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Turkey

Archery, Turkeys & ATVs

Turkey Hunting Excitement

The Encounter

Talkin’ Turkey for a First Time Hunter

When a Putt needs a Cutt

 

Archery, Turkeys & ATVs

An excerpt from Mark Strand’s new e-book, “Turkey Camp and other turkey hunting stories”

By Mark Strand
From a tent in Nebraska – First morning of this week-long archery turkey trek began as promising as it gets. In seriously fading light the night before, on the first night I’d ever spent in the Pine Ridge area of northwestern Nebraska, I had taken a leap of faith and decided on a camp site off Deadhorse Road. Partly because I liked the name, and partly because I had watched a group of turkeys go to roost and listened to a much larger group, which they had joined, gobbling and yelping until long after dark.
Other turkeys had gobbled from various directions, but this was the mother ship and needed to be scouted before our group arrived the next day. So I pitched one tent in the pitch black, a half-mile from the turkeys, slept until near dawn, then walked from camp, in the dark, to a listening spot near where the turkeys had crossed the gravel road the night before on their way to the communal roost. There were hundreds of birds across the road, which turned out to be forbidden acres, my dad’s old term for spots you can’t get permission to hunt.
The early morning gobbling was sensational across the opposing hillside, from north to south and back again in waves. After the birds flew down a good-sized group of hens and toms made its way across to my side of the road, strutting gobblers dragging wings loud on the hardpan in the still morning air, maybe 40 birds in all, led by a raft of hens that hopped up onto a grassy slope below and the whole works came on both sides of me, at one point four big toms in full strut so tight together their heads would have presented one shot for a shotgun hunter. They filtered up the hill and out of sight and I got busy selecting blind locations for the next morning.
Two 15-year-old boys, Levi and Josh, both on their first hunt of any kind, were going to attempt to take wild turkeys with a bow. Nothing like starting at the top. But this seemed so perfect, assuming the birds did the same thing the next morning.
Oh, the wild assumptions we make about turkeys and what they might do.
We’ll get to what actually happened in a minute, but there are a lot of other stories we have to squeeze in. Every one deserves much more space than we have here, the whims of archery turkey hunting being what they are. This is being written, by the way, from my sleeping tent at the end of the second leg of this journey, in one of those million dollar camping spots, along the banks of little Gordon Creek in north-central Nebraska, near Valentine.
Where to begin. The phone rang, maybe a month ago, and it was Joe Peterson asking if I would be interested in testing the latest Honda ATVs and Big Red (a two-up multipurpose utility vehicle, or MUV) in a turkey hunting situation. Sounded like the best idea I had heard in a long time, so I was in. Being a bit older and slowing down physically, I am a big advocate for using ATVs to move along trails, then striking off them to hunt on foot. Been doing it for years, in fact, including using them to take my ailing father on some of his best hunts.
Both locations for this trip were chosen because they have turkeys, and because challenging terrain would let us put these machines through worthy paces.

A Quiet Morning
On our first hunt morning, Josh and his father, John Brandon (who was testing the Hondas for Popular Mechanics), were sitting with me in a blind smack in turkey central from the previous morning. We lit them up good on the roost, but the birds chose a different crossing point and there we sat, out of range as they skirted us to the north and west.
Same story for Joe Peterson and Levi, and Joe Miller, a photographer accompanying Brandon, who were in other blinds farther up the hill. We all sat waiting for late crossers, but after several hours it was apparent the birds had avoided our well-laid battle plan. We walked out to our ATVs and drove back to camp for breakfast.

Trail Tests
If put to a lie detector test, the boys would probably have fessed up that they were as interested in driving the ATVs and Big Red as hunting, so they were enthusiastic about what we did next, and continued to do for several days: saddle up and drive the trail network deep into the interior of our spot.
There were several miles of great trails, because they’ve been cut through rugged and scenic country that looks like the Black Hills. Eventually, we discovered that there is no easy walking other than the eastern edge of our area, but it was fun to put the machines through their paces on the west side. Being an ATV hunter, I had something to compare these to. They are new, so you would expect reliable starting and no mechanical problems, and nothing to report there. (In fact, the fuel injected motors fired up beautifully on cold mornings.)

