4-PLAY for Christmas! …A Love Story

  • Woodsy turkey call sounds combine screech and scratch controls
  • Henry C. Gibson and Eric Steinmetz each provided sound innovations about 120 years apart
  • Tone and tune change in one box that allows clucking, purring, yelping and cackling is about pure genius 

By Larry Whiteley

Now some of you probably read that headline, and your mind drifted off to another kind of foreplay. However, this is not that kind of foreplay. This 4-Play is something that can get a turkey gobbler all excited to come looking for love.

Let me begin with how this kind of 4-Play started. You see, the first box-style turkey call was patented in 1897 by an Arkansas farmer and fence supply manager, Henry C. Gibson, of Dardanelle. Though there may have been box calls before his patent, Gibson sparked a new industry with many imitators creating box-type turkey calls.

For over 120 years, the turkey box call has never really changed much from the original wooden box and paddle design. Then along came avid turkey hunter Eric Steinmetz. Eric built his box calls for years and had terrific success with them. He even sold a few to local hunters. Eric couldn’t get the thought out of his mind about coming up with a call that was more versatile and more effective than the standard box call design. He would think about it as he drove down the road with his traveling sales job. When he was home and wasn’t turkey hunting, he was in his shop tinkering with different designs and wood types.

He finally came up with the idea of building one with a forward-mounted wheel that would allow the paddle to be moved to both sides of the box. That way, it could be used on any of four sound rails, each made with different wood types to have four different tones. Thus came the name for his call, the 4-Play. He also found that since the wheel allowed the lid to be moved forward and backward, he could strike the sound rails in multiple locations, adding to his box call versatility. The 4-Play is a turkey box call like no other you have ever seen or used.  

The U.S. Patent Office agreed that Eric’s box call was so innovative they awarded him a Utility Patent. 4-Play turkey calls are available with Cherry, Walnut, or mahogany bodies, and all have sound rails made of walnut, eastern red cedar, sassafras, and poplar. If you’re a turkey hunter, you have to have one of these. For more information, watch videos, read reviews, and order, visit https://4playturkeycall.com/shop. Or, give them a call at 610-984-4099. They would love to visit with you.

“It is a versatile call,” says Eric. “With a little practice, you can make an almost unlimited number of tones and pitches. I just want hunters to use it and then hopefully send us pictures of them and their Gobbler. That’s what would make me feel successful.”

Eric has since sold the 4-Play patent to Brian Benolken, but he is still involved with the business, working shows, building calls, and of course, turkey hunting. He’s even won several calling competitions with his 4-Play. Brian is busy growing the business under the name of Cutting Edge Game Calls, and his goal for the company is to offer you products for making you a better and more successful turkey hunter. Brian and Eric both are continuously thinking of new innovative ideas.

This old turkey hunter has never seen anything like it in all my years of turkey hunting, so I just had to have a 4-Play. I love it! I can’t believe all the sounds I can make with it. I’m clucking, purring, yelping, and even fly down cackling with it. I can’t wait until spring turkey season. My wife can’t either! Can you believe she banned me from the house and makes me take my 4-Play and practice out in the barn?

If you are a turkey hunter, you might try hinting to your wife or girlfriend that you would surely like to have 4-Play under the tree for Christmas. If they look at you like you’re weird or something, you might have to just order online or call Cutting Edge Game Calls to order one for yourself. But if they smile, this could be a very Merry Christmas in more ways than one.

 

 

 

Online Hunter Education Course Available For NY Hunters

Hunters ages 12 or older may purchase a license and head afield this spring.

  • The cost of the course is $19.95 
  • The online course will be available April 15 through June 30, 2020
Courtesy NYSDEC

First-time hunters who want to hunt during New York’s turkey hunting seasons must first earn a hunter education certificate prior to purchasing their first hunting license. This applies to both the regular season, May 1-31, and the youth (ages 12-15) turkey hunting weekend April 25-26. Unfortunately, all traditional hunter education courses have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many new hunters unable to get a certificate before spring turkey season.

Now there is a new option for earning a hunter education certificate. For a limited time, first-time hunters in New York can complete the required hunter education course entirely online.

