John's Journal...

What to Do When Three Turkeys Gobble

Why to Choose the Best Turkey Instead of the Closest Turkey

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Most of us when we hear a turkey gobble immediately make a beeline to that turkey. We never stop to wait and listen to see if an area has any other gobbling turkeys in it. Remember, all turkeys don't gobble at the same time every morning. On many a morning, if I go to the first turkey that gobbles, I'll spook the tom closest to me because he hasn't gobbled yet. But what do you do when you hear three or more turkeys gobble? I've learned to plan my morning hunt instead of chasing the first turkey that gobbles. Here's how. 

"We've got this turkey nailed down," my friend, Chip Hughes, told me. "Joe should shoot this gobbler within 30 minutes after he flies down off the roost. This turkey is a can't-miss gobbler." I'm always skeptical when someone tells me something like this, but I knew that Hughes and Trey Montgomery, the owner of Leavellwood Lodge in West Greene, Alabama, had scouted hard and saved this nice gobbler for my son-in-law, Dr. Joe Hudson, of Birmingham, Alabama. For four years, Hudson had fought with wild turkeys. He'd come close on several occasions but never could close the deal. Each time the toms would get with a hen, stand behind a tree, gobble and finally walk off to a place on the opposite side of a river too wide to swim or stay right in the middle of a flock of hens so that Hudson couldn't get a shot. Click to enlarge

"Every morning when we go to hunt this turkey, he'll gobble good from the roost," Hughes explained. "Then when you call to him, for the last three weeks, he's pitched out of the tree to the opposite way from where you're calling. He'll walk down a ridge, cross a road and fly into a swamp. So we're going to go down the road, set up on the ridge and wait for the gobbler. Trey will go to the other side of the turkey and start yelping to him. Then when the turkey flies out of the tree, he should come walking down the ridge, and Joe can shoot him."

The next morning before daylight, Hughes, Hudson and I stood on the red clay road as the sun fought away the darkness to christen a new day. When the turkey gobbled, we moved about 50-yards away from the road and sat down to wait for the gobbler. I sat 30 or 40 yards back from Hughes and Hudson. Off in the distance on top of the ridge, we heard Montgomery yelp. The woods fell silent, and then we heard Montgomery yelp four more times. Suddenly, the turkey Hudson hunted started gobbling not 50 yards from us on the opposite side of the road doClick to enlargewn in the swamps, although he'd always flown down to the ridge first. We waited, and the turkey continued to gobble about every 30 seconds. About five minutes later, a second turkey gobbled about 1/4-mile away. When I suggested that we go to that tom because we would less likely spook him by moving through the water, Hughes recommended that we, “wait a minute to see if we hear anything else." Now we had two toms gobbling within easy walking distance, the sun had peeped over the hill, and I knew that the turkeys would fly down at any minute. Once the two gobbling turkeys paused for a second, we heard a third turkey gobble far behind us and up the road about 200 yards.

Because the first turkey had gobbled very close to us in open woods while roosting over water, we only had a slim chance or none at all of getting into position to take this bird. We could have bagged the second tom, but by the time we reached him, he probably would have found a hen.
"That third gobbler is roosted in a pine plantation," Hughes told us, "that has young pines planted in front and a clear cut off to the left of where he's roosting. I've seen tracks up and down the road over there where I know that gobbler's walking. I think all we have to do is to get over there close to that gobbler, set up beside the road and let that turkey come walking down the road to Joe. But we've got to hurry." Hughes, Hudson and I unloaded our guns and jogged at the quick step for about 1/2-mile to reach the road Hughes had predicted tClick to enlargehat gobbler No. 3 would travel.  Hughes and Hudson took a stand behind a pushed-up dirt mound where they could see for about 75-yards down the road. Wanting to stay out of the way, I climbed inside a pine top laying on the ground to hide myself on the opposite side of the road out in a fresh clearcut with trees and limbs everywhere and very little open ground. I could see about 40 yards down the road and watch Hudson and Hughes behind the mound of dirt.

Once set up, Hughes began to call. The turkey double and triple gobbled and flew off the roost.  The tom gobbled on his own, not more than 20 steps off the road, followed by an eerie, calm silence. Hudson's gun never reported. Ten minutes passed. Then from out of nowhere, I heard a turkey gobble off to my left. Apparently that bird had crossed the road, walked through all that thick brush and now headed straight for me. Finally he turned and walked back toward the road.
As I watched, the longbeard stepped out in the road, Hughes clucked, and Hudson's shotgun reported. I came running out of my pine top as we all yelled and cheered because Hudson had broken his four-year jinx. He'd picked the right turkey out of three gobblers to hunt and now had a bird to carry back to camp. Through the years I've hunted with some of the best turkey hunters in the country and have watched as they have hunted the same bird or group of birds for three or four consecutive days. Each day the turkeys get away, the hunters learn more and increase their odds for later bagging gobblers.

Tomorrow: How to Nail Down the Toms Before You Leave

Check back each day this week for more about "What to Do When Three Turkeys Gobble "

Day 1: GPS to Success
Day 2: When “Stuff” Happens
Day 3: Gobblers to Give Away and Gobblers to Keep
Day 4: Why to Choose the Best Turkey Instead of the Closest Turkey
Day 5: How to Nail Down the Toms Before You Leave


Entry 449, Day 4