photo

By Jim Monteleone

You can read a bird by listening to his gobble and I want to explain the different types of gobbles that you might hear.

A “volunteer gobble” is one where the bird gobbles on his own. Generally that means he is searching for a hen.  If all is quiet you use an owl hooter before good light or a crow call at first light to elicit a gobble. You Tube has examples of owls hooting and crows calling if you need to hear the realistic sounds of either or both.

If he gobbles it’s a “shock gobble” and you are ready to do business when he hits the ground.  You can tell when he has come out of the tree by hearing wing beats or when his clear gobble becomes muffled by the trees and brush. 

A “strutting gobble “is when the bird gobbles repeatedly to your calls but seems stuck or only moving ten or twelve feet and never gets closer.  He is in a strut zone and nature is telling him the hen will come to him when he displays.  In the natural order of things this happens every season.  This is especially true when he has already been breeding receptive hens.  

A “going-away gobble” is when he gobbles frequently and you can tell he’s moving away.  He probably has been joined by a real hen who will lead him to her territory.  You might as well look for another bird or you can wait him out, but it’s going to be a while.

The “come here gobble” is when he gobbles every time you call.  Don’t be fooled.  Go silent on him and make him gobble on his own several (two or three) times before calling again. I call this a “breeding gobble.”  Repeat the same calling sequences and alternate some clucks and purrs with your yelping.  If he stops coming, start cutting if you are well hidden or blending in and have a hen decoy (or hen and jake in the early season), then you’re in business.

If he is cutting your calling sequence off with a gobble or a double gobble before you finish he’s committed to coming.  I call that a “hot gobble.”

No sudden moves and try to restrain yourself from over-calling.  I use only clucks and purrs for the last fifty yards of his approach to gun range. This is where a diaphragm mouth call is my go-to tactic.  A slate or “pot” call is my second choice in avoiding too much hand movement. Patience is your greatest weapon, other than your shotgun now!

Without any doubt my greatest success and most exhilarating hunts have come after a prolonged sequence of back and forth calling.  My nature is not one of great patience, but turkey hunting has taught me to work to lure turkeys in with sweet talk.  Over-calling causes a bird to stay put, and as fired-up as he and you can be.  Slow and steady is the best advice I can offer.

There are those times when a bird will rush in, but this isn’t the norm for mature birds. They have experience in gathering hens and also instinctively seem to know when something is unnatural.

If you follow the earlier tips, knowing the bird is closing the distance and your gun is on your knee waiting, watching and calling sparingly increases your odds dramatically.

There are those times when a bird will rush in, but this isn’t the norm for mature birds. Read what to do. Joe Forma Photo

I use two “secret” tactics for my toughest birds.  The first is yelping over a gobbler when he tries to gobble. As soon as the first note comes out of his beak I cut him off with some fast yelping or cutting.  Do this after you have him fired up if he stalls.

The other “secret” is the mock challenge of two hens cutting at each other.  It simulates the scene of two hens sparring for dominance over the right to breed in the territory.  I use one box or slate call and a mouth call, and cut like two girls arguing.  I do some alternating cuts on each call or some cuts like they are trying to “yell” over each other simultaneously.

I hope there’s something in here for hunters from “newbies” to veterans with decades of experience. Think safety in every move you make and never take chances.

You now have the “secrets” and you’re ready to experience. 

Good Hunting and Great Memories!

      

Turkey Flocks Weather the Missouri Rainstorm

  • Last weekend’s deluge won’t cut too deeply into this year’s production.
  • Expect normal breeding behavior for the rest of the season.
Difficult hunting conditions during the 2017 spring turkey season should allow more birds to hunt this fall and in 2018. Jim Low Photo

By Jim Low

Like everyone else, I was astonished at how much rain fell on southern Missouri over the past weekend, and I was riveted by news of the flooding it caused.  At one point, more than 350 roads were closed in Missouri alone. Flood crest records fell like dominoes, taking dozens of bridges with them.  People lost their homes, their livelihoods and their lives.  But, being a turkey hunter, my thoughts naturally turned to how the unprecedented deluge would affect the state’s wild turkey flock, not to mention my prospects for tagging a gobbler.  The news from Resource Scientist, Jason Isabelle, the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) turkey biologist, was surprisingly positive.

Isabelle had a good idea of how wild turkey mating and nesting were progressing, thanks to a multi-year study MDC is conducting in northern Missouri.  The work involves radio-tracking wild turkeys to learn about their habitat preferences and population dynamics.  It also allows researchers to determine when hens begin laying eggs.  Isabelle said that by the middle of last week – a couple of days before the big rain – only five of the 45 or 50 radio-tagged hens had begun laying.  The progress of nesting might have been slightly more advanced in southern Missouri, but even there, nesting wasn’t in full swing yet.

