John's Journal...

Some of Turkey Hunting's Toughest Questions Answered

The Toughest Turkey I’ve Ever Faced and What I’ve Learned

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Because these top turkey hunters and callers hunt so much in so-many different states and encounter plenty of tough turkeys, they have some dynamic strategies for besting the baddest birds in the land. Let's look at a few.

Preston Pittman:
"I was hunting in my home state of Mississippi on a state wildlife-management area, and the turkeys on this land had really been pressured. I found an old gobbler that was roosting on an island in a swamp between two hills. This turkey stayed there all day long. No one could get to the turkey, except to wade waist-deep water. So everyone had left this bird alone. But at the end of the season, he was the only bird I could find that would gobble. Early one morning, I waded 70 yards through that water to the island and started calling to the turkey. The gobbler came to me, but he didn't walk on the ground. He flew from treetop to treetop until he was within 20 yards of me. The bird still didn't fly down after an hour of my waiting, calling and scratching in the leaves. Then I saw him fly back in the direction from where he'd come.

"That night I stayed awake for several hours trying to figure out how to call that turkey. Then I realized that although I was calling the gobbler to me, instead of walking on the ground coming to a hen, this old bird had learned to fly from tree to tree to where he'd heard a hen calling. If he didn't see a hen, he wouldn't fly down. The next morning I waded the swamp again and called to the gobbler. I listened as the turkey flew from tree to tree to get to where I was calling. When the old longbeard Click to enlargefinally landed in a tree 30 yards from me, I shot him out of the tree. Now, before you accuse me of being unsportsmanlike, let's look at the facts. I called the gobbler to me, but I knew the gobbler wasn't going to come to the ground. Because I called the gobbler to me, even though he came to me by hopping tree to tree instead of walking on the ground, I felt I had the right to take him. Tough turkeys require tough tactics."

Steve Stoltz:
"I'm convinced that Alabama has some of the toughest swamp turkeys in the nation. One season I hunted for three days and was unable to bag a bird. On the last day of the hunt, just before I had to quit to catch a flight to another state, I thought I heard a turkey gobble at the edge of a clearing.  I yelped to the bird and heard him gobble back. I knew I probably didn't have time to go to the gobbler and not miss my flight. But because the turkey had answered my call, I decided to chance missing my flight. For 10 or 15 minutes, I cut, cackled and gave excited hen yells. I smoked the woods with my diaphragm call. Then I hushed. I didn't give another call for a full 30 minutes by my watch. I finally took my box call and gave a few soft yelps. When the turkey gobbled 75 yards from me, I expected him to come strutting in to where I was. But the bird took 1-1/2-hours to come that last 75 yards. When the bird was at 60-yards away, I could see the bird take one step, stop, look, study the terrain, listen and then take another step. That was the slowest-moving turkey I'd ever seen in my life. But finally my patience was rewarded. Many times when you have a turkey off in the distance that answers your call, you may bring in a smart, older gobbler if you'll give a lot of excited hen calls, be silent for 30 for 45 minutes and then change calls."

Larry Norton:Click to enlarge
"The toughest turkey I ever had to hunt was the Samson Gobbler. He got his name because he lived on a dirt road that was named the Samson Road. This turkey had been hunted for at least four years.  He'd also been shot several times and was so call-shy that he even would run from a real hen if she called. He was such a dominant gobbler that he had all the other turkeys shut down so that they wouldn't gobble. I took a friend with me to hunt the turkey. I told my friend we wouldn't call this turkey, we'd just scratch in the leaves. The bird stayed in the tree until 8:00 am. Every time I'd scratch in the leaves, the turkey would gobble. My buddy said, 'Larry, just give him a real soft tree yelp.' I couldn't resist the temptation to call to the bird. But as soon as I did, the gobbler flew away and across the clearcut and landed 1/4-mile away from us in a treetop. As we circled to try and get in front of the Samson Gobbler, we passed by a clover field. I spotted six hens and seven jakes out in the field.

"Since I knew this flock of turkeys usually stayed with the Samson Gobbler, we set up on the edge of the clover field. We watched the turkeys in the field for about 1-1/2-hours before the Samson Gobbler presented himself. I saw a hen spot the Samson Gobbler and then yelp to him. When he heard her yelp, he ducked his head, spun away and went running out of the field, like someone had shot at him. Thirty minutes later the Samson Gobbler came back into the field from a different direction. When the tom got about one-third of the way into the field, the same hen that spotted him before looked up from her feeding, saw the Samson Gobbler and yelped three times. As soon as the Samson Gobbler heard her yelp, he turned and ran toward the edge of the field. A windrow went all the way around the field. When I saw the gobbler running toward the end of the field, I got up quickly and went behind the windrow. Then I ran as hard as I could to get ahead of the gobbler before he got out of the field. When I reached the edge of the field, I crawled to the top of the windrow to see if I had beat the gobbler. I saw the hens and the jakes, but apparently the turkey had reached the edge of the field before I did.Click to enlarge
"I eased away from the field and stepped out onto a little logging road that I'd crossed in my race to get to the field. Just as I moved into the road, the gobbler also stepped into the road and stuck his head up. I was able to get my shotgun to my shoulder quicker than he could get his head down.  And that night I took the Samson Gobbler home with me. When I cleaned the bird, I found that one of his legs had been broken twice, and one of his wings had been broken and healed. I also discovered a double handful of No. 4, No. 6 and No. 2 shot in the ole turkey's breast."

Bob Walker:
Editor’s Note: Bob Walker of Livingston, Alabama, has finished in the top 10 in the World Turkey Calling Championship for more than five years and has won numerous state and national championships.

"I once hunted a pine plantation that had been thinned but not burned for the last three years. The plantation had almost waist-high sage. I found a turkey that would gobble good, but he didn't want to some through that sage. If I even clucked, he would gobble. Finally I laid my calls down and begin to do nothing but scratch in the sage. Each time I'd scratch, the turkey would gobble.  However, he still wouldn't come to me. So I got bent over where the bird couldn't see me and walked around like a hen would walk. I was hunting on private lands and knew for certain there weren't any other hunters on this property. But I'd never, ever use this tactic on public lands.

“I paced back and forth and used the toe of my boot to scratch in the leaves. Since I wanted to sound like a hen, I would cluck and purr about every five to 10 minutes as I walked back and forth. Each time I gave a call, I'd give the call away from the gobbler and not in his direction. Finally I heard the turkey drumming and sat down to prepare for the shot. Once the gobbler got into the sage, he never gobbled but drummed so loudly that I could hear him and knew where he'd present himself for the shot. Many times if you'll rely on turkey sounds like walking and scratching in the leaves, you can bag tough turkeys that you'd never take with turkey calls."

Tomorrow: The Toughest Turkey Ever

Check back each day this week for more about "Some of Turkey Hunting's Toughest Questions Answered "

Day 1: Beat-Up Gobblers and Gobblers Across a Property Line
Day 2: Gobblers Across a River, Gobblers That Get Hung-Up and No-Gobble Gobblers
Day 3: Missed Gobblers, Gobblers in the Rain and First-Time Hunters
Day 4: The Toughest Turkey I’ve Ever Faced and What I’ve Learned
Day 5: The Toughest Turkey Ever


Entry 448, Day 4