John's Journal... Entry 83, Day 1
Know A Turkey's Schedule
EDITOR'S NOTE: Two kinds of turkey hunters are in the woods -- the ones who call to the birds and require the turkeys to hunt them and the sportsmen who actually hunt turkeys. Bo Pitman, the manager of White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, Alabama, ranks as one of the most tenacious turkey hunters ever. Once you know Pitman's background, you'll have no trouble understanding why he's such a dedicated turkey hunter.
In years past, Pitman rode the bucking bulls in the rodeo. When asked why someone with any intelligence would crawl on the back of a wild bucking bull that had both the ability and desire to kill or maim a cowboy, Pitman grinned and said simply, "When you're young, you believe there's nothing in this world -- man or beast -- you can't whip. However, each time you climb on the back of a Brahma bull, you learn in a matter of seconds that there is one critter that can whip out almost any day you get on its back. Something deep-seated in the heart of a cowboy makes him believe he can ride any bull."
This same bulldog-like tenacity that drove Pitman to ride the bulls until his body was banged-up and he had to have pins put in both his shoulders also forces him to hunt wild turkeys. Pitman, who won't quit, refuses to believe that any gobbler can beat him.
As many hunters can testify, Pitman will hunt in rainstorms, wade creeks, crawl through briars and run until his companions' legs feel like jelly when he pursues longbeards. Because Pitman won't give up, many outdoorsmen think Pitman sometimes bags a tom because the bird just finally gives up. My friend, Bob Hickey, the owner of Connecticut Valley Arms, told me told me one morning after we'd been hunting at White Oak that, "Bo and I must have crawled 200 yards on our bellies through a cow pasture. Bo climbed up the back side of a tree to see the turkeys that were 500 to 600 yards away. I've never seen anyone hunt as hard as Bo."
Because Pitman spends every day of turkey season in the woods chasing gobblers, he's amassed a wealth of turkey knowledge, some of which he shares here.
"To consistently bag turkeys, the hunter must know where the turkey wants to go, what he wants to do when he gets there and where the hunter should set up to bag the gobbler as the bird goes about his daily chores," Pitman reported. "Each turkey has a set routine that he will follow if he is undisturbed and unpressured.
"In the morning when he wakes up, he will gobble and fly down to meet a hen. Then he'll wander around some -- heading toward where he intends to feed and trying to assemble a flock of hens to go with him.
"Next the tom will move into his feeding area, feed with his hens, strut, drum, dust and mate until the sun gets too hot for him to remain in an open place. Then he'll enter the shade of the woods to loaf, relax and hang out.
"About 2:00 p.m., he'll move back to a field where he wants to feed, mate a few more times and perhaps get in a fight. Before dark, that gobbler either will walk or fly out of the field and return to his roost. Once the hunter understands the turkey's schedule and learns where the turkey will be doing this moving around, mating, feeding and loafing, all he has to do is take a stand along the turkey's regular travel route to bag the bird."
Pitman is convinced that one of the biggest mistakes many hunters make is to try and talk a tom into doing something he naturally doesn't want to do -- like leave a field and his harem of hens to walk into the woods where he knows danger waits to meet another hen.
"Usually you're not going to call a turkey out of a field," Pitman mentioned. "I don't even try to do that. I'd rather wait until the turkey is ready to walk out of the field on his own and then attempt to take him."
To learn more about how to turkey hunt, go to www.nighthawkpublications.com to the home page, and click on books. You can order three of John Phillips' four turkey-hunting books by calling (800) 627-4295 or by sending a check or a money order to Night Hawk Publications, 4112 Camp Horner Road, Birmingham, AL 35243.
TOMORROW: Understand Where A Turkey Wants To Go And What To do After The Easy Way Fails
Check back each day this week for more about Bo Pitman's Offbeat Tom Tactics ...
Day 1 -Know A Turkey's Schedule