What was impressive to me, in no particular order:
* The stock tires, from Maxxis, are excellent. High, open tread grips the terrain better than other stock tires I have tried in hunting situations.
* These are relatively low-profile, lightweight, and compact machines, but with good ground clearance. We drove over impressive rocks jutting up out of the trail, recently-downed branches, and through deep ruts, without incident.
* These units feature engine braking, from automotive technology, which is really nice when you’re easing down steep inclines. I have not experienced this with other makes.
* Power steering, in these environments, makes your life much easier.
* Overall, the designs seem intelligent and efficient, something particularly noticeable when climbing steep hills. In fact, no matter how impressive the hill, even when going through sand, I never had to put a unit in 4 wheel drive. We drive slowly and as quietly as possible, because we’re hunting, so it’s best if the engine does not strain or rev up.

Close Calls
What archery turkey story would be complete without close calls?
We had plenty, but here’s a few highlights. On the first evening, young Levi was sitting with Joe Peterson and Josh in one of our blinds. A group of birds walked close without announcing their arrival, Josh spotting three toms as they passed within 10 yards. Levi made what Joe reported to be a good hit, but despite lots of blood we did not find that turkey.
Josh, John and I called a huge flock, maybe 40-50 birds, down a steep hill to us, one strutting gobbler breaking from the pack and coming to about 35 yards, but we held off on the shot. During shotgun season, it would have been a different story.
There were others, including two great shooting opportunities for me on the day our big group hit the road for home and before David Draper, an outdoor writer from Nebraska, arrived to join me. That morning, I called a big strutter in to 19 yards (paced off later), and sailed a crossbow bolt over the top of his head and wide.
After that, I took the bow back to camp and tested it on a table, shooting to an archery target. Sure enough, it was way off. So I re-zeroed it and hit the woods in the afternoon. This time, I persuaded a big tom to leave his hens and he came right in, 11 yards in front of me. I made what for all the world seemed like a good hit, but the bird walked off and I could not find that one, either. Both of these shots are on video, which could have been part of the problem. Attempting to run a camera and shoot the bird with a bow might introduce too many degrees of difficulty.
That’s where the opportunities came to a halt, despite putting in good efforts on two more days, alone and with Draper. Turkey karma no doubt had something to do with summoning big winds, which dominated the landscape in both locations for the final days of this trip. If somebody has a sure way of calling up a gobbler during a big prairie blow, I want to hear it. We’re talking winds consistently in the 30s, with gusts up over 50, that you hear coming in a low roar, that keep you awake by shaking and vibrating the tents.
After driving several hours to the east and settling in to the Valentine area campsite, I paid a return visit to the prairie ghosts of Gordon Creek, a group of turkeys I have dueled with in previous episodes. They spend their days out in vast grasslands, then return to creekside woods to roost. They came, just like clockwork, but did it to me again, flying up on the wrong side of the property line, just like they had last time.
Now it’s almost 11 o’clock at night, inside this rattling tent. Tomorrow is the day before Easter, so it needs to be the travel day to put me back in Minnesota for Sunday.
Perhaps the moral of this story is that it’s fun to test gear in the real world, to putt your way along miles of trails, driving up long inclines so you can hunt elevated benches, and try to get turkeys to respond to your calling. When the weather is favorable, it can seem downright simple. There will be other, calmer days, and there will be different endings, and this sport will remain one of hunting’s great challenges.

This is an excerpt from Mark Strand’s new e-book, “Turkey Camp and other turkey hunting stories.” Containing a dozen essays that celebrate why we love the sport, it’s available for just $3.99 directly from www.markstrandoutdoors.com. Also available from Amazon, iTunes (iBookstore), Barnes & Noble Nook store, and Sony Reader store. It’s readable on all dedicated e-Readers, smartphones, and as a pdf file on computers.

