John's Journal...

How to Hunt Beat-Up Gobblers

Day 5: Hung-Up Turkeys with Larry Norton

Editor’s Note: In the movie “A River Runs Through It,” we see that time passes, people are born, live and die, but the river runs through all their lives, and the fishing remains the same. The same enduring qualities that this movie portrays also are true about turkey hunting. The truth and wisdom about turkey hunting lives on long after the writers and the great turkey hunters have gone to the eternal roost tree in the sky. If you can find a mentor to teach you the wisdom of turkey hunting, that knowledge can endure for future generations to learn and enjoy. I’ve been extremely fortunate throughout 40 years of being an outdoor writer to have hunted with some of the greatest turkey hunters of their day. This week you’ll read some of the turkey-hunting wisdom of the ages from the hunters who are on the cutting edge of the great wild turkey’s reintroduction throughout the country. These men have lived in the glory days when turkey hunting was tough, and the people who hunted them were just as tough. The knowledge they’ve acquired has come from the hundreds of turkeys that each of them has hunted and guided hunters to in the springtime.

Click for larger ViewI consider World-Champion Turkey Caller Larry Norton of Butler, Alabama, as one of my favorite hunting buddies. I've hunted with Norton on more than a few occasions when we’ve to hunt gobblers that everyone else in the woods already has beaten. These bright birds will come-in close enough to let you look at them, but not close enough to allow you to shoot them. So, I've asked Norton to share his wisdom on how to take a hung-up gobbler. "You'll have a hard time calling a bird that hangs-up and struts and drums 50- to 60-yards from you but won't come in to you," Norton reports. "Often, hunters don't realize turkeys make more sounds than gobbling, yelping, cutting, cackling and purring. When the box call, the slate call or the diaphragm call don’t work to bring a tom to within gun range, I resort to using what I call turkey sounds."

Click for Larger ViewNorton will scratch in the leaves like a hen, keeping in mind that hen turkeys have a definite cadence to their scratching. They scratch two times, pause and then scratch one more time. Often, this sound will bring a turkey in, because he's already heard the hen call. However, if he doesn't hear her scratching or moving in the leaves, he'll get suspicious and often will hang-up.
"I also give a drumming sound like another gobbler with my natural voice," Norton says. “When scratching in the leaves won't pull a tom in, the drumming sound will. If neither of those techniques work, I'll let the turkey walk-off and move to another spot to try and call him again. Oftentimes, a turkey hangs-up, because he's gotten shot-at or attacked by a predator in the place to which you’re trying to call him. When you change locations, you can call him to a site where he feels more at ease. I change calls when I attempt to call a gobbler from a second calling spot."

Click for Larger ViewSometimes you'll have to change locations two or three times to find an area where a turkey will come to you.

Almost any turkey hunter can walk into the woods, hear a turkey gobble, sit down next to a tree, make a few calls, and get the turkey to come in to him at certain times of the season. To become a master turkey hunter, you must test these tough-tom strategies against some of the smartest birds in the woods. These hunters have learned tactics that can save you years of trial and error hunting. Some bad birds exist that no turkey hunter ever will take, but sometimes the tactics I’ve explained will pay off in the form of a turkey dinner when all else has failed.

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Hunt Beat-Up Gobblers "

Day 1: The Late Ben Rodgers Lee on How to Take Overhunted Turkeys
Day 2: Why Ben Rodgers Lee Thought You Should Nap on Gobblers
Day 3: Drive 'Em Nuts Gobblers with the Late Ben Rodgers Lee
Day 4: Hunting High Noon Gobblers and Beat Up Toms with the Late Ben Rodgers Lee
Day 5: Hung-Up Turkeys with Larry Norton

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Entry 612, Day 5