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Lessons Learned from Matt Morrett’s Toughest Gobblers

Matt Morrett’s 10 Most-Frequently-Asked Turkey-Hunting Seminar Questions

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Matt Morrett of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, began his outdoor education while accompanying his father to the woods at the age of six. His love of hunting turkeys and deer found him sitting in the cold woods, waiting for rut-swollen November bucks and straining his ears in the spring, hoping to pick up a gobble ringing across the ridges of Pennsylvania. Morrett has perfected turkey calling to a degree that few others have matched. Dedication to fine-tuning his calling techniques has earned Morrett more than 50-turkey-calling championships, including five World Friction Turkey Calling titles, six U.S. Open Turkey Calling victories and the coveted Grand National Champion title. In 1994, Morrett put his calling to the test by taking an eastern bird in Missouri, a Rio Grande in Texas, an Osceola in Florida and a Merriam’s in South Dakota to complete the Grand Slam of all four subspecies of the wild turkey. Morrett travels the country conducting seminars on turkey and deer hunting. Using his knowledge, he helps design and field-test many of the products manufactured by Hunter’s Specialties to aid hunters.

1)  How much do you have to call a turkey?Click to enlarge
Morrett: I always explain to hunters at a seminar that this is a loaded question. It’s much like asking how often do you have to call and talk to your wife or your girlfriend in a day’s time. Each turkey is an individual, and every day he’s on a different emotional level. But here are some general rules that will help you. In my opinion, a turkey is either really interested in breeding or has to be made excited and fired-up. If a turkey’s gobbling back to you every time you call to him, then quit calling. He knows where you are, he’s excited about finding you, and more than likely he’s on his way to you. However, if you call, and the turkey only gobbles back ever now and then, he’s not excited. You’ve got to make him excited by calling more and calling more aggressively. One of the most-important things to remember about how many times to call to a turkey is when the turkey’s gobbling and coming to you, call less, and call softly. The more you call to this kind of turkey, the more likely that the bird will stop 60- to 70-yards away from you and not come in because you’ve told that gobbler you’re an excited hen and ready to breed. When he reaches a place in the woods or a field where he thinks this excited hen can see him, he’ll stop and expect her to come running to him. Here’s a simple answer to this problem: if a turkey’s gobbling and answering aggressively, call less. If a turkey’s not gobbling aggressively, call more.Click to enlarge

2) How close should you get to a turkey before you set-up and start calling to him?
Morrett: Here’s another question that doesn’t have a simple answer. The terrain often dictates how close you can get to a gobbler before you start calling to him. If you’re in open terrain, you’ll have to stay further away from the turkey than if you’re in thick cover. Generally, you need to get as close to the turkey as you can without the turkey’s seeing you. But never try to get any closer than 100 yards to the bird to insure that the turkey can’t spot you.

3) What do you think is the best range for taking a turkey?  
Morrett: I prefer to have my turkey within 20 to 25 yards before I make the shot. Taking a turkey with a shotgun is much like taking a deer with a bow. Although you can shoot accurately at 40 yards, you can shoot more accurately and have a better chance of having a really-good shot on a deer, if the deer is at 25 yards or less. And, the same is true of a turkey. You may be able to take a turkey at 40 yards, however, your chances are much better at putting the bird down more efficiently when the bird is at that 25-yard range.  Of course, you also can have a turkey in too close. I believe that many more turkeys are missed at 10 yards or less than are missed at 35 yards and more. That’s why I prefer to take the shot when the bird’s at 20 to 25 yards.

4) What’s your favorite call to use when calling a turkey?Click to enlarge
Morrett: My favorite call is a mouth diaphragm call, and I prefer a cutter-type call like H.S. Strut’s Ultra Cutter. I’ve learned how to control the volume on this call. I like having the call in my mouth so my hands are free; and I believe I can make this call as realistic as it needs to be. But, I’ve always got at least two other calls, either a slate or glass friction call and a box call like H.S.’s Ol Mama Hen or the Beard Collector, with me. On windy days and rainy days, you can get a little bit more volume out of friction calls than you from diaphragm calls.

5) What’s your favorite time of the year to call turkeys - the beginning, the middle or the end of the season?
Morrett: I prefer to hunt that first week of the season, not the first day of the season, but the second or third day. I also like to hunt at the very end of the season because then the gobbler won’t have any hens with him, and he’s easier to call. If I can pick the best time to hunt turkeys in any state, I’ll always pick the first week and the last week of the season.