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Turkey Hunting Excitement

By Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson
When Joel Nelson talks turkey, the birds have no choice but to listen. Nelson speaks with a 12-gauge shotgun and 3 ½-inch shells or the sharp tips on his arrow points.
Nelson’s methods to stalk the wary birds during spring and fall seasons produce results far better than enjoyed by most hunters. Nelson recently led both Ted and his daughter, Kristi, to turkeys on a hunt in southeastern Minnesota.
Nelson makes no attempt to hide his enthusiasm for his prey. “The things they do are so different than any other bird. When you see those white heads coming through an opening in the woods, my God, it’s beautiful,” he said.
Age 30 now and on the pro staff for Quaker Boy Game Calls, In-Depth Outdoors, Gamehide Clothing, and Schaffer Performance Hunting, Nelson traces his first hunts to age 12 or 13. If mistakes are teaching tools, Nelson learned a lot those first three years. He never got a bird. Then he ran into Guy Cunningham, an Illinois native who guided turkey hunters in the Black Hills before he moved into Nelson’s area.
“He made it seem easy,” said Nelson, who is president of the Sunrise Gobblers Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
It’s Nelson who makes turkey hunting seem easy now. His success is built on doing the basics and paying attention to details.

Location
Unlike many hunters, Nelson’s preparations start months before the season opens. Even now, he’s taking action that might not seem to have a thing to do with dropping a tom during the upcoming fall season. Nelson is catching and cleaning walleye to trade with farmers for a chance to stalk turkeys on their land. He’ll trade deer jerky and morels. He’s been known to help bring in hay and other farm chores, too.
But he doesn’t stop getting one piece of land. He knows as many as 25 to 50 birds may group early in the season but they disperse into small groups which range over large areas. He tracked one flock range over two square miles in one day. Knowing that leads him to start with one piece and then contact adjacent landowners to all sides asking for permission to hunt.
As a result, he puts together large parcels of huntable land so he can go to the birds rather than waiting for the birds to move off land he can’t hunt to a small parcel he can.
Scouting is the next step. “I really spend a lot of time scouting,” he says. “My main goal is to have three to four different groups of birds. I’m not too proud to hunt one that’s young and dumb.”
He’ll use locator calls to help pinpoint birds. A crow sound is the least worrisome to turkeys. Early in the morning or later in the evening, he’ll use an owl call. He’ll also use a coyote call. He’s not worried about making them skittish. “It’s better to know where they are than not,” he said.
The best scouting is done in the handful of days just before your hunt. By then, he knows where birds are roosting and their general habits through the day. “I constantly watch the birds. That helps. I’m a real big fan that the freshest information is best. Two weeks, I don’t get excited. One to three days before the season? That gets good.”

Style
Nelson uses two general techniques. Both can be effective depending on the mood of the birds. One is the traditional approach of setting up on a spot and calling birds to him. The other is more aggressive – he uses locator calls to find active birds and moves toward them.
Nelson stays in one position when he’s hunting with novices or if he needs to film sequences for the website.
Turkeys are extremely wary. They know when something just isn’t right. That trait makes them an exciting bird to hunt. It also makes them hard to kill. Blending in with the background is critical if a hunter chooses to sit out against a tree. Camouflage choice is simple. “Late season, wear something with green. Early season, no green, but unless it’s wet I don’t wear the dark heavy patterns,” he said. Wear black from the waist up while hunting in ground blinds.
Decoys are used only when he needs to draw birds within bow range. He has seen toms lock up and display outside gun range if they get too intimidated by plastic competition. He’d rather depend on calling to fire birds up and bring them in. Even then, he uses a light hand. He tries to fire them up first thing, then he plays hard to get. Overcalling makes a tom believe the hen is hot and he will expect her to come to him. Calling just enough to get his interest and then quitting can drive him crazy.
Nelson remembers a classic example of calling and hearing toms answer from far away. Twenty minutes later he thought they might have given up. A less experienced hunter might choose that time to move. But 30 minutes later, the toms popped out of cover just 30 yards away. That’s plenty close enough for his Browning 12-gauge Gold Hunter that takes 3½ inch shells. He alternates between a Winchester with number 6 shot and a Hevi-Shot Magnum that’s a mix of number 5s, 6s and 7s.
He made a modification to his shotgun sights by replacing the standard post with fiber optic rifle sights. The standard post is so large that a bird can be covered up at 50 yards. Smaller rifle sights allow the accuracy needed to hit the bird’s head and/or neck easier.