Last weekend’s toad-floating deluge isn’t good news for turkeys by any stretch of the imagination.  It surely flooded out some nests in low-lying areas, and 48 hours of continuous soaking undoubtedly caused some hens to abandon eggs that they could not protect from cold and wet.  The good news is that the impact would have been much more serious if the flood had come a week or two later.  Most hens won’t be affected at all, and those that lost nests will try again.

The last four days of the 2017 spring turkey season should have good conditions for tagging a gobbler.  Jim Low Photo

You might wonder, as I did, if the big rain, followed by relatively chilly weather, might disrupt Missouri turkeys’ breeding behavior.  This morning I staked out a pasture that usually attracts a mixed flock of hens, jakes and gobblers.  I got there around 5:15 and was disappointed not to hear a single gobble from any direction in the first hour and a half.  The sky was clear, and only a slight breeze rustled the treetops, conditions I associate with active gobbling, especially after several days of bad weather.  But there wasn’t a peep out of any gobbler within earshot.  By 6:30, about 50 minutes into legal shooting hours, I was ready to pull my decoy and go home for breakfast.

Taking one last look around before standing up, I spied a hen at the far side of the field.  I propped my shotgun on my knee and settled in, hoping for more.  Sure enough, another three hens soon appeared and worked their way methodically across the field in front of me, scratching up cow patties and gossiping back and forth.  The idea that four hens could wander around without at least one gobbler attending them never occurred to me. While watching the hens, I constantly cast glances at their back trail, expecting to see a fan or hear an explosive gobble at any moment.  It never happened.  The hens exited the pasture, leaving only scattered cow pies in their wake.

I assumed this aberration was the result of recent weather and sought Isabelle’s confirmation of my theory that every flock of hens should have a gobbler escort. I asked if this morning’s scenario seemed unusual to him.  It didn’t, or at least it didn’t seem any more unusual to him than wild turkeys’ normal, contrarian behavior.  He said turkey flocks shuffle and reshuffle daily.  The flock of four hens I watched today could be bigger tomorrow, or not.  It could have jakes and gobblers with them the day after tomorrow.  Or not.  That’s just turkeys.  With normal weather predicted for the first week of May, Isabelle said he expects turkeys to be doing the same things they do every year around this time.

Isabelle said more of the radio-tagged hens in his study have started going to nests in the past few days.  That means that gobblers will be getting lonely and increasingly receptive to hunters’ calls.  Even with a good final week, however, Missouri’s 2017 spring turkey harvest isn’t likely to regain lost ground.  The harvest during the first 10 days of the season ran 7 percent behind the same period in 2016, possibly due to rainy weather in southern Missouri.  The harvest during the second weekend of this year’s season was 62 percent below the 2016 figure.  This brought the deficit for the first two weeks to 15 percent.

Every cloud has a silver lining.  If this year’s spring harvest is down, there will be more birds to hunt in the fall, and more jakes will mature into lusty-gobbling 2-year-olds by the 2018 spring turkey season.  Don’t let that hold you back, though.  You still have four days to tag a longbeard.

Just because they don’t gobble doesn’t mean all the mature toms have left town. Jim Low Photo

-end-

TurkeyFan.com – Lure & Blind All in One

turkeyfan1

New Tactic Device is Deadly Tool

Wanna’ fight?  Turkeys do.  After decades of learning the nuances of yelps, purrs, and clucks I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to outsmart an old gobbler is to challenge it with a rival.

Ken Byers and I were cruising a large ranch when we spotted two gobblers a quarter mile away casually feeding in a large plowed field.  Given the distance to the birds, we may have been able to get their attention with loud yelping and since they had no hens, possibly coax them closer.

turkeyfan2

Instead, Ken and I sneaked to the edge of the field and raised a turkey tail fan from a bird taken earlier in the hunt.  The toms may not have been able to hear hen calls at great distance, yet nothing passes their keen eyesight unseen.  Immediately, their heads went up like periscopes and they stared intently at this possible intruder.

Ken and I had used this tactic before and learned that it usually works best if one person operates the turkey fan while the other shoots with a bow or shotgun.  Ken peaked from behind the spread turkey tail feathers and quickly whispered, “Here they come.”

turkeyfan3

I laid down at the edge of the field with the Mossberg beside me, while my buddy turned the fan as a real gobbler would do.  The birds came into my view at about 200 yards and it seemed like a feathered horse race with each gobbler intent on kicking intruder butt.  At 20 yards, the  turkeys finally became suspicious and threw on the brakes giving me the perfect shooting opportunity.  Boom! One gobbler began to flop and the other seemed startled by the explosion and walked away slowly.