The online course is available to anyone ages 11 and older and can be completed from a computer, tablet, or smartphone at any time. Students who complete the online course and virtual field day, and pass the final exam, will receive their hunter education certificate and can purchase a hunting license.

Only those hunters ages 12 or older may purchase a license and head afield this spring.

The cost of the course is $19.95. The online course will be available April 15 through June 30, 2020 on the Kalkomey website.

Bowhunting for a Turkey? Know the best Shot Placement Options BEFORE heading to the Woods

"Proper Shot Placement with your Arrow is Critical," says Jason Houser.

  • A strutting turkey is mostly air and feathers, read to know more about where to shoot.
  • Nothing is more exciting than to shoot a spring tom with archery gear.
  • Make a good shot and recovery is quick. If you make a poor shot, it could be a long day.
If you can master hitting the bullseye on this target, you will not have any problem killing a turkey this spring.

By Jason Houser

Wild turkeys can be difficult to recover even after they have been shot with a razor-sharp broadhead. Turkeys can take a hard hit, and still have the stamina to walk, or even fly away – possibly are never found.

If an archer is unable to hit his mark, recovery will not be easy. Every hunter has an ethical and moral obligation to know where to aim for the quickest possible kill on a bird that has left many hunters scratching their heads as they search diligently for a turkey that they thought had just taken a lethal hit.

Turkey hunters have some options as to what type of broadhead to use when pursuing turkeys. Of course, a mechanical or a fixed blade are the most popular.

Fixed-blade broadheads that are at least 1 ¼ -inches in diameter or mechanical heads that are shot at the vitals are the preferred choice by many hunters. Other hunters choose to shoot at the neck of a big bird with a big four-blade broadhead made just for the neck and head region of a turkey. If you ask 50 hunters if they prefer a body shot or a headshot for a quick kill, the answers will likely be split evenly between the two choices.

Mechanical broadheads (both are mechanical) are popular among many turkey hunters.

For years, all that turkey hunters had available to them were large, fixed blade broadheads. This type of head has accounted for countless numbers of turkeys over the years. As technology improved, so did the broadheads available for the turkey hunter.

Arrow penetration has been a highly debated topic among turkey hunters for as long as turkeys have been hunted with archery equipment. Some hunters prefer a pass-through shot that will cause a lot of damage, as well as leave a good blood trail to follow. I believe that while many turkeys will receive a good deal of damage, I have found that most turkeys do not leave a good blood trail to follow. Their thick feathers will soak up most of the blood before it ever has a chance to reach the ground.

Open on impact (mechanical) broadheads are quickly becoming favorites of turkey hunters. Mechanical broadheads that offer a wide cutting diameter will cause plenty of hemorrhaging along with a lot of damage to a turkey. A well-placed, open-on-impact broadhead will quickly put a bird down for the count. Rocky Mountain has some great mechanical broadheads that are great for turkey hunting.

The biggest mistake that bowhunters can make is hitting the turkey too low, or too far back. It will be very hard for even an experienced turkey hunter to find a bird that has been shot in this part of its body.

                            Proper Shot Placement with your Arrow is Critical. See above for kill shot examples. 

The size of a turkey’s heart and lung area is no bigger than a man’s fist. That is not a big target to hit, especially if you are accustomed to shooting at the vitals of a mature whitetail. Turkeys that are strutting appear to be a larger target than what they are. The truth is what you see on a strutting turkey is mostly air and feathers. There is very little actual body under all that fluff. Do not be tricked into believing you see something that is not there. Turkeys are constantly moving. For this reason, shot angles are always changing, making it difficult to get a shot at the vitals.

It is almost impossible to tell where the vitals are located on a strutting tom. A better shot would be to wait until the turkey is facing head-on and try to put your arrow just above the base of the beard. If a strutting tom is facing away from you send an arrow through the vent (anus) of the turkey. The arrow will either pass through the chest or hit the spine. Either way, it will result in a quick, ethical kill.

Nothing is more exciting, or sometimes frustrating, than attempting to shoot a spring tom with archery gear. Make a good shot and recovery is quick. If you make a poor shot, you are libel to never find that turkey. A great practice target is the turkey 3D target from Shooter Archery Targets. It has all three aiming points I discussed in this article. If you can master hitting the bullseye on this target, you will not have any problem killing a turkey this spring.

