John's Journal...

Turkey Hunting in the West with Wayne Carlton

:More of Wayne Carlton’s Most-Frequently-Asked Turkey-Hunting Seminar Questions

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: What many people don’t know about Wayne Carlton of Montrose, Colorado, is that for most of his life outdoorsmen knew him more for his turkey calling and hunting skills rather than hunting elk. Before Carlton moved to the West and started working for Hunters’ Specialties, he had his own line of calls and was known across the East as a very-good turkey hunter and turkey caller. For more than 20 years, Carlton also taught a turkey-hunting school at Vermejo Park Ranch, a 600,000-acre ranch owned by Ted Turner, just west of Raton, New Mexico. Wayne frequently does turkey hunting seminars in the West and still loves to call, hunt and teach turkey hunting.

1) What kind of gun and shot do you use?
Carlton: I like Federal No. 4 and No. 5 copper-coated shells in a 3-inch Magnum with either a full choke or an extra choke. I also suggest that newcomers to the sport take low-brass No. 7 1/2 or No. 8 shot, go out into the woods and shoot turkey-head targets. I’m convinced that new turkey Click to enlargehunters need to begin aiming down their barrels instead of looking down their riflescopes. I want them to also become comfortable shooting their shotguns on their knees with their fannies on the ground because in no other sport do they shoot like this. So, I suggest that they shoot the low-brass shells to not have to be concerned with the recoil, while they’re learning the proper position and aiming technique. Once a turkey hunter has shot about 20 shots from this position, then I suggest he or she move to using high velocity, high-brass shells and shoot No. 4s, No. 5s and No. 6s at turkey-head targets to see which shot patterns best with his gun. Then once the new hunter has his shooting form correct, he needs to let his gun tell him which shell to shoot. Next, I’ll put a milk jug out in front of the novice hunter and tell him I want him to anticipate having shot and missed a turkey and then shoot at that milk jug three times. I’ll ask him to repeat this drill several times. Then if he actually misses a turkey the first time, he’ll be accustomed to getting off a second shot quickly. With my daughter, I had her do this drill three or four times with low-brass shells. She told me later that by going through the milk-jug drill she overcame her concerns about shooting rapidly and being able to hit what she was aiming at. She also said that after the drill, she knew if she shot a turkey and didn’t put him down with the first shot, she could immediately get back on him with her second shot and finish him off.

2) How do you sit in the woods when you’re hunting turkeys?
Carlton: I try to sit with a tree or a rock at my back to break-up my silhouette. I like to lean-back when I shoot, but I also want to be sitting-up off the ground to better see. If the ground’s wet, then my fanny doesn’t get wet. I like the Hunter’s Specialties’ Deluxe Collapsible Two-Way Strut Seat that’s designed for turkey hunters. I can unfold the legs, set the bench up near a tree or a rock and call turkeys. You also want to learn to point your shoulder and not your chest at a turkey when he approaches.

3) How do you dress for turkey hunting?Click to enlarge
Carlton: Don’t forget that western hunters are accustomed to hunting in blue jeans and work shirts. Camouflage is a relatively-new idea to western hunters, and headnets, gloves and camo boots are the newest form of camouflage. Hunters in the West may often buy camo shirts and camo pants, put on their cowboy hats and go hunting. So, I usually explain to my clients that they have to have their hands, face, gun and boots camouflaged. One of the biggest problems that western hunters have, especially western hunters with white hair, is that white hair can spook a turkey. I advise the hunters in my seminars to wear either half-headnets that can be pulled up around the backs of their baseball caps and hide their hair or full headnets that cover their entire heads. Remember that turkeys can see further out West than they can in the East. Another reason that total camo is the best way to go when you hunt turkeys in the West is because hunters can see from a long way in open terrain. So, a white hand or a tuft of white hair sticking up out of a ball cap may resemble a turkey’s head.  When I call turkeys, I have my back up against a tree or a rock. I’ll have my calls lying out so that I can easily reach them with my right hand. I’ll be using a blind so that the turkeys won’t see me move.

4) Do you use decoys?
Carlton: Yes, I do, with a great deal of success. However, if you scare a turkey with a decoy, you’re much more likely to run the bird off than you are to call him to where you’re setup. One of the reasons that a decoy works so well in the West is because a turkey can see that decoy from a long way. I’ve found that if a turkey comes over a little rise and suddenly sees the decoys, they may spook the tom. I’ve found also the more decoys you use, the more effective your set up is. You can be a bad caller but set-up right and use enough decoys and still a turkey may come in, because the turkeys haven’t been called to as much out in the West as they have in the East. These western turkeys haven’t seen as many decoys out here as the turkeys in the East have. Be sure to check your local hunClick to enlargeting regulations.
5) Where do you hunt at different times of the day?
Carlton: In the mornings, instead of going just to the roost, I try and decide where the turkey wants to go when he leaves the roost, and then I move to where he wants to travel. I’ve found that turkeys in the West historically move more and travel more than turkeys in the East. If you’re not between where the turkey is roosting, and where he wants to go, then more than likely you won’t call him. Especially in the morning when that turkey wakes up on the limb, he generally has a particular spot where he wants to go. He’ll be pretty set on going there. If you’re not on the route he normally takes, more than likely you won’t call him to you. In the middle of the day, I’ll take a nap in the woods and then wake up and start calling. Often a turkey will appear. Middle-of-the-day hunting in the West can be very effective if you’re where the turkey wants to be.

6) If I don’t get my turkey in the morning, how will I take a turkey in the afternoon?
Carlton: Go to where the turkeys will be roosting, and then sit down within 100 to 200 yards of the roost tree. You’ll hear the turkeys coming in at fly-up time because you know the turkeys will return to the same roost where they’ve roosted the previous night. The next morning get close to the turkeys on the roost, set up, and start calling. More than likely, you’ll take a turkey there.

Today's Video Clip

Eddie Salter - What's the Best Time to Hunt Turkeys?

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Check back each day this week for more about "Turkey Hunting in the West with Wayne Carlton"

Day 1: The Western Middle-of-the-Day Gobbler with Wayne Carlton
Day 2: The Wet Oregon Gobbler with Wayne Carlton
Day 3: The Mariah Gobbler with Wayne Carlton
Day 4: Some of Wayne Carlton’s 10-Most-Frequently-Asked Turkey-Hunting Seminar Questions
Day 5: More of Wayne Carlton’s Most-Frequently-Asked Turkey-Hunting Seminar Questions


Entry 556, Day 5