Good Advice? Ignore It!

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

he called the same bird and killed it.

Once bitten, twice shy does not apply to turkeys.

So, I'm convinced that of all the turkey hunting advice I've heard for 30 years, three bits are genuine, the rest are questionable at best. Primary is to be motionless. Secondary is to call sparingly unless (remember Leroy) you have nothing to lose. It's great to learn putts and clucks and purrs, but a yelp will do the trick more often then not.

The third piece of advice might be the most valuable of all: Stick with it. Turkeys live in turkey habitat 24 hours a day, not just at sunrise. Every hunter knows that you can call to a gobbler with hens early and it probably won't respond, but it might come looking later in the morning. Just because birds are silent doesn't mean there are no more turkeys.

Once I called a gobbler into our woods before the season and killed it on opening day. I heard the bird gobbling in late afternoon nearly a mile away, across a huge pasture. I called at the fence and the bird answered. We talked for several minutes, then I went home for two days.

On opening day the gobbler was sounding off in our woods and I was waiting almost right under his roost tree. He seemed glad finally to find the elusive hen he'd been looking for the past two days. So glad that he pitched down, gobbled a few times, and appeared within 15 yards of my gun muzzle.

Hunters don't stay with the game long enough. Many have to go to work or they get tired or hungry or hot and give up at 9 a.m. or so. The Missouri half-day season is a blessing for hunters by providing an excuse to go home and take a nap, fish for spawning bluegills or hunt for morels.

It's also a blessing for gobblers that avoid becoming an entree because the hunters have gone home to take a nap just when the activity picks up. Mid-morning is when turkeys move out of the woods into the fields to feed and often to mate.

I confess to getting tailbone-weary and bored when nothing happens. I always have too many clothes by the time the spring sun is hanging high. I get restless and move several times, setting up in good hides where I can call. Yet, I know as I'm doing it that I don't stay long enough for turkeys to respond, that I'm on the move again far too soon. I'm a classic case of "Don't do as I do, do as I say."

If you're in a turkey woods where you heard gobblers at first light, believe that those birds are within calling range at 10 a.m. Rather than looking for them, stay put, stay alert, stay motionless and keep calling periodically.

I use flexible decoys which collapse and fold into my hunting vest. I put out a jake and a hen decoy. They pivot on a sharp stake driven into the ground and a good breeze gives them a lifelike swing.

On one hunt I set the decoys in an open field and picked a nice hide at the edge. I heard several gobblers early, but nothing appeared. So, I did what all turkeys hunters do when hunting is slow. I fell asleep. It was the best thing I could have done. I was motionless. When I blearily opened my eyes, there was one more decoy than there should have been.

I counted them off and realized the one on the right was a nice gobbler that had been there long enough to knock one decoy on its side as he tried to mount it. He had a puzzled look on his face as if he'd just taken a bite of wax fruit. It was as close to thought as a turkey gets.

As the gobbler stood sideways to me at 15 yards, each of us trying to get his wits together, I picked up my gun and killed him.

It worked because I ignored a lifetime of good advice and did it right.

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