Ted’s Spring Hunts
Nelson knew two flocks were working in an area where he was able to set up a ground blind at a bottleneck between two hay fields adjacent to the woods. This position allowed a 40-yard shot to either side and 20 yards to the bottleneck.
Nelson knew birds were roosting to either side. After Nelson called, both groups fired up right away. The most vocal group to the right kept coming to about 150 yards. They would not come out of the woods.
Nelson “played it cool.” Hard-to-get calling apparently was the right tactic. Competition for a hen was a strong motivator. Three toms from the left group suddenly stepped out from cover. Ted let go as soon as one bird separated from the others so he was sure he wouldn’t injure a second tom.
One nice tom with a 10 inch beard went down. Nelson stepped off the distance at 43 yards.
Kristi hunted without a blind. They saw several turkeys driving to the spot where her dad hunted three days earlier. It was afternoon when Nelson made a crow call. He and Kristi thought they heard birds in the field, but the grass was high and the terrain was rolling. Using a slope to hide their movements, they got closer before Nelson positioned her with her back against a tree. He called again. This time there was no response, but as they waited, they soon saw four white heads looking over the top of the ridge. This group of jakes moved within 40 yards and stopped. Kristi had to wait until they moved again to raise her gun, then wait to get a clear shot.
Once she did, it was all over. Forty-one yards from where she fired, a jake with a 5 1/2-inch beard was down.
“She pasted that bird,” Nelson said. “There’s nothing more exciting than to watch your daughter shoot her first turkey,” said Ted.
Turkeys are a perfect match for hunters who thrive on challenge and excitement. Give them a shot.
Takasaki is teaming up with Anderson Trucking Service to offer fishing tips to the company’s drivers, along with the chance to win all-expenses-paid fishing trips with the Hall of Fame angler. Ted’s Tips are found at www.drive4ats.com, along with information on joining this industry leader, founded in 1955. Interested drivers can also call 1-855-JOIN-ATS.

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The Encounter

An excerpt from Mark Strand’s new e-book, “Turkey Camp and other turkey hunting stories”

If you think this country’s flat you haven’t walked it, especially in the gray before it gets really light and you’re racing on muscles that slept in a cold tent toward gobbles you can’t catch up to. You’re double-timing it on what feels like a treadmill of stubbly grass, your heart pumping pressure into your hat and out your mouth, and the cold air smells like the sage you’re breaking under your boots.