“Hand me the gun,” whispered Byers and before the second tom could break 30 yards, it was down as well.  Wow! Wow! Wow! What excitement.  Any inkling of frustration from previous hunts instantly evaporated and we tagged our birds and laughed and giggled like school girls all the way back to camp.

turkeyfan4

Betting on Aggression

Will Downard is no stranger to this gobbler Achilles heel and has devised a turkey “fan” that invites a turkey to compete for breeding territory.  It doubles as an effective blind too, plus it’s very easy to carry and deploys in seconds.

“We’ve had such success with this product that we are looking at other animals to decoy,” he said in a brief interview before heading out with this camera operator.  He didn’t elaborate, yet his wry smile indicated that there may be more to TurkeyFan.com than just turkeys.

Downard’s invention carries and deploys like an umbrella with the lower half eliminated so that it forms a semi-circle.  To set it up takes only seconds and the device is large enough to easily disguise a shotgun hunter, bowhunter, or camera operator.  Typically, Downard hunts with his camera man who uses a turkey fan to disguise his presence as well.

The face of the fan/blind has the image of a strutting tom turkey to incite the kind of aggression that gobblers instinctively have.  The image is larger than life and I asked Downard about that.

turkeyfan5

“With turkeys, size doesn’t seem to matter,” he said.  Even though the image is larger than life-size, gobblers aren’t intimidated, especially if there is more than one.”

That same evening, Downard was back in camp with a dandy longbeard and incredible video of the hunt.  Just as he described, the camera operator used a blind to disguise his presence while the shooter, concealed behind the “fan” moved closer to the gobbler.  After watching a big tom come right to the TurkeyFan, the hunter peeked over and shot the bird at five steps.  To see this unique tactic in action go to www.turkeyfan.com and you will be amazed.

TurkeyFan.com – Lure & Blind All in One

turkeyfan1

New Tactic Device is Deadly Tool

Wanna’ fight?  Turkeys do.  After decades of learning the nuances of yelps, purrs, and clucks I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to outsmart an old gobbler is to challenge it with a rival.

Ken Byers and I were cruising a large ranch when we spotted two gobblers a quarter mile away casually feeding in a large plowed field.  Given the distance to the birds, we may have been able to get their attention with loud yelping and since they had no hens, possibly coax them closer.

turkeyfan2

Instead, Ken and I sneaked to the edge of the field and raised a turkey tail fan from a bird taken earlier in the hunt.  The toms may not have been able to hear hen calls at great distance, yet nothing passes their keen eyesight unseen.  Immediately, their heads went up like periscopes and they stared intently at this possible intruder.

Ken and I had used this tactic before and learned that it usually works best if one person operates the turkey fan while the other shoots with a bow or shotgun.  Ken peaked from behind the spread turkey tail feathers and quickly whispered, “Here they come.”

turkeyfan3

I laid down at the edge of the field with the Mossberg beside me, while my buddy turned the fan as a real gobbler would do.  The birds came into my view at about 200 yards and it seemed like a feathered horse race with each gobbler intent on kicking intruder butt.  At 20 yards, the  turkeys finally became suspicious and threw on the brakes giving me the perfect shooting opportunity.  Boom! One gobbler began to flop and the other seemed startled by the explosion and walked away slowly.

“Hand me the gun,” whispered Byers and before the second tom could break 30 yards, it was down as well.  Wow! Wow! Wow! What excitement.  Any inkling of frustration from previous hunts instantly evaporated and we tagged our birds and laughed and giggled like school girls all the way back to camp.

turkeyfan4

Betting on Aggression

Will Downard is no stranger to this gobbler Achilles heel and has devised a turkey “fan” that invites a turkey to compete for breeding territory.  It doubles as an effective blind too, plus it’s very easy to carry and deploys in seconds.

“We’ve had such success with this product that we are looking at other animals to decoy,” he said in a brief interview before heading out with this camera operator.  He didn’t elaborate, yet his wry smile indicated that there may be more to TurkeyFan.com than just turkeys.

Downard’s invention carries and deploys like an umbrella with the lower half eliminated so that it forms a semi-circle.  To set it up takes only seconds and the device is large enough to easily disguise a shotgun hunter, bowhunter, or camera operator.  Typically, Downard hunts with his camera man who uses a turkey fan to disguise his presence as well.

The face of the fan/blind has the image of a strutting tom turkey to incite the kind of aggression that gobblers instinctively have.  The image is larger than life and I asked Downard about that.

turkeyfan5

“With turkeys, size doesn’t seem to matter,” he said.  Even though the image is larger than life-size, gobblers aren’t intimidated, especially if there is more than one.”

