John's Journal...

Winning with the Wind When You Hunt Turkeys in Oklahoma with Phillip Vanderpool

Turkey Hunting Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: On my recent hunt at Rut-n-Strut near Sayre, Oklahoma, with outfitter Todd Rogers and Hunter’s Specialties’ pro Phillip Vanderpool of Harrison, Arkansas, the wind was blowing hard, knocking over trees and ripping shingles off roofs. The strength and the power of the wind almost destroyed my dreams of taking two Rio Grande gobblers, until Rogers explained that, “Because these turkeys have lived in the wind their entire lives, they’ve learned how to deal with it. And, so can you.”

On the last day of the turkey hunt, Phillip Vanderpool, Layne Simpson, a writer for “Shooting Times,” and I were following Todd Rogers to find another place to take a gobbler, since we could take a limit of two gobblers in one day. As we were driving into the place where Todd wanted us to hunt, we spotted four longbeards and about 20 hens and jakes out in the field. When the turkeys saw the truck, they walked off theside of the hill down into some cottonwoods in the bottoms. Apparently some roost trees were down there, but the bottom was also out of the wind. We continued with Todd to glass this region with our Bushnell optics where he wanted us to hunt. However, we only saw two jakes off in the distance. So, we decided to return to the cow pasture where we’d seen the four longbeards and see if we could sneak in, take a stand and call these turkeys back out into the field to take a shot. As we came to the place where we’d seen the gobblers and the hens, Todd spotted two hens coming out of the woods at the bottom of the hill. We drove past the hens and got to the side of the hill, pulledClick to enlarge the truck down into a washout and started moving across the field - out of sight of the gobblers and the hens - to try to get close enough to call to the gobblers. As we got close to the side of the hill where we wanted to move down to the bottom, we discovered a deep ditch about 20-yards deep and 30-yards wide. But the ditch dropped-off from the broomsage field. We debated whether to go down into the ditch, sneak to the edge of the hardwoods and call the gobblers or, go down into the ditch, cross the ditch, climb-up the other bank and set-up on the edge of the ditch, hoping to call the gobblers to us, or, sit down where we hoped to call the turkeys up to the edge of the ditch. Layne used his Bushnell range finder to determine the range from where we were across the ditch. The bushes were 10 yards from the lip of the ditch and 40 yards from where we sat. “If we call the turkeys to the edge of the ditch, we’ve got a 30- to a 40-yard shot, if the turkeys come between the bush and the lip of the ditch,” Layne said.

While we were deciding where to set-up, a gobbler’s head came up out of the bottom right under a big cottonwood tree. I whispered to Phillip, “Don’t move. I see aClick to enlarge gobbler.” I was about 4-feet down in the ditch squatted on its side, and Layne was about 2-feet up the ditch from Phillip. When the turkey looked away, I sat down in the sage, got my knee up to rest my shotgun on it and stared at the gobbler. The gobbler turned to walk back down into the bottom when I whispered to Phillip, “Yelp to him.” Phillip pulled his Hunter’s Specialties ‘Ol Mama Hen box callout of his turkey vest and started to yelp to the gobbler. Phillip couldn’t see the turkey I saw because I was below the lip of the hill. I told Phillip there were four of them, and when I peeped over the lip of the hill, the turkeys were fighting. After I saw the first gobbler step up under the cottonwood tree, three more gobblers came out of the bottom. Two of them started strutting under a low-hanging limb on the cottonwood tree. The turkeys strutted for about 2 or 3 minutes, and I stopped calling. But the turkeys broke out of their struts and headed back down the hill and into the cottonwoods.

I told Phillip, “Give some more calling.”  He cranked up his ‘Ol Mama Hen box call and began to talk to the toms. The turkeys turned abruptly and began coming toward us before Phillip stopped calling. The turkeys came about 30 yards and began to cock their heads listening for the hens, but they wouldn’t come any closer. I encouraged Phillip to call again, and this time, he called softer. All four gobblers came straight toward the edge of the ditch. They were coming four abreast when I whispered to Layne, “Take the gobbler on the left, and I’ll take the one on the right.” We waited for the gobblers to separate from each other because they were almost shoulder-to-shoulder. Layne shot first. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the turkey he’d shot at go up into the air. I was concentrated on the gobbler I’d be shooting, so I didn’t see what happened to Layne’s turkey. The turkey I was watching got nervous and stuck his neck straight up, just as I squeezed the trigger on my Benelli Vinci. The Federal Ammunition heClick to enlargeavyweight turkey shot flattened the turkey. When I saw my bird go down, I spotted another gobbler close to the one I’d taken. “Shoot that other gobbler,” I told Layne. “I can’t because I’ve already shot my turkey.” I thought Simpson had missed his turkey, so I encouraged him to shoot the other bird. But as we crossed the ditch, Phillip went straight to my turkey, and Layne went to the spot where he’d shot his gobbler. Layne’s bird apparently had done a flip in the air, hit off the side of the hill and fallen into a ditch. Layne went down in the ditch, found his gobbler and came out with his trophy.

“Boys, turkey hunting doesn’t get any better than doubling-down on gobblers and taking three turkeys in one day,” Phillip said. When we returned to the car, I asked Layne how those No. 7 Federal heavyweight shots put those turkeys down so hard and fast. “These new heavyweight shells from Federal are a totally-different turkey load,” Layne answered. “As far as density and weight, the new heavyweight shells have the same knockdown power as a No. 4 lead shot. With these new No. 7s from Federal, you have two or three times more shot in the shell than you have with No. 4s, yet you have the same knockdown power as the No. 4 lead shot. The combination of this new and improved shot with the bore diameter from Federal and the choke in the Benelli Vinci is the perfect way to give the turkey hunter extended range and more knockdown power with less recoil than most 3-inch magnums produce.” 

To learn more about the new Benelli Vinci, visit To find out more about Federal Ammunition’s heavyweight turkey shotgun shells, check out To hunt with Todd Rogers at Rut-n-Strut Guide Service, go to, email him at, or call 580-799-1920.  For more information about Hunter’s Specialties’ top-quality turkey hunting products, visit
To learn more about Bushnell’s fine optics, check out

Tomorrow: Many Lessons Learned

Check back each day this week for more about "Winning with the Wind When You Hunt Turkeys in Oklahoma with Phillip Vanderpool"

Day 1: Learning the Birds
Day 2: The One That Didn’t Get Away
Day 3: Hiding and Shooting
Day 4: Turkey Hunting Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This
Day 5: Many Lessons Learned


Entry 507, Day 4