John's Journal...

Let’s Get Started Hunting Turkeys

Day 4: Where Does Turkey Hunting Patience Begin and End with the Late Charles Elliott

Editor’s Note: Charles Elliott, of Covington, Georgia, was one of the deans of outdoor journalism before his passing. A retired field editor of “Outdoor Life” magazine and the author of numerous outdoors books, including “Turkey Hunting with Charlie Elliott,” he also served as director of Georgia’s state parks and of the Georgia Game & Fish Commission.

Click for Larger ViewOne common trait of people today is impatience – the urge to force every issue and to get the goal behind us so we can rush to something else. Impatience may serve well enough when we strive toward a modest goal such as winning a governorship or becoming the president of General Motors. But when our goal is something really important, such as bagging a big ole tom, impatience heads the list of countless things that can spoil our chances.

The late turkey-hunting guide Doug Camp told me why impatience didn’t work when hunting. “No matter how interested an old gobbler may seem, there’s no way to rush him. A jake is more likely to go along with you, but most turkeys, especially the cagey old gobblers, just won’t come in till they’re good and ready. Like most guides, I’m anxious to have my hunter succeed, and I’m guilty of trying to hurry the turkey. I lose many old gobblers by not waiting them out.” In turkey hunting, patience is vital. Of course it’s not the only thing you need in your bag of tricks. You also must have a sharp eye and ear, know how to hide yourself in the woods and be able to call well enough, so a turkey won’t peg you as a jaybird with a sore throat. But none of these means anything unless you also have the mental stamina to anchor yourself and wait, until all conditions are right. True, patience can be carried too far. You don’t want to imitate the diligent bird dog in an old story, who disappeared one day on a hunting trip. Not until 2-years later did the dog’s owner find his skeleton still on point, with the skeletons of 10 quail just beyond his nose.

Click for Larger ViewKnowing where patience begins and ends is a matter of common sense. You won’t sit in a blind all night, for instance, when you know that turkeys fly up to roost a little before dark. And, you won’t hunt in the middle of a logging operation, with saws, tractors, and shouting all around you. On the other hand, I’ve sat for half a day in a severe thunderstorm, because I’ve just known an ole gobbler was in the vicinity. I’d talked with him earlier. And perseverance paid off. When I brought my prize in, he was almost as drenched and bedraggled as I was.

In my opinion patience comes in many sizes, from the 10-minute variety to the infinite. I’ve been the woods with fellows who have been nervous and fidgety almost from the moment they’ve sat down. They’ve squirmed and wiggled as though they’d plopped ourselves on an ant hill. They wanted to smoke. They wanted to talk. If we’d remained immobile and silent as long as we should have, I would have needed strait jackets to get them out of the woods. I admit that parking your carcass for long periods is not easy, even though you heard gobbling at dawn, found abundant food and fresh scratchings, and all the other conditions are right. You sit and sit, and don’t hear or see anything except the normal life of the forest, which can get mighty boring. But you know the turkeys are there. The turkey conversation you are carrying on may be a monologue only, but many times a gobbler or hen in the vicinity will investigate out of sheer curiosity. Suddenly you may look up and see a turkey standing there.

Click for Larger ViewI know several hunters who build permanent blinds in stretches of woods that turkeys frequent. These hunters park themselves comfortably in their blinds before daylight and then remain there all day, calling at intervals. They get up and move only to go to a gobble. This is not my idea of the most exciting way to hunt, but it often pays off in roast turkey on the table. An acquaintance only a few years into gobbler chasing once confided that he’d killed half his turkeys by getting himself situated in a blind, calling every 10 or 15 minutes for an hour or so and then going to sleep. When he woke up, a gobbler would be standing there, looking him over. “You’ve bagged half of your gobblers by doing that?” I asked. “How many have you killed since you’ve been hunting?” “Two,” he admitted.

Click for Larger ViewI’m sure that’s a pretty good average for this method. Still there’s more than a grain of effectiveness in it, thanks to the survival instincts that we’ve inherited from the cave man. When I know I’m in good territory and have no special reason to change locations, I often lean back against a tree and go to sleep. Though most of me may hang on the border of the netherworld, remnants of the cave man’s brain still function. I’m conscious of every sound in the forest around me. A pine cone falling, the snap of a stick, footsteps – any of these noises will bring me alert. The inquiring cluck or putt of a turkey will blast into my awareness. Those same survival instincts keep me from moving until I indentify the sound that has awakened me. I’ve killed several gobblers in just this way. Had I been awake, straining every sense or feeling restless, chances are I never would have remained so long in one spot. Sleeping is a great way to remain patient.

To get these Kindle ebooks by John E. Phillips, including: “The Turkey Hunter's Bible, click here; “PhD Gobblers; click here; and “Turkey Hunting Tactics, click here, or go to, type in the names of the books, and download them to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

Check back at this website after March 10th for John E. Phillips’ latest Kindle ebook, “Outdoor Life’s Complete Turkey Hunting” and a reprint of his popular, sold-out book, “The Turkey Hunter’s Bible” 2nd edition.

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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: How Charles Elliott Learned the Patience to Take Tough Turkeys

Check back each day this week for more about Let’s Get Started Hunting Turkeys"

Day 1: Develop Your Hunting Skills by Knowing Turkeys with Lovett Williams
Day 2: Learning to Read Turkey Sign with Lovett Williams
Day 3: Learn to How to Call and Shoot Turkeys with Lovett Williams
Day 4: Where Does Turkey Hunting Patience Begin and End with the Late Charles Elliott
Day 5: How Charles Elliott Learned the Patience to Take Tough Turkeys

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Entry 759, Day 4