It was like that one morning on what we call the baby badlands, when I topped a high shelf and stood staring at eight water-balloon ears that knew I was coming but just had to stay to see what I was. Then the pogo-sticking started– mule deer bounding out to who knows where, but I didn’t have time to watch until they were out of sight. They might have flown up in the air like reindeer for all I know because the turkeys sounded off again and it sounded like the wave done with gobbles.
They were way too far away and it was too light now for me to work down in there without being seen so I sat in the high stillness and listened to them carry on, a chorus of gobbles, jakes joining in at the end sounding like mules, and then a loudmouth hen would rip it up and they’d have to all gobble even though they just did.
I didn’t see them fly down but they did, and ran around like prairie dogs with wings, the game of dominance and mating replacing everything else in their lives, while the hens pretended not to notice, even though it was the whole reason they were there.
When I got there I watched them through the glasses, little dots transformed into actual turkeys by the magnification. They were on the other side of the river, of course, which is half what I expected after walking this far. Once you commit to a direction in this country you are committed to it unless you have enough energy to walk all the way back where you came from and start over. So on this day all I got to do was watch them for a while, but it was enough at the time. There were six miles on both sides of camp to hunt with only a couple fences to cross, so I moved on.
There are many reasons why I love this place and think about it a lot during the winter. Hardcore Black Hills hunters have been known to call the turkeys of South Dakota’s prairie units ‘tourist birds,’ intimating that little old ladies in tennis shoes could pull over and plug one anytime between flydown and flyup, any day of the season. But the critics of anything can never see the beauty in it. In this place, hearing and seeing a turkey is a lot different than getting close enough to shoot it, and they can be downright impossible to deal with when they filter up out of the river trees and chase grasshoppers across the plains.
Besides, any place that has antelope, sharptails and big prairie dog towns is all right by me.
After I got done watching the turkeys and hoping one would fly across the river, I did turn and go back the way I came, walking high over a vast stretch of unbroken prairie, one side rimmed by the baby badlands, the other outlined by a narrow ribbon of turkey woods and the river. As I walked I heard a distant turkey gobble, so I headed directly to the area, slipped down a finger draw and entered his world.
I yelped on a slate call but he ignored it, so I tried a mouth call. He didn’t answer that, either. I decided to come back to him later and moved on. He was nowhere to be found when I quietly slinked back into the spot around noon, even though I ate a sandwich and gave him almost a half-hour to respond.
But on my third visit, at about 4:30 in the afternoon, he fired back a gobble at my second series of yelps. Using scattered cedar trees as a shield, I maneuvered closer and found a second calling location, but realized when he gobbled back to soft cutting on the mouth call that he, too, was on the other side of the Little White, a so-close-and-yet-so-far predicament all turkey hunters know is not easy to overcome. Gobblers, even when they’re alone, are rarely willing to walk through a fence, much less be bothered to sail across a rain-swollen river 30 feet wide.
But what the heck, it was a beautiful afternoon and I needed a break.
I took out an aluminum and a traditional slate and four strikers and played with the tongue pressure on my mouth call, making it sound like there were maybe six different hens waiting to see his plumage. Not once did I respond to any of his gobbles, calling only after time had elapsed, doing my best to sound numerous, sexy and completely disinterested in whether he would be willing to fly over or not.