Check out this video for more tips.

Over-Under Turkey Gun, Close or Far: CZ Reaper Magnum

  • This 12-gauge camo shotgun ships with 6 interchangeable choke tubes, including an extra-full version.
  • Picatinny rail mount option for optic addition is included.
  • QD swivels are attached at front and back

Whether the shot is longer-range or considerably closer, the CZ Reaper Magnum over-and-under offers choke tube options to fill your turkey tag. Outfit one barrel of this 12-gauge turkey gun with a tight choke, the other with a more open variation, then you’re good for that big tom at nearly any distance by merely flipping the barrel selector switch on the Reaper Magnum.

You can even match your shells to the chokes you have selected. For example, fit one barrel with an extra full choke and load it with a magnum turkey load for that 45-yard shot, and a less powerful shell with a more open choke in the other barrel when a bird suddenly pops up at 18 feet. Try that with a semi-automatic or pump shotgun!

The 3.5-inch chambers of the Reaper Magnum allow the use of nearly any 12-gauge turkey shells, while the automatic ejectors vigorously pop out the empties. The shotgun’s 26-inch barrels makes this O/U very maneuverable in the field, whether hunting from a blind or sitting with your back against a tree trunk. Prefer an optic for your turkey hunting? A Picatinny rail mount is included just above the chamber on the rear of the barrels, making any optic an easy addition.

The CZ Reaper Magnum’s sturdy polymer stock can take all that Mother Nature has to offer, and the Realtree Xtra® Green Camo finish will hide this shotgun from those sharp-eyed turkeys. QD swivels are attached at the front and back, and the shotgun ships with six (6) extended, interchangeable choke tubes, including an extra-full version.

Retail cost: $993.

For more information, please visit WWW.CZ-USA.COM.

CZ Reaper Magnum Specs:

  • SKU: 06588
  • Chambering.: 12 Gauge
  • Operation: Over and Under
  • Max Shell Length: 3 ½ in.
  • Barrel Length: 26 in.
  • Rib: 8mm Flat Vent
  • Chokes: 6 Extended Black tubes, including C, IC, LM, M, IM, EXTRA FULL
  • Stock: Polymer, Realtree Xtra® Green Camo
  • Overall Length: 44 ¼ in.
  • Weight: 7 lbs.
  • Length of Pull: 14 ½ in.

New York is Open for Hunting, Spring Turkey Season Starts May 1

Joe Forma Photo

  • Youth Spring Turkey Hunting Weekend is April 25-26
  • Regular NYS Turkey Season opens May 1
  • Hunters Should Always Follow Safety Tips to Prevent Injuries and Limit Spread of COVID-19

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that spring turkey season opens May 1 in all of Upstate New York north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary. In addition, DEC’s annual youth turkey hunting weekend will take place on April 25-26. The youth turkey hunt for junior hunters aged 12 to 15 is open in all of Upstate New York and Suffolk County.

The big gobbler “tom” struts in. Photo by Joe Forma

“Many New Yorkers are eager to spend time outdoors and turkey hunting is one great way to reconnect to nature,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Whether participating in the upcoming youth hunt with your children or heading out on your own in pursuit of a wary gobbler, be sure to hunt safe and hunt smart by following the important guidelines in place both to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support hunting safety.”

Turkey hunters took about 17,000 birds in New York during the 2019 spring season. Spring harvest success is often tied to productivity two years prior, as hunters like to focus on adult gobblers (i.e., two-year-old birds). While the cold, wet start to the 2019 breeding season meant low reproductive success and poor recruitment in many areas, conditions were better in summer 2018. The population gains made in 2018, combined with good overwinter survival because of abundant food in the fall and relatively mild winter conditions this year, may offset 2019’s poor reproductive success.

