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How To/Pro-Tips

Safety First

A gobbler and a man sound exactly alike when walking through the leaves. In the old days, we were advised to sit perfectly still when we heard a turkey coming up behind us. The idea then was to let the turkey pass and take the shot. This is still good advice in today's crowded turkey woods, but for a different reason. If another hunter is stalking your calling position, sudden movement could draw fire. This alone is a good reason to always sit against a tree large enough to cover your back. If another hunter intrudes in your hunting area, make no sudden movement, don't wave and don't signal with your turkey call. Announce your presence in a loud voice. Never wear the "gobbler-head" colors of red, white and blue. If you bag a nice gobbler, it's tempting to carry him out over your shoulder with his flopping wings telling the story. It's also dangerous. Wrap or bag your bird in fluorescent orange.

Turkey Calling Basics

Many hunters are hung up on which type of turkey call to get and most have a number of different types. That's fine and offers some real hunting advantages if the hunter is reasonably proficient with all, or at least most, of them. It doesn't take contest-championship calling ability to successfully call wild turkeys. However, it does take reasonable proficiency in imitating turkey talk to consistently take gobblers. Practice makes perfect, or at least good enough. You should get an instructional tape with your call or watch a few of the many turkey hunting videos to get a good idea of what real turkeys and top callers sound like. Practice until you sound pretty much like them. It's best to practice out in the open and tape your own calling to see where your technique needs improvement. After you master one call type, move on to another. There are times when being able to switch to a different call is a very productive turkey hunting tactic.

Sight In For Gobblers

You shoot a turkey gun like a rifle, so you should sight it in like a rifle. In fact many turkey-hunting shotguns now have adjustable rifle-type sights or low-power scopes mounted on them. Start off at close range, say about 25 yards, so you can see your pattern target well. Shoot from a steady position and see how close you are to your aiming point. Adjustable sights and scopes are easy to adjust by moving the sight in the same direction you want the pattern to move. For traditional shotgun bead sights, you have to alter the stock to move the position of your shooting eye, which serves as the rear sight. Raise the comb to raise the pattern and lower the comb if the gun shoots high. Left and right pattern shifts require sanding down or building up the thickness of the comb. Once you have your turkey gun sighted in, shoot at some longer targets to see how far your effective pattern holds up.

Turkey Calling Style

A lot of people say "contest-style" calling isn't effective for real turkey hunting. However, if by "contest-style" calling," one means loud, raucous and aggressive cackling, cutting and yelping, there's very much a place for that in the turkey woods. There are two times this is especially true: early in the season when the gobblers aren't really fired up yet and when trying to crank up a gobbler at midday. This is when calling loudly and aggressively can get something going. However, with hard-hunted gobblers or when any gobbler gets close, soft, sweet and infrequent calling is a good idea. A gobbler doesn't have to be extremely call shy to hang up and wait for what he thinks is an extremely aggressive hen to meet him halfway. There's hardly any style of calling that won't work on gobblers sometimes and there is probably no style that will work all the time. The trick is knowing what style to use under what circumstances.

Gobblers With Hens

Calling a gobbler away from a harem of hens is one of the toughest plays in turkey hunting. "You can't beat the real thing" holds true most of the time. Well, if you can't beat 'em, JOIN 'EM! Turkey hens live within a well-established pecking order year-round. Every hen knows her place. The dominant hen is every bit as jealous of her position as is the boss gobbler is of his territory. Challenging the boss hen can be your best bet on a henned-up gobbler. Loud, aggressive cackles, cutting and the fighting purr all serve notice to the boss hen that another "hen" is in the neighborhood. She won't like it. If she and her flock come looking for that upstart "hen," Mr. Boss Gobbler will follow along. However, the hens almost always arrive before the gobbler gets in range. To make this play work, you must have the gun up and ready. With sharp-eyed hens all around you, you must be absolutely immobile and completely camouflaged.

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