I took the time to use my clippers to carve a V-shaped sitting station all the way to the base of the cedar, a shaded command post littered with calls, various abrasives and a water bottle. The encounter continued for 45 minutes without a break. I lost track of how many times he’d pierced the afternoon when he took to the air with a magnificent, heavy flapping and landed with a muddy thud on my side of the river. There was an urgency in his gobbles now– three or four volleys despite no sound from me– as he skirted the ribbon of riverside trees and made the turn.
I saw him, a rimlit mirage, oddly white, drifting through a tangle of dormant sumac. I was reminded of one of the frustrating laws of turkey hunting, that even an eager tom seems to avoid coming face-on to a calling hen, appearing to prefer to stay in the open and skirt to the side, making it clear that you are invited to show yourself and join him.
This bird walked up a short rise and strutted back and forth for ten minutes on a plateau above me. I argued with myself about whether to make a move and get around the back of the tree, so that when he came to the near edge of his zone I could see him and shoot. I decided to sit tight and wait for him to present a shot.
Despite the rain-softened green grass, I heard his footsteps come to the ledge directly above me. He stood a moment then gobbled directly at my tree, from maybe 15 yards away. It caught me by surprise, even though I knew it was coming, like a kid who’s standing in the middle of the band when it breaks into John Phillips Sousa at the Fourth of July parade, and I had a feeling he could see me scrunched up against the trunk of the tree, even though I knew that would be almost impossible.
His soft but deliberate steps brought him straight down the short hill until he was standing, feet shuffling, at the outside of my tree, no more than three feet from the side of my face. He must have been peering directly at me, so I closed my right eye because I was afraid he would see into it.
Then he gobbled– with all his might – into my right eye, forcing blood to swell the vessels on the side of my head, and I could see my hat pulse in and out from the force of it. It was just this tom turkey and me, with only a few inches of tree branches separating us. He gobbled again, a long, drawn-out burst that stuttered and stopped in stages, and I felt like turning to look at him but I hung in there and breathed with a trembling lower jaw and a Vulcan death grip on my shotgun, only inches from him but a million miles from being able to shoot.
He drummed, seeming to spit right on me, and I heard him swing forward. In the stillness I could almost feel his tail fan out, and he stayed in strut a long time because I heard him drum three times before things went silent. I figured we’d be eye to eye in seconds, maybe his beak just inches away, maybe too close to shoot, and I wondered about that, too.
I was getting ready to struggle free and shoot him where he just had to be standing, when I heard his heavy wings carry him to his side of the river. And then there was no more music, just a soft gurgling flow and the sunshine on my face as I looked for any sign that this had actually happened. I half-heartedly called to him, but he refused to gobble after he had gone back home.
This is an excerpt from Mark Strand’s new e-book, “Turkey Camp and other turkey hunting stories.” Containing a dozen essays that celebrate why we love the sport, it’s available for just $3.99 directly from www.markstrandoutdoors.com. Also available from Amazon, iTunes (iBookstore), Barnes & Noble Nook store, and Sony Reader store. It’s readable on all dedicated e-Readers, smartphones, and as a pdf file on computers.

