Avoiding The 10 Sins when Turkey Hunting
Sin No. 1 – Spooking Turkeys When You Walk
I try and change the noise I make when I’m walking through the woods from human noises to turkey noises. I want to sound like a hen as she goes about her daily routine. Turkeys take erratic steps and don’t walk with a regular cadence like a hunter does. Usually I take three steps, wait, take one When I come to a dusting site, I pat the ground with my hand or seat cushion to sound as though a turkey is dusting. If I’m walking through an acorn flat, I’ll move much slower like a turkey that’s feeding. If I’m walking through a pine forest, I’ll generally walk somewhat faster.
Sin No. 2 – Coughing or Sneezing
I always carry a deer grunt tube with me into the woods. Then if I cough or sneeze while turkey hunting, I can blow the grunt call to cover the sound of the cough or the sneeze with a deer sound, which often is heard in the woods. Or, I can turn that cough into a drumming sound, if a tom is in close to me. When you’re listening to turkeys, notice that you may hear a sound similar to a cough when gobblers drum. If I don’t blow the deer grunt call or make the v-rooooom of a drumming sound after I cough, then I immediately give a cluck or two to cover that cough. I never want to make a human sound around turkeys without covering it with a turkey sound.
Sin No. 3 – Swatting a Mosquito or Scratching an Itch
I keep my hands close to my body and move my hand very slowly to the place that needs to be scratched or to the mosquito that must be swatted. I make the swat with two fingers rather than my whole hand. After I’ve swatted or scratched, I brush my shirt sleeve against the side of a tree to make a sound similar to what a turkey’s wing sounds like as the bird walks through the woods and brushes the side of a tree.
Sin No. 4 – Making a Bad Call
To hide a bad call, continue to call. Never stop calling when you’ve made a mistake. If you listen to turkey hens, you’ll realize they often call poorly. If you hit a sour note, keep on calling, and then you’ll probably sound just like a hen. The gobbler won’t remember the sour note you’ve hit. But if you stop on that sour note, the tom will think about that last, bad note and possibly be spooked.
Sin No. 5 – Being Spotted By a Turkey
If I’m in the woods, and a turkey sees me, I stand still and try to resemble a stump. If I’m in an open field, I’ll lie down on the ground and hope I blend in with the dirt. If you’re carrying a turkey decoy with you like the lightweight and collapsible, you’ll totally confuse a gobbler that has seen you if you reach into your pack, get that decoy out and slowly and carefully put it in front of where you’re lying. That tom may not know for sure what’s lying in the field, and he certainly won’t understand from where that hen (decoy) has come. As I’m putting the decoy up, I start clucking and purring to sound like a hen turkey. I sometimes will tilt the decoy over, so she looks like she’s pecking. