Good Advice? Ignore It!

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

Ever since my first turkey season 30 years ago, I've been listening to advice on how to hunt gobblers. Most of it has been worth just about what I paid for it.

One of those freebie nuggets was, "Don't ever yelp more than three times. That's the mating call. And if you mess up, you can kiss your turkey goodbye."

So I was tighter than a banjo's fifth string, afraid to call for fear I'd make a mistake. Then I started hearing real hens, some of which sounded like barn cats with their toes caught in a feed auger.

'Three times?" asked Nolan Hutcheson, an old-time Missouri turkey hunter from Houston who's killed more birds than most people even see. "You listen to hens. They call seven, eight times. There's no pattern."

To prove his point, Hutcheson scraped away at a lipped box call seven, eight, even 10 times. He did it every minute or so, and he called in the first gobbler I ever shot.

The best turkey hunter I know, Leroy Braungardt of Moscow Mills, may not remember this advice, but the first time I went with him, he actually timed his calling. He placed a watch beside him in the leaves and checked it so he would time his pattern just right.

Last time I went with him he called when it felt right. Both times gobblers came in as if he were the Playhen of the Month.

Further, Leroy devised a combination of calls that defies both logic and description, but it works. I was photographing three gobblers he'd called in using conventional techniques.

The birds spotted my camera and heard the click of the shutter. Alarmed, they began to trot away. They could see me and they could see the camera. A mature gobbler is wary enough when something he can't see bothers him, let alone a danger he can see.

Every hunter knows the sight of a spooked turkey and the certainty that you won't see the old boy again that day. Defying conventional wisdom, Leroy began a frantic, non-stop series of yelps, cackles and clucks. I don't know when he found time to breathe. To my amazement, the gobblers dutifully turned around and milled in ardent confusion well within camera and gun range.

He kept them chained to that incessant call until I ran out of film. Two of the three were gobblers with

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