Important Details for the Youth Turkey Hunt on April 25 and 26

  • Hunters 12-15 years of age are eligible and must hold a hunting license and a turkey permit;
  • Youth 12-13 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult over 21 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian. Youth 14-15 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult over 18 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian;
  • The accompanying adult must have a current hunting license and turkey permit. The adult may assist the youth hunter, including calling, but may not carry a firearm, bow, or crossbow, or kill or attempt to kill a wild turkey during the youth hunt;
  • Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
  • The youth turkey hunt is open in all of upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary and in Suffolk County;
  • The bag limit for the youth weekend is one bearded bird. This bird becomes part of the youth’s regular spring season bag limit of two bearded birds. A second bird may be taken only in Upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary, beginning May 1;
  • Crossbows may only be used by hunters age 14 or older. In Suffolk and Westchester counties it is illegal to use a crossbow to hunt wild turkeys; and
  • All other wild turkey hunting regulations remain in effect.

Other Important Details for the Spring Turkey Season, May 1-31, 2020:

  • Hunting is permitted in most areas of the state, except for New York City and Long Island;
  • Hunters must have a turkey hunting permit in addition to their hunting license;
  • Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
  • Hunters may take two bearded turkeys during the spring season, but only one bird per day;
  • Hunters may not use rifles or handguns firing a bullet. Hunters may hunt with a shotgun or handgun loaded with shot sizes no larger than No. 2 or smaller than No. 8, or with a bow or crossbow (except crossbows may not be used in Westchester County);
  • Successful hunters must fill out the tag that comes with their turkey permit and immediately attach it to any turkey harvested;
  • Successful hunters must report their harvest within seven days of taking a bird. Call 1-866-426-3778 (1-866 GAMERPT) or report harvest online at DEC’s Game Harvest Reporting website; and

For more information about turkey hunting in New York, see the 2019-20 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or visit the “Turkey Hunting” pages of DEC’s website.

Hunt Safe, Hunt Smart!

While statistics show that hunting in New York State is safer than ever, mistakes are made each year. Every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable, and DEC encourages hunters to use common sense this season and remember what they were taught in their DEC Hunter Education Course:

  • Point your gun in a safe direction;
  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded;
  • Be sure of your target and beyond;
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; and
  • Stalking stinks! Set-up with your back against a tree or other object wider than your shoulders and call birds to you.

DEC also encourages all hunters to wear blaze orange or blaze pink when moving between hunting spots to make themselves more visible to other hunters. A blaze orange or blaze pink vest or other material can be hung in a nearby tree when you are set-up and calling birds so other hunters are alerted to your presence.

A hunter education class is required for all new hunters. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, hunter education courses have been cancelled through April 30. To find a hunter education class in your area, visit DEC’s Hunter Education Program website or call 1-888-HUNT-ED2 (1-888-486-8332).

“Hunting Safe” now means following social distancing /other guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Purchase licenses and/or turkey permits online to avoid visiting busy stores or because stores may be closed or have limited hours. Licenses and tags purchased online take 10-14 days to arrive, so online purchases for the youth turkey hunt should be made by April 10, and for the regular season by April 16;
  • Hunt close to home. Opt for day trips instead of staying at a hunting camp to avoid close contact with other hunters;
  • Avoid crowds at parking areas and other locations where people congregate. Keep a distance of six feet or more from others;
  • Avoid high-traffic destinations. If a hunting location is crowded, choose a different spot or time to visit. For alternative hunting locations visit DEC’s website.
  • Hunt alone. If hunting with someone not from your household, whether an adult or youth, practice social distancing, take separate vehicles to the hunting location, and make sure to maintain at least six feet of distance. Only share a hunting blind with someone from your household;
  • Carry hand sanitizer and avoid touching your face and wash mouth calls after handling; and
  • If hunters do not feel well, they should stay home. Anyone 70 and older or with a compromised immune system should postpone their trip.
  • For more information about getting outdoors and #RecreateLocal, go to DEC’s Website.

Buy Sporting Licenses Online

DEC is encouraging hunters, trappers, and anglers to purchase sporting licenses online to help further limit the community spread of COVID-19. Sporting licenses may be purchased online at any time, and anglers may use their privileges immediately by simply carrying their transaction number (DEC-LS#) with them while afield. Anglers, hunters, and trappers may also use the HuntFishNY mobile app to display an electronic copy of their license. The HuntFishNY app is available for download through the Apple App or Google Play stores. Back tags and carcass tags must still be mailed, and customers should allow 10-14 days for receipt of their tags. Please visit our website for more information about sporting licenses.