6) What’s your favorite time of the day to hunt turkeys?
Morrett: Like everyone else, I like to hunt turkeys the first thing in the morning when they fly down off the roost. But, I’ve found my most-productive time generally is from 8:00 am to 11:00 am I like to hunt later in the morning, because when a turkey comes off the roost, he usually flies down and gets with his hens. But by 8:00 or 9:00 am he’s usually lost those hens, is looking for companionship and is easier to call.

7) How important do you think calling is to being a successful turkey hunter?
Morrett: For years, I’ve said that I don’t think turkey calling is nearly as critical as woodsmanship for taking turkeys. However, in recent years, my opinion’s changed. I believe the more accurately a turkey hunter can call, and the better that hunter can sound like a hen turkey, the more gobblers he’ll bring into gun range. So, the more time you can spend finding the turkey call and the rhythm that fits you best, then the better you can blow that call with the correct rhythm to sound like a wild turkey, and the more turkeys you’ll call.

8)  How do you solve the problem of a gobbler that hangs-up and doesn’t come within gun range?
Morrett: The first thing I do when a turkey stops at 60 to 70 yards from me and refuses to come any closer is to try to determine what has made that turkey stop coming. I’ll begin to look to see if there’s a creek, a road, a fence or a brushpile that the turkey doesn’t want to cross that’s between us. Next, I’ll try and determine if the turkey has hens with him, and whether those hens want to come any closer. If the tom’s got hens with him, and I can get him to gobble to me, then I’m pretty confident that he’ll move within gun range soon. If the gobbler won’t gobble back to my calling, but the hens will, I’ll continue to call the hens,  knowing that if the hens come to me, the gobbler will follow. If the tom’s gobbling with every breath but still won’t come to me, then I know there’s some type of terrain break that I can’t see that’s keeping that bird from coming to me. So, I’ll shut up, let the turkey walk off and try and circle around the bird and get on the other side of him. Then hopefully he can easily walk to me. As long as the turkey doesn’t spot you when you circle around to the opposite side of him, you’ll have a really-good chance of bagging him.

9) How do you start a conversation with a gobbler, after you’ve located the bird by owl-hooting or crow-calling?
Morrett: I generally never make a hen sound until I hear a crow call. I’ve noticed that in the morning, the first birds to wake up are the songbirds. Then, the crows begin to call, and next you’ll start hearing hens cluck and yelp. If a tom’s on the roost, I won’t talk to him very much. I may give him a few soft clucks and yelps as though I’m a hen calling from a tree, but I won’t continue to talk to him. Just before fly-down time, I’ll start some cutting and yelping to sound very aggressive and excited. Then, I’ll quit calling and let the gobbler come looking for me.

10) Do you use decoys, and do they work?
Morrett: Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.  I’ve learned that the terrain dictates when and where to use decoys. If you set up a decoy so that a gobbler can see it from 200-yards away, then most of the time when the turkey spots the decoy, he’ll quit coming and start attempting to call the hen to him. Remember in the natural order of the world, the hen goes to the gobbler; the gobbler doesn’t go to the hen. So, when a gobbler sees a decoy from a distance, he expects to call to that decoy and then have that decoy come to him. I only like to use a decoy when I know that the gobbler will almost be in range when he spots the decoy. If a gobbler is just over a hill from me, and I know when he gets to the top of the hill, he’ll see that decoy, maybe 50 yards from him, then many times that decoy will bring him in to where I’m waiting. I want the turkey almost close enough to shoot when he spots the decoy. I’ve also learned that once a turkey sees your decoy, you need to quit calling. Let that turkey come in naturally to the decoy without your calling any more. 

Today's Video Tip from Eddie Salter

Check back each day this week for more about "Lessons Learned from Matt Morrett’s Toughest Gobblers"

Day 1: Blake Shelton’s Turkey with Matt Morrett
Day 2: What Matt Morrett Learned from Blake Shelton’s PhD Gobbler
Day 3: Matt Morrett’s Piketown Turkey
Day 4: Matt Morrett and the PhD Gobbler Named Bubba
Day 5: Matt Morrett’s 10 Most-Frequently-Asked Turkey-Hunting Seminar Questions


Entry 554, Day 5