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Talkin’ Turkey for a First Time Hunter

By Bob & Ginny Riege
The alarm went off at 4:00 am Wednesday morning and after spending a restless night I was ready to get out of bed and into the turkey woods. Ginny and I had done a great deal of scouting for turkeys in the Wabasha area during the Easter weekend and we knew where there was a large population of toms and hens. In fact, we had a place already chosen for a setup under the large cottonwood tree that bordered the edge of the hayfield. Using our binoculars we counted probably a flock of over 50 birds in the area alone.
Upon arriving at the hunting spot, I picked up my gear and calls and started through the gate onto the hayfield. The moon was in the eastern sky and it was waning to ½ its size, giving me plenty of light to walk along the hayfield. As I walked I would normally periodically stop and cut loose with some calls and I would vary my technique from loud to soft to see if I could locate a tom, but today was different, I already knew where the turkeys were located. As I topped the ridge, I spotted the large cottonwood trees towering over the corner of the hill and I hurried to get at the base of that tree before the first light appeared.
As I sat under the cottonwood, my heart was pounding from the hike and the and anticipation of the opening day, I heard a small songbird break the silence of the woods. Within a few minutes, I heard a turkey gobble on the roost. I then picked up my box call and let go with a few soft tree yelps to let other gobblers know where “this hen” was. I put my decoy in the middle of the hayfield and sat back and started to hear the woods come alive. Then, I started to call. Before I could get out a second yelp, the old tom gobbled back from his roost and I heard him fly down, followed by at least four other gobblers doing the same thing. All five toms appeared off to my right at about 112 yards, but I had hens behind me in the woods calling and I figured sooner or later the toms would strut right in front of me. Well in a perfect world that would happen, trouble is, it was a perfect setup and perfect weather, but the hens decided to go to the toms and all thirty eight hens moved out of the woods and meet up with the toms. After a few minutes in the hayfield they all moved off and over the ridge. For the next few hours I sat below that cottonwood and did not see or hear another turkey.
That evening I waited in the same area for the birds to come back from the fields and to roost in their same spot. The birds did come back, but not where I was sitting. I had decided to move to where the toms had appeared in the morning and of course they came back into the woods within range, of my morning setup.
Later I found out that the distance to the birds was 37 yards and the night before I had patterned the gun at 40 yards. The Turkey Super Full Rem Choke had put plenty of No. 5 pellets from the 3-inch Magnum, 2-ounce copper-platted load into the head and neck area of the patterning target.
My gun of choice is the Remington 12 gauge 11-87 SPS-T Camo. This little stubby gun has a 21-inch barrel topped by two-bead ventilated rib. It also has and extended full choke to make sure that the toms that are out there in the forty yard range receive a maximum amount of the pellets.
The next morning was the same. I sat below the cottonwood tree again. Everything was the same except the toms came out of the woods behind me this time and moved over the ridge taking all the hens with them before I could get them in range. Feeling really frustrated and warm do to the increase of temperature, I decided to move over to the next ridge top and pick up a chair that I had positioned a few days earlier. Ginny was coming down on Friday and I needed another chair for her to sit with me in the woods.
I drove over to the field two ridges over from where I had sat the previous days. I parked the truck and as soon as I opened the door I heard a gobble from the end of the ridge. Every few minutes this tom continued to gobble, so I quickly grabbed my gear and headed to the edge of the woods.
I hurried in the bird's direction. About 150 yards to the ridge top I stopped to listen again for a couple of minutes. A good gobble this time, louder and less subdued than the first. I hurried to another spot on the ridge top and called again, bang, the gobbler jumped all over my call. I had the bird pinpointed as to where I thought he would come to the top of the ridge. I found a prime setup spot a few yards in front of me, put my back against a large red oak, while donning my facemask and gloves.
Before I could get out a second yelp, the old tom gobbled back and I could tell he was moving toward me. He ceased his strut to answer my three yelps and four cuts with the most vociferous gobble yet. Then he stood there, neck outstretched, looking for his "hen." Without hesitation I had him in my sights and I sent a swarm of No.5s on their way to the target. I was done, by 10:30 the second day of the hunt, with a 23 lb. gobbler and a call to Ginny we made plans for day three of the season.
Ginny and I arrived at the base of the cottonwood setup at 5:00 am on Friday. The moon guided us to the setup we were as quiet as we could be, but being together in the same spot might add additional movement, and we could get busted.
Ginny has never hunted turkeys, but she has hunted deer with me for many years and this year she wanted to try and get her very first turkey. Of course she would have to get outfitted in Mossy Oak camouflage, boots, head net and gloves. She could use my turkey gun, and I would go with her to call.
Don't misunderstand me the turkey is quite a game bird. The novice hunter will be up against a 20-pound bird that can run about 15 mph with 3-4 foot strides. Even if the turkey is large it can clear the highest trees within seconds and cruse at 40 mph. It has other remarkable traits such as, super sharp vision, hearing and intelligence. Match these with the speed of flight and evasive running abilities you can understand the challenge of hunting such a formidable game bird.
Therefore, the one constant rule in the turkey woods; is to sit still, especially if a bird is coming to your position. Movement is what alerts turkeys and even spells potential danger.
Well the turkeys must have read the script for the day. Just like the previous days the turkey woods came alive, the gobblers were close and raucous, a hen walked right in front of Ginny’s gun barrel and never knew we were there. We had turkeys behind us, turkeys in front of us and finally a tom presented himself directly in front of Ginny about 40 yards away and she harvested her very first turkey.
Ginny said, “ I would have never known that this many birds were around us in the predawn April morning. I now understand the thrill of the gobble in the deep hardwoods and the bittersweet moment of celebration when you stand over a majestic longbeard.” Now that is Talkin’ Turkey.