Citizen Science Opportunity: DEC Seeks Turkey Hunters for Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey

Turkey hunters can record the number of ruffed grouse they hear drumming while afield to help DEC track the distribution and abundance of this game bird. To get a survey form, go to DEC’s website or call (518) 402-8883. To participate in DEC’s Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey or other wildlife surveys, visit the “Citizen Science” page of DEC’s website.

How to Miss a Turkey – Conservation by any other name…here are some TIPS to extend your season!

  • No matter where you hunt, turkey season is short and bag limits are small.
  • NOT filling a limit, there is a reward, your time afield is maximized, the hunt is extended.
  • The important thing is being “out there,” a day or two away from work, the anticipation for another hunt.

By Mike Schoonveld

I have made lots of hunters happy by explaining the best techniques to completely miss the shots they fire at the game they are stalking. The seasons are short and limits are small.

A competent hunter with a fair amount of accuracy with his shooting iron can find himself sidelined by success.

Any hunter will tell you the “kill” is secondary to the hunt. The important things are being afield, day or two away from work, and pitting human skills against animal instincts. Not bagging a deer or not filling a limit of ducks insures your time afield is maximized and the hunt is extended. In short, a good clean miss can be what makes a season a success.

I don’t hunt turkeys, but I do shoot shotguns and can offer plenty of advice at how to fail at what would seem a simple task. The task is to blast a 20-pound plus bird that is standing still or moving slowly with a gun designed to pepper pellets into a duck flying 40 miles per hour.

It can’t be that hard, so when a turkey is fired upon and missed, one of two things happened. There was equipment error or there was shooter error. If the gun went “bang” when the trigger was pulled and a load of pellets flew out the end of the gun’s muzzle, that pretty well eliminates the equipment error.   A more certain ploy to insure a full season of fun during turkey season is to rely on yourself to cause the missed shots. Here are some very reliable methods.

You can get overly excited when you first see that gobbler heading your way, responding to your seductive calls. Don’t worry about the distance. Never mind that the bird heading ever closer, thus making the shot easier. Blast away as soon as you see the Tom. Out past 40 yards or so, your pellets will slow to the point that they’ll bounce off the feathers and the rest of the pattern will pepper harmlessly into the forest.

You can take this to the other extreme, as well. Let the bird approach to within 10 or 15 feet and try for a head and neck shot with a pattern that measures about 2.7 inches across. Shotguns are designed to be “pointed” not aimed; but at extremely close range, you better learn to aim.

Then there’s the ol’ shoot through the brush trick. The gobbler is in easy range. You can see it strutting through a screen of the forest understory. Fire away, I guarantee you’ll miss.

Even with an open shot, only a half dozen of the pellets you fire will hit a vital spot on the turkey. So you aren’t really trying to force hundreds of pellets through the brambles. Most were destined to miss, anyway. What you are trying to do is thread those half dozen pellets which are on target through the maze and you only need to have a half dozen sticks or twigs in the way to insure a clean miss. A turkey behind a screen of intervening shrubbery is as safe as Capt. Kirk being attacked by a bevy of Klingon torpedoes when the Enterprise shields are up.

The most acceptable way to miss a turkey is to try to get a better look at your target. Shotguns don’t have a rear sight to use for aiming because, as I said earlier, you don’t aim a shotgun. Your eyes become the rear sight as you look down the barrel and point the gun. Can’t see the turkey real well because you are looking down the barrel? Just raise your head a few inches off the stock and you can see it clearly. Of course, now your “rear sight” has been adjusted to make the gun shoot high. The more clearly you see the bird, the higher you will shoot. Simple, effective and the best part is you get to keep on hunting.

So try one or more of these tricks when you hit the turkey woods in the next few weeks. Want to ensure you get to keep hunting, combine some of these techniques. You’ll thank me and be happy if you don’t get the bird on opening day, the rest of the season is still available for you!

THE END

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. YouTube 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 wingbeats 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!

      

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
Click the picture to WATCH the VIDEO

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 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.

nextturkey7

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

longbeards2

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.

longbeards1

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.

longbeards4

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
  • longbeards3
  • 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.