That same evening, Downard was back in camp with a dandy longbeard and incredible video of the hunt.  Just as he described, the camera operator used a blind to disguise his presence while the shooter, concealed behind the “fan” moved closer to the gobbler.  After watching a big tom come right to the TurkeyFan, the hunter peeked over and shot the bird at five steps.  To see this unique tactic in action go to www.turkeyfan.com and you will be amazed.

Get Ready Now for Next Turkey Season!

nextturkey1

Irresistible Calls to Touch a Tom’s Hot Button

Spring gobblers like what they like.  Some will shock gobble an owl hoot, crow call, even a car horn while a similar tom roosting just down the ridge won’t make a peep.

My dad and I used to hunt a small farm that held lots of turkeys.  Since he was in his early 90’s, dad mostly drove around while I hunted on foot.  A particular gobbler loved (or hated) the sound of his old Dodge diesel truck and gobbled voraciously every time dad drove near.  Some locator call huh?

When trying to convince a spring gobbler to go against its nature and approach a hen, you have to find its hot button and make a sound that the mating bird cannot resist.  Since “The Dodge Truck” call works in very limited circumstances, savvy hunters carry a variety of callers and use them singularly or as a duet to light a tom’s fire.  Your turkey vest needs to have at least three kinds of calls: box, pot, and diaphragm, because each has unique characteristics that apply in special situations.  Hunters Specialties (H.S.) makes a wide variety of callers and here’s a good roundup of what’s sure to suck in a gobbler like a Star Trek tractor beam.

Boxes 

The Undertaker Box Call is constructed of engineered laminate wood for increased stability and durability. The call features waterproof chalk on friction surfaces for hunting in any weather conditions and the call is hand tuned to produce perfect high volume hen tones on either side.

Box callers are easy to operate and the sound carries well.  At times in late season, their unique tone will lure gobblers that have become used to other callers.  The new B-Line and Final Roost box calls from H.S. Strut® give hunters two great options for calling in a spring gobbler.

The B-Line Call is constructed with a walnut paddle and poplar box for creating great high-pitched hen sounds.  The call is lightweight and compact.  Finger grooves on the box provide a secure grip while calling.  The Final Roost Call has a walnut paddle with a medium-sized Poplar box to reproduce raspy hen vocals.  The box is contoured for a comfortable, secure grip while calling.  Both the B-Line and Final Roost Calls feature a waterproof paddle and box edge for calling in all weather conditions

Pot Calls

The Undertaker Glass Friction Call features engineered wood in both the pan and striker for increased stability. It has a ready to play frosted glass surface over the new patent pending Aluma-Tune™ sound board with hand tuned cuts for the most realistic hen sounds possible.

Whether glass or slate, pot callers are perfect for making precise, soft, hen sounds.  When you sneak close to a roost, the tom is thundering above you, holding a striker in your hand (like a pencil when you were a kid) gives the extra confidence to make the call sound exactly as intended.  Pot calls have great tone variation and you can use them to locate by loudly cutting or to entice those final steps with soft purrs.

The new Sweet Suzie Snood call from Hunters Specialties™ produces the high pitched hen sounds that drive gobblers crazy with plenty of volume to bring them in from long distances.  The Sweet Suzie Snood is a compact call with a frosted glass over glass surface.  The call is ready to run right out of the package and comes with a carbon striker which works great in wet weather conditions.

Diaphragm Callers

nextturkey4
H.S. Strut® Tone Trough calls come in a variety of cuts including the Split “V” II, Split “V” III (shown above), Double “D”, Cutt’n 2 .5 and Raspy Old Hen. Packaging options include the Starter 2 Pack with the Raspy Old Hen and Double ”D” calls , which is great for new callers.

 A skilled caller may get by using a diaphragm caller exclusively, yet this takes a lot of practice and you can literally overtax your oral muscles by calling so frequently.  The diaphragm is the most difficult of the three main categories to run and some hunters just can’t master its use.  Personally, I love the Tone Trough diaphragms because they operate effortlessly and I can produce quality sounds with little practice.

Unlike box and pot callers, one size does not fit all in the diaphragm world.  Since our mouths and palates differ, you may need to try a variety of callers to find one that makes a good fit.  Even my mother agrees that I have a big mouth, yet I find the smaller, more flexible callers work best for me.  HS offers a variety of diaphragms with the following a few examples:

The Pro 2 Pack includes the Cutt’n 2.5 and Split “V” II for more experienced callers.  Beginning turkey hunters can benefit from the Tone Trough Turkey Tutor package, which includes an instructional DVD, along with the Cutt’n 2.5, Raspy Old Hen and Split “V” II calls.

nextturkey5The new Undertaker diaphragm calls have an aluminum frame which can be easily adjusted for a custom fit to a hunter’s palate.  The calls feature Infinity Latex® for the most consistent tone available.  Three and four-reed models are available with selected cuts to create a wide range of realistic hen sounds.  Each call also comes with the new HS Strut Diaphragm Call Clip, which attaches to the bill of a hunter’s cap and holds the diaphragm call in place for quick and easy access.

Remember, gobblers like what they like.  If one call doesn’t work, switch to another call.  If all else fails, try using two callers at once such as the box and a diaphragm.

When two honeys are hailing at the same time, few toms can resist.

Sound Variation, Turkey Call Options, Cost

nextturkey6For the full line of Hunter Specialties callers, visit www.hunterspec.com.  The H.S. Strut® Premium Flex™ Calls come in a variety of cuts and reed configurations to help both beginning and experienced callers be successful.

The H.S. Strut Premium Flex™ frame uses Infinity Latex® for consistency and durability. Each call is precision built and stretched to create all of the sounds of a wild turkey. Two, three and four-reed versions are available as well as a line of small frame calls for junior callers, women, or anyone with a small palate.

Premium Flex Calls are packaged individually as well as in three and four packs.  New for 2016 is the Legends 4-pack with an instructional DVD featuring tips and tricks for being successful this spring.  It includes the Power Cutter, Power V, Deep Cut and Fang calls.

Premium Flex Calls sell individually for $5.99, three packs for $10.99 and the Legends Four Pack sells for $16.99.

The new Sweet Suzie Snood call from Hunters Specialties™ produces the high pitched hen sounds that drive gobblers crazy with plenty of volume to bring them in from long distances.

The Sweet Suzie Snood is a compact call with a frosted glass over glass surface.  The call is ready to run right out of the package and come with a carbon striker which works great in wet weather conditions.  The Sweet Suzie Snood call also comes with a rougher pad and sells for a suggested retail price of $9.99.

Designed with high quality components and backed by years of hunting experience, the new Undertaker line of premium calls from H.S. Strut® will help hunters put their tag on a gobbler this spring. The Undertaker series includes a box call, pan call and four new aluminum frame diaphragm calls.

The Undertaker box call is constructed of engineered laminate wood for increased stability and durability. The call features waterproof chalk on friction surfaces for hunting in any weather conditions and the call is hand tuned to produce perfect high volume hen tones on either side.

The Undertaker glass friction call features engineered wood in both the pan and striker for increased stability. It has a ready to play frosted glass surface over the new patent pending Aluma-Tune™ sound board with hand tuned cuts for the most realistic hen sounds possible.

The new Undertaker diaphragm calls have an aluminum frame which can be easily adjusted for a custom fit to a hunter’s palate. The calls feature Infinity Latex® for the most consistent tone available. Three and four-reed models are available with selected cuts to create a wide range of realistic hen sounds. Each call also comes with the new HS Strut Diaphragm Call Clip, which attaches to the bill of a hunter’s cap and holds the diaphragm call in place for quick and easy access. The new Undertaker Box Call sells for a suggested retail of $39.99. The Undertaker Pan Call for $39.99 and the diaphragm calls for $12.99 each.

Hunters Specialties’ new line of H.S. Strut® Tone Trough diaphragm calls are great for beginners as well as experienced callers. The calls feature a raised dome that forms a tight seal in the roof of the caller’s mouth. The Tone Trough™ creates perfect pressures for realistic hen sounds. The calls are built with a Premium Flex™ frame and Infinity Latex® for consistent tones.

H.S. Strut® Tone Trough calls come in a variety of cuts including the Split “V” II, Split “V” III, Double “D”, Cutt’n 2.5 and Raspy Old Hen. Packaging options include the Starter 2 Pack with the Raspy Old Hen and Double ”D” calls , which is great for beginning callers. The Pro 2 Pack includes the Cutt’n 2.5 and Split “V” II for more experienced callers. Beginning turkey hunters can benefit from the Tone Trough Turkey Tutor package, which includes an instructional DVD, along with the Cutt’n 2.5, Raspy Old Hen and Split “V” II calls.

Individual calls sell for a suggested retail price of $6.99. The Tone Trough 2 Packs for $10.99 and the Turkey Tutor 3-Pack with DVD for $15.99.

The new B-Line and Final Roost box calls from H.S. Strut® give hunters two great options for calling in a spring gobbler.  The B-Line Call is constructed with a walnut paddle and poplar box for creating great high-pitched hen sounds. The call is lightweight and compact. Finger grooves on the box provide a secure grip while calling.

The Final Roost Call has a walnut paddle with a medium-sized Poplar box to reproduce raspy hen vocals. The box is contoured for a comfortable, secure grip while calling.

Both the B-Line and Final Roost Calls feature a waterproof paddle and box edge for calling in all weather conditions.

The B-Line Call sells for a suggested retail of $14.99 and the Final Roost for $19.99.

For more information about other Hunters Specialties products, log onto the Hunters Specialties website atwww.hunterspec.com, or call a Consumer Service Specialist at 319-395-0321.

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Spring Turkey Woods is a Special Place

turkeywoodsSometimes old friends meet in a familiar place.  If you’re a turkey hunter, you know there is something extra special for those moments when a hunter and the woods come together in search of a nearby gobble.  It’s downright exciting!

There is a special sort of celebration to enjoy because this meeting takes our heart and brings it together with our deep-rooted passion to hunt, to be in the woods. It’s a journey, a special adventure, and we know before we even get there, it will be fun and promising.  That’s how many of us feel when we head out turkey hunting on opening day, wherever the hunt takes us.  There is a thrill, a sense of relief just to be there.  We feel the “YES” of such moments.

A not so old outdoor friend is now sharing some of his secret turkey success so that others can join in the outdoor fervor he has found.  Mike Joyner is an acclaimed nature author and outdoorsman who shares his secrets to success in pursuit of wild turkey in a book entitled “Grand Days in the Turkey Woods.”

From preparation for the hunt, Joyner provides a first-hand account of adventures that will help you in the turkey woods.  He delivers details of personal experiences that make a difference and provides little tips that create a new strategy for every successful hunt plan.

This is more than a “how to hunt” book, Grand Days in the Turkey Woods will appeal to novice and veteran alike.  Joyner brings it all together with considerations for weather and things that can right to make the wind and rain work for you.  He shares thoughts about food supply and the extended challenges we face when hunting new lands, plus the joy and excitement too, that we will find when that plan works for us.  He shares details.

Joyner has pictures and personal notes that he uses for trip plans and there is a lot to learn from here, as he started hunting gobblers back in 1993.  He has achieved hunting success in 14 states, has been honored for his skills with two wild turkey grand slams and a top twenty NWTF gobbler in his home state of New York. .He is a volunteer too, since that experience resulted in nine years of volunteer service to the New York State Wild Turkey Federation / National Wild Turkey Federation, as a board member, where he also served as President for four years.  He knows what he is doing in the turkey woods.

Look for his book in book stores everywhere, on Kindle, in home town libraries or on Amazon at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Grand-Days-Turkey-Woods-Joyner/dp/150011281X.

FANNING Your Way to FANTASTIC Turkey Hunting

Phil Phillips comes to full draw on an approaching gobbler. Fanning works best when one person can operate the fan or decoy and the other concentrate on the shot.

Call in the “Boss Hog” tom – Here is the Trick to How

Savvy turkey hunters use creativity to outsmart wily gobblers, and there are few hunting challenges that compare to taking a mature gobbler with a bow and arrow.  Gobblers, blessed with incredible eyesight, quickly detect the draw of a bow and the slightest movement can ruin hours if not days of effort.

The author holds up a mature gobbler taken by fanning. Incredibly, the older henned-up toms are most susceptible to this tactic.

Just as eyesight is an asset, it can be used against Ben Franklin’s bid for National Bird.  Dominance drives most gobblers, and the older and more viral the bird, the greater the “Boss Hog” attitude.  One the most effective tactics to outwit mature gobblers is to simulate a rival tom, either with a decoy or the fan of a mature male.  Often one peak of a turkey fan brings instant action.

My friend Ken Byers and I spotted two mature gobblers ¼ mile away in a plowed field, a nearly impossible stalking situation with archery gear.  However, employing commando tactics, we crawled to the edge of the field where Byers popped up a turkey fan clearly visible to the gobblers.  Instantly, they burst into a dead I’m– gonna-kick-butt run, so fast, I could barely come to full draw and missed the lead tom.

Think safety when using any decoy. Be sure that target colors are exposed when moving and set up where you have a full field of view.

I’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed, but am a quick learner when Byers and I returned to the same field a few days later.  The gobblers hadn’t learned their lesson, but I had.  As before, a feathery fan in the air brought the toms on the run, but this time, the red dot sight on my Rossi shotgun focused a load of number six Hornady Magnums that ruled the day.  Great bird, great hunt!  

How We Learned the Secret

Fanning for gobblers is so effective; we did our best to keep the tactic a secret which lasted about six years.  Recently, since the word is out, we’ve been telling friends and readers how much fun and incredibly effective it is.  Fanning works best when you can sneak over a crest within sight of a gobbler at 100 yards or less.  We typically employ this tactic in South Dakota where the rolling plains are ideal for this type f hunting.