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When a Putt needs a Cutt

By Sharon Merriam
Whether you use a shotgun or Archery equipment spring turkey hunting is always a challenge. Add in calling big gobblers while sitting still in camouflage and the challenge takes on new dimensions. I mixed camouflage to see if one provides better concealment over another pattern.
Patience, moving to the perfect spot, calling softly and with help from Alice (the hen decoy) allowed this hunter a chance at a monster gobbler. The 20 gauge load of number 6 shot enveloped the head and neck at just 20 yards while I sat at the base of a tree singing the promise of a false love.
Turkey hunting can mimic the pursuit of deer from a ground blind or take on the look of an ambush when previously located birds are hunted but in either type hunt, camouflage is extremely important. A wrong color or any movement and adult birds quickly realize you are not a clump of brush. The result: they quickly change direction and disappear.
Whether you hunt from a blind or stay on the move, choosing a call you are comfortable with is the magnet that will guide a gobbler’s path into limited shotgun range. Hunters using a bow will find the correct choice of a call even more important.
There are numerous types and brands of calls on the market and you need to find the ones that work with your hunting style. After looking at the offerings of many manufactures to find a match, a reed or diaphragm mouth call requires the least human movement. Since most folks didn’t do well in high school with the clarinet your mom made you try, you need to practice while being careful not to choke. To make the diaphragm comfortable you can trim the outside edges so it will fit the roof of your mouth. This one act can turn a so-so caller into a perfect turkey mimic.
The other calls work by using friction; the slate call or pot calls and box calls are handheld and require movement. The turkey noises are made by literally scratching different materials to make the different calls. They require both hands to work as well as body movement along with a bit of coordination. The down side of friction calls is rain except with glass materials. Learning to use one is like riding a bike the first time, it takes practice. Starting out you will make noise but it will be a matter of time before your scratching doesn’t send a gobbler heading for the hills.
Wet weather and spring hunting go together so prepare for at least some rain. An array of calls is best and will cover all situations, which means your practice time increases each time you add an option. A newer option is the push-pull type call. It is lightweight and the wood body is encased in a tough, waterproof composite box, much like a shotgun stock.
It is easy enough to work and even a tone-deaf turkey caller can operate it quickly. Being lightweight and small enough to carry in a pocket is frosting on the cake. How small is small enough? You can use it with one hand with your shotgun resting in the other so you are ready when things get exciting. The price is pleasantly surprising; it was one of the lower cost calls from Knight and Hale, a company that makes calls for the workingwoman. The result of the discovery was simple I selected the Push and Pull (PNP call) call from Knight and Hale.
No matter what brand and model you select here are the, “If he does this, I must do this” scenarios.
I will begin with a couple of turkey traits you can use to your advantage, when you recognize them in the field. Turkeys are very territorial and have a normal core area where they stay. They do not want to go under a fence but rather will walk along it for a long distance to find an opening. The same with small creeks; an easy jump and a wing beat or two will get them across but instead they follow the creek looking for a dry crossing. I know this sounds like a half crazy bird but when you attend to their likes and dislikes they will end up in gun range.
The following are different scenarios that you might
encounter:

(1) To locate birds use a yelp call; it will carry a long distance.
With the PNP call push hard and fast five to six times quickly. A gobbler will respond giving away his location then work his way to you if he is alone. If with hens you will need to go to him.

(2) You spot three toms coming to your decoy but still 100 yards out.
Make three to four soft yelps on your Ultimate Push Pull call to make sure the gobblers have the location of your decoy. If the birds are coming on a direct line, stop calling. You don’t want to call too much and have the gobbler’s key in on your location instead of the decoy. Should the birds hang up, (stop before getting into range), softly purr on the call. This is easily done by slowly pushing on the rod. It will make the actual purring sound, which usually drives gobblers crazy. If for some reason the gobblers start to walk away, call aggressively to get their attention.

(3) You see a gobbler with several hens.
This is a common and frustrating situation. It’s best to watch the birds from a distance and yelp a couple times every 20-30 minutes. This will let the gobbler know you are in the area, but hesitant to run to your set up. The gobbler will breed any hot hens that morning then they will separate by late morning (10 -11 AM). When you see the hens leave the gobbler, make your move. Make five to six yelps, wait a couple minutes and do it again. Typically the gobbler will come to you in search of a receptive hen. Again, once he is coming your way sit quietly.
When nothing you try works there is nothing that says you can’t be creative. When normal calls don’t work and the birds are not responding, try a long loud whine or even a gobble if you have mastered these calls. The object is to learn what the birds like then give it to them – right before the load of #5 Hevi Shot arrives!

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