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Don’t Do This, Turkey Hunter!

Mistakes Turkey Hunters Make

When a wild turkey gobbler eludes us, it can be because of something we did, knowingly or unknowingly, that gave him the advantage. Here are some turkey hunting goof-ups you want to avoid that will give you a better chance of putting your turkey tag on a gobbler this season!

1. Returning to the Same Gobbler Every Morning
It’s for sure tempting; you know that he’s there, you know he’s probably going to gobble and you know what he’s going to do after he flys down off the roost. The thing is, you’ve been there and watched this show a few days in a row, and you haven’t even been close to getting him in your sights. You need to let this relationship cool for a few days, maybe longer.

Let this wild turkey gobbler and yourself a break (maybe some of his girlfriends will sneak off and leave him). After a week or so, you can show up refreshed and ready to take up the battle one more time. Hunting the same gobbler every day can be a problem and the season is too short for that.

Strikeout and find a new gobbler to talk to. Who knows, you may find a hot two-year-old that comes running in when you cluck one time.

2. Worrying About Your Calling
So you can’t use turkey calls like Ben Lee or Ray Eye, that’s ok. All that’s required to call in a gobbler is the ability to make a reasonable imitation of a hen yelp—that’s it. Sure, it’s nice to make fancy purrs, cackles, and clucks — and they can help for drawing in a stubborn tom—but the fact is, if a gobbler is ready to respond to a call and approach what he thinks is a hen, it doesn’t take calling-contest-level turkey talk to fool him. If he gobbles, answer with a few yelps; if he gobbles back at you, yelp again, then shut up and be ready. Many times this may be all it takes.

3. Complaining That Turkey Season Being Too Early or Too Late
This happens in almost every state, every year. When your state game department sets the spring season, odds are good that a bunch of the state’s turkey hunters will complain about it. “The season is too late!”, “By the time we get to hunt, they’re all gobbled out!” You’ll hear this all season, mostly from unsuccessful hunters.

Maybe we should give the biologists that set our season dates a little leeway. Most turkey biologists will tell you that turkeys go through a couple of different cycles of gobbling activity, and the idea is to get as many hens bred as possible during the first peak of activity. This will hopefully give you a good hatch and continue the population.

The season is often set during the second peak of gobbling so that hunters can get on vocal birds while a lot of the hens are on the nest. The point is, it’s spring; the turkeys are out there doing their thing.  So go turkey hunting; the turkeys don’t have a calendar, anyway.

Wild Turkey PhotoPhoto by @jtaylor_creative

4. Public Land Issues
We often shy away from public hunting ground because there are just way too many hunters. We get tired of all the traffic and calling that seems to come from every ridge. When was the last time you left the vehicle an hour earlier than usual and struck out on a trail to take you far from the madding crowd? More than one study in recent years has shown that gobblers on public land equipped with transmitters often lived through the season, and though they moved away from the heavy activity areas, they didn’t go far. Leave the turkey that gobbles close to the road every morning and look for the one that no one else can hear because they don’t want to walk too far.

5. Giving Up on a Gobbler Too Quickly
Maybe you’ve heard that turkey hunters are supposed to be patient. Many times, we go through an encounter with a turkey that is gobbling and seems like he is going to come and greet us, but then shuts up or fades in the distance. Often, the inclination is to jump up and do the “run and gun” routine trying to find another turkey.

Well, unless you know that another gobbler is waiting for you somewhere, what’s your hurry? Turkeys do things that we don’t understand. Sometimes they quit calling for no apparent reason—at least to us. Turkeys don’t wear watches and couldn’t care less what time it is. Unless you have someplace to be, when the gobbler hushes up, kick back and relax. Enjoy the spring morning; hear the songbirds, if the truth was known, I sometimes grab a quick nap.

You can relax, but remember this: the gobbler heard your calls and he knows exactly where they came from. Anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours later, he may well come and check on that hen he heard calling. He may gobble as a courtesy, or he might come in on you silently. Be ready.


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