Brain Versus Bird

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Published on: Apr. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 2, 2010

How do you hunt wild turkeys in the spring? Far too many of us wander around in the woods using some kind of turkey call at intervals in the blind hope the gobbler of our dreams is going to present itself. As the majority of turkey hunters eventually find out, this annual triumph of hope over experience usually doesn't pan out.

Jerry Griffen of Ashland is an accomplished turkey hunter with a wealth of outdoor hobbies. Whether he is building a muzzle-loading rifle, tying diminutive trout flies, serving as president of a Trout Unlimited chapter that saves Missouri streams or shooting game birds over one of his hunting dogs, Griffen-a surgical nurse by trade-is a craftsman. When it comes to outwitting gobblers, he uses a hunter's most precious tool-his brain.

All those trees in the forest may look alike to many of us, but a trophy tom knows his woods like a street kid knows every crack in the neighborhood sidewalk. Like a good gumshoe, Griffen also finds the cracks, as well as the alleys, street corners and neighborhood bars. It's the bird's routine he's after.

"I like to scout the woods the two weekends before the spring season begins," Griffen says. "I want to know where the birds are roosting and where they go after they hit the ground." He says it is always easier to call a springtime turkey gobbler to you if you know where he is going ahead of time and can put yourself out in front of him.

He suggests looking for several roosts when scouting. A gobbler on one roost may have a troop of hens with him on opening morning and not respond to your calls. If you know where a second roost is, birds at that location may be more cooperative and find your calls alluring.

"Listen for gobbling in the morning when scouting," he says. "After you locate a roost and the birds have flown down, go in later in the day, when they are far away, and find the trees they were in. Look for droppings underneath the trees, and look for feathers."

He says that by knowing the location of roosts, even if the birds do not gobble in the morning, you still know there are birds in the area. "You can do a little blind calling and you may get a gobbler to come in. He will come quietly... but he may come in."

He warns

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