Spring turkey hunting season is a wonderful time of the year, although this wary bird is no easy target. Consider they have eyes on the sides of their head, allowing them to see almost completely behind them, and they see color. Then, we must also remember they are a skittish sort. They consider everything a predator and do not stick around to find out whether they are correct or not! So, how in the world does anyone ever tag the elusive wild turkey? Please read on.
Wild turkeys are very vocal. Hens converse amongst themselves as well as to the gobblers. Sounds they make depend upon who they are talking to. In other words, a hen may be yelping and clucking as they are feeding to let all the other turkeys know they are content in their current location. Alternatively, a hen may be letting another hen know she is in control and is serious. She is the boss hen that will do the breeding and you had better not mess with her!
A turkey hunter should have a variety of calls on hand. (Photo by John and Vikki L. Trout)
Other sounds made by hens include submissive talk. Young hens (jennies) are not concerned with breeding; they just do not want to be left alone. They will gently cluck and purr so as to not upset the boss hen and start a fight. Hens get into some nasty fights, just as gobblers do when the breeding is going strong. Moreover, when two hens fight, they really ramp up their vocalization with fighting purrs. With all that said, you can see why no one call will work every time on every bird.
My vest always contains slate, friction, box, and locator calls. When one call does not work, I will try something different. I remember one hunt in particular. My husband John and I knew the exact location of a roosted gobbler. We got to our location long before first light, waiting for sunrise. Daylight came and the bird never said a word. We made the decision to sit down and call. However, when John attempted to sit, his water bottle ended up under his cushion. Needless to say, it made a very strange crunch. The longbeard wasted no time in gobbling to the unusual sound! That’s not to say you want to sit on your water bottle, but it proves you just never know what sound will prompt a gobble!
When a tom is on the ground and accompanied by hens, you have to be able to call in the hen and hope the gobbler tags along. Listen to her talk and follow suit. Just remember, though, if you are dealing with a boss hen, she may turn and leave with her tom if she thinks you are a threat. You want to sound like a sweet jenny and avoid the sounds of a raspy, old hen.
On the flipside, there have been times when a boss hen has heard gentle calling and does not care if that jenny wants company or not. The boss hen just continues on her way and you can join if you like. Sounding like a boss hen that is looking for a fight may be just the call to bring her in — fighting mad.
John includes diaphragms along with other calls in his vest. He can imitate the sound of a raspy old boss hen perfectly by using a diaphragm. Many of the longbeards he has taken came into gun range after hearing the sounds resonating from his mouth. However, that is not to say they always work.
John and I frequently turkey hunt together and have used the double-team tactic to get an obstinate bird to cross that imaginary line. The shooter sits approximately 25 yards in front of the caller. If one call does not budge the turkey, try a different call.
As mentioned previously, turkeys can see very well and they see in color. We already know that gloves and face masks play an important role in hiding the turkey hunter. However, make certain you choose those that are best for you and hunting. There is nothing more frustrating than to have a gobbler almost in range and have something go wrong due to equipment. He won’t be curious — he will run!
I recall one occasion when a beautiful longbeard came into range. When I attempted to flip the safety off my gun, it made a “pop” thanks to the extra heavy gloves I wore. Unfortunately, he was gone before I could squeeze the trigger. I vowed that day to never wear those gloves again. Instead, I learned from my horrible mistake and now wear lightweight Under Armour gloves that make it easy to feel the safety.
So, we now have all our gear and are ready to go. Calls are neatly packed in their places along with strikers and sandpaper. Mask and gloves are in pockets that are easily accessible. All we need to do now is remember to pick up all our stuff when we move from one location to another. However, that is another story.
For a fine selection of Turkey Hunting gear, click here.