The year that Michael Waddell introduced the Thunder Chicken decoy, a friend and I were closing on a large flock of turkeys planning to fan one into range.  We had to belly crawl across an open pasture with very little cover.  So we could catch our breath, I popped up the Thunder Chicken so that we could peek above the grass and get a fix on the flock.

The rolling plains of South Dakota offer an excellent fanning field of play. Sneak within 100 yards, pop up the decoy, and get ready to shoot.

We rested for a minute when suddenly five gobblers were point blank right in front of us.  Boom! I downed a longbeard and we looked at each other in amazement.

Another time I spotted a mature tom and three hens in an open meadow.  I was using a compound bow and there seemed to be no way to get close enough for a shot. By using the Thunder Chicken, I was able to close the distance to 50 yards.  This gobbler seemed wary and didn’t approach as turkey usually do.  Eventually, several hens began to feed toward the decoy, more than Mr. Big Shot could stand.  Suddenly, I heard purring and spotted the gobbler just a few yards in front of me.  Unfortunately, crawling on the ground was so taxing, I couldn’t draw the bow and the bird got away with all feathers intact.

Archers can often get point blank shots by using fanning.

Safety First

I’ve used fanning in the Great Plains, New Mexico and Texas where I hunt private or lightly trodden public land, but not in Maryland where visibility is very limited.  I’m sure it will work on turkeys; yet having a life-like replica near my body when other hunters could be nearby is foolish.

Whether you use hen or gobbler decoys, always cover them during transport so that “target colors” don’t show.  Always deploy turkeys where a hunter cannot approach you without being seen.  Place the decoy 20 yards in front of you with a clear field of vision well behind it.  Should you see another hunter, shout out your location so there can be no mistake.  Turkey hunting can be so exciting that emotions can overshadow judgment and you must always error on the side of caution.

Longbeards, Broadheads, Your Aim

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Tackling a wily spring gobbler with archery gear is super exciting, yet the broadhead you select can make all of the difference.  I learned this the hard way last spring after work caused me to miss the opening week of the season.  I have permission to hunt a small farm that has lots of birds and hunting pressure.   After getting skunked my first day out, I changed areas and roosted a trophy longbeard.

The next morning, I arrived extra early, set up against a large sycamore tree with honeysuckle for concealment.  I placed a jake decoy 15 yards in front of me and waited for the first gobbles of the morning.  As daylight arrived, the gobbler began to thunder and I called just enough to keep it worked up.  Eventually, I heard nothing but silence as the big tom sneaked toward the small clearing where my charade played out.

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I caught a slight movement to my right as the big gobbler walked past at ten yards and headed right for the decoy.  My Excalibur crossbow was already on my lap and I watched the big bird circle the decoy at point-blank range.  As the gobbler strutted and approached broadside, I launched a bolt with a large-blade broadhead.  My jaw dropped as I saw the arrow bounce off of the wing butt and the dumbfounded gobbler walk away.

Extra large broadheads are designed to cut the spine of a gobbler with its neck extended or facing head on, a detail I wasn’t aware of.  It was exceedingly exciting to have a plan come perfectly together, but oh so frustrating not to close the deal.  I cut a few feathers from the bird, but otherwise it was unharmed and I watched it walk 100 yards away and gobble as if taunting me.

Broadheads for longbeards come in two basic categories: penetrators and loppers.  If you plan to make a body shot, you want the largest broadhead you can shoot accurately.  When practicing, if you can’t make the fletch touch on a target at 20 yards, switch to a shotgun.  Hitting a wild turkey with an arrow takes extreme accuracy and practicing on a 3-D target helps immensely since a strutting gobbler will disguise the location of its vitals with a fluff of feathers.  You know exactly where the vitals of a deer are, but turkeys can expand their feathers and turn their body in a way that makes picking the exact spot difficult.

Expandable’s work well for turkeys so use the largest one you can find.  Some manufacturers offer heads up to three inches and the greater the diameter of the cut the better.  Cut-on-contact heads offer the advantage of a large cut on the way in and don’t rely on moving parts.

Lopper broadheads are designed to break the bones in the neck or decapitate the bird.  Personally, I don’t like the heads-off action because it looks bad for hunters even though it’s very humane.  Again this is my personal opinion, but wild turkeys are such beautiful birds, dismembering one seems disrespectful to the bird.

As I learned last year, the angle of the shot is critical if you are using a lopper head.  I should have waited until the gobbler faced me directly or made a putting sound with a mouth call so that it extended its neck.  That way, I would have made a clean, instant kill.

