John's Journal...

Secrets to Hunting Tough Gobblers

Call-Less Turkey Hunting

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: I could see a turkey strutting behind a blown-down tree and hear him gobbling less than 30 yards from me. I knew the tom had hung-up and expected the hen to come around the tree to him. I'd called all that I thought I could without spooking the gobbler. I'd purred and clucked, but I still couldn't make the turkey budge. Finally, I tried a tactic I'd learned from Preston Pittman of Pickens, Mississippi, the creator of Preston Pittman Game Calls. Here’s how calling less can bring in more turkeys.

When the turkey stopped looking my way, I used my hands on the leaves to sound like a turkey walking. I put the heel of my hand down on the leaves and let my hand rock forward to my fingertips and then lifted my hand up, moving it slightly and repeating the same action. Next, I scratched in the leaves with my gloved hand. I didn't give any more calls and only made these sounds. I wanted the gobbler to think a feeding hen that had no interest in the tom sat where I did. In about 10 minutes, I heard the gobbler walking around the top end of the blown-down tree.  When he moved out of sight behind some limbs, I readied for the shot. Just as he stepped out into the open, I fired and bagged that bird.

Because we’ll encounter more turkey hunters today than ever before, the turkeys know more about huClick to enlargenters, how they hunt and what calls they make. Seems as though on some public-hunting lands when a turkey hunter uses a turkey call, the gobbler almost recognizes whether the hunter's using a mouth-diaphragm or a friction call and knows the manufacturer of that call and its model number as well as how long the hunter has practiced before he's come to the woods. In most turkey-hunting places, both private and public, turkeys receive so much hunting pressure today that they understand more about us than we know about them. I think perhaps some of the really-smart gobblers even may read the books and magazine articles written on turkey hunting and watch the videos.  In the last few years, I have learned the effectiveness of non-call turkey calls.

Walk The Walk Before You Talk The Talk:
"When I'm walking to a turkey, and I'm close enough that I know he can hear me, I want to sound like a hen walking to meet that gobbler," Preston Pittman, an avid turkey hunter who also has won many turkey-calling contests, says. "I take three steps, then use the toe of my boot to scratch in the leaves like a feeding hen and give soft purrs and clucks as I walk. I want the gobbler to hear me coming to him. Then when I sit down to call, he has every reason to believe that I'm a hen that has come about as far as I want to come, and that to have a rendezvous with me, that gobbler will have to meet me at least halfway. The more realism you can put into your calling, the better your odds are to get a longbeard to come to you."Click to enlarge

Wing It:
Many hunters use a turkey's wing to successfully imitate sounds that turkeys make, particularly the Real Wing, introduced by Will Primos of Primos Hunting Calls some years ago. "I'll use the Real Wing in several different ways," Primos explains. "When the gobbler's on the limb in the early morning, I may give a fly-down cackle, beat the Wing in the air, try and hit some bushes or small trees with the Wing and then bring it down to the ground to make the sound that a hen makes when she's flying off the roost. If I'm dealing with a particularly-tough turkey, I may not cackle at all but only use the Wing to imitate the sound of a hen’s flying off the roost or stretching herself and flapping her wings in the air." Hunters can use wings by dragging them beside a tree trunk or bushes or along the ground to sound like turkeys do as they walk through the woods. By giving the fighting purr call and beating a turkey’s wing in the air and then on the ground, you can make the sounds of a gobbler fight. A hunter can call turkeys all these ways without using a turkey call. If you make turkey sounds in a region where you've called and begin walking toward the turkey, do this with caution, especially if you're hunting on public property.  I'll rarely walk like a turkey when moving to a gobbler on public lands.

A friend of mine, Bo Pitman, uses one of the best non-calling tactics I've ever seen - the Red-Sock Trick. Pitman, a long-time turkey hunter and guide, hunts only the private lands of White Oak Plantation in Tuskegee, Ala. Each morning there the guides and their hunters have designated sections where they hunt. On this particular morning, Pitman had an outdoor writer and his wife with him on a late-morning hunt. They'd worked two different gobblers at daylight but had to return to the lodge by 11:00 am to leave for the airport. "The gobbler was hung-Click to enlargeup about 60 yards from us," Pitman reports. "I'd done everything I knew to do and used every call I knew to get that gobbler to come in, however, nothing was working. I was running out of time. When I go turkey hunting, I always wear red socks that my boots and my pants legs hide. Once I saw I was in a desperate situation, I pulled off my boot and my red sock, crawled up next to a log, put the sock over my fist and cocked my wrist so that the red sock looked like a turkey's head.  I moved the sock back and forth along the log. When the gobbler spotted my red-sock turkey puppet, he marched right in to my hunters, who bagged the bird in less than five minutes. But I'd never use this tactic on public land."

Although I agree with Pitman to never use this technique on public land, I do believe it's at least as safe as using a decoy. We're all concerned about safety in the turkey woods, however, nothing looks more like a real turkey than a turkey decoy, and I believe any time you use these tactics or a turkey decoy, you have to hunt defensively.

Hunt In the Thick of It:
Many hunters have trouble finding where turkeys on public lands go after the first week of the season.  Often public-land toms quit gobbling and seem to vanish from a property. But a friend of mine, Mark Marks, a wildlife biologist for the State of Alabama, locates public-land gobblers in thick cover late in the season. "When I hunt in thick cover late in the season, I'll sneak into the cover, walk a few steps, stop and then scratch in the leaves with the toe of my boot," Marks reports. "Then I'll wait about two minutes, walk two or three more steps and scratch in the leaves again. Once the gobbler hears me, he assumes that I'm just another turkey in the brush. A few times I've been able to walk right up to a gobbler in thick cover, get off a shot and bag the bird before he spots me, or I spook him. If I don't hear a turkey when I'm walking into the cover, I'll sit down and listen. Many times I'll hear a gobbler walking toward me in that thick cover. Because the gobbler can't see me in that dense brush, he'll often come right to me because he thinks I'm a turkey walking when he hears me coming into the cover." When you hunt high-pressured turkeys and have made every call to get a tom to come to you, try some of these no-call turkey calls. They’ve worked for me and will work for you.

Tomorrow: How to Call Turkeys Like a Champion

Check back each day this week for more about "Secrets to Hunting Tough Gobblers "

Day 1: Gobblers I Loved To Hate
Day 2: Call-Less Turkey Hunting
Day 3: How to Call Turkeys Like a Champion
Day 4: The Five Deadliest Turkey Calls
Day 5: Secrets for Taking Rainy-Day Gobblers


Entry 454, Day 2