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Where to Aim

Lopper-style broadheads require a very specific position for a shot.  Basically, any angle where you can hit the extended neck is good.

With expandable or fixed heads, you can shoot for the body or the base of the neck.  By using a decoy, a gobbler will often strut near the bogus bird and stand perfectly still.  Use this time to take the shot.

  • If the bird is head on, shoot for the beard
  • If the bird is facing directly away, shoot in the middle of the back
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  • If the bird is broadside, come up the leg and shoot in the middle of the body.
  • If the bird is strutting, aim for the base of the neck.

If you body shoot a turkey and it runs off, give it time to expire like a deer.  And like for whitetails, you can’t practice too much.

Good luck!

Gearing Up for Spring Gobblers

The author took these two limb-hangers in the same day, thanks to a little luck and gear. Read the story to learn about calling, gear and lady luck.

Turkey hunters love gear and it seems we can never get enough to outsmart those un-killable toms.  I once hunted a flock of Merriam’s in South Dakota that had been pursued relentlessly the week prior to my arrival.  “The birds are there, but they won’t come to a call and I’ve been at them all week,” said a hunter as he packed his truck and left the camp.  “Good luck!”

Since I knew where the birds roosted, I was there the next morning in the pitch dark, but instead of being greeted by a prairie sunrise, a clipper system dropped six inches of snow.  Luckily, I wore a Browning Hell’s Canyon water-proof suit and a Mossy Oak vest complete with a hefty seat pillow to keep warm.

Always test pattern your shotgun, especially if you are trying a new shot shell for the first time.

I heard the birds fly down an hour after daylight and stayed still unsure of where they would go.  Ironically, I saw a flock of a dozen crest a ridge and feed toward me as I tried to sit still despite frequent shivering.  About 75 yards away, the flock seemed to camp for the morning with the big tom lagging well behind.  If I could nudge the flock back over the ridge where they’d come from, I could race up the hill and ambush the gobbler as it languished behind.

Popping a diaphragm caller into my mouth, I gave several soft yelps and every hen’s head went up.  A few more yelps and the flock moved slowly, but deliberately up and over the hill with the old tom playing caboose.

The soft snow covered my approach and as I crested the ridge, the gobbler raised its head like a flag and no doubt knew his goose was cooked.  I hate to admit that my calling actually scared turkeys away, yet I was sure the birds were ultra call shy and there was no way to lure them closer with bird sounds.  Luckily, I was prepared for the weather and was thrilled to return to camp with a big tom in such challenging conditions.

As a turkey hunter you never know which gear will make the greatest difference and here are a few of my favorite pieces that have made a difference over the years.

The author took this boss gobbler on a cold snowy day when turkeys would not approach a call. Make sure your clothing and insulation matches the weather conditions.

Mossy Oak Camouflage– I’m partial to the MO brand since I’ve hunted with them almost from the pattern inception.  Other patterns work well  also, but be sure to have gobbler gloves with an extended cuff and a head net.

Mossberg Turkey Thug Shotgun– I use my Mossberg for deer and turkey hunting and the shotgun is short, compact, and very effective.  When I have a gobbler within 40 yards, I know the deal is done.

Learn to use multiple callers. Box callers are ideal for locating, while a diaphragm allows for hands free shooting.

Aimpoint Red Dot Scope– Turkeys are easy to miss and adding a red dot scope like the Aimpoint Hunter will make a tremendous difference.  Aimpoint’s are military grade and ultra rugged.  You can adjust the brightness of the dot and the battery is so powerful, the dot will stay illuminated for five years of constant use.

Mossy Oak Turkey VestA turkey vest is like the desktop of a computer, a place where you can see the tools you use most often and know where they are.  If you are an adventurous hunter, you may want to check out the Alps Turkey Pack, a light, compact pack that will store gear and help carry out your turkey.

An Aimpoint Hunter red dot scope makes an excellent turkey sight. Put the dot at the base of the neck and close the deal.

CallsYou need three types of callers.  A box for long distance locating, a peg and slate for close in work, and a diaphragm to manipulate a gobbler with both hands free.  Use these various calls to vary the volume and quantity of calling.   If a gobbler sounds off when approaching and suddenly gets quiet, be ready to shoot as they often are looking for your location.

Shot SizeWhether you like #4, #6, or compromise with #5 shot, be sure to pattern your shotgun with each load choice.  You want to especially shoot a target at 10 yards to make sure your sighting system in on line.  You’ll be amazed at how small the pattern spreads at this distance.

Gobbler decoys can be deadly when used in wide open spaces, yet caution must be used if other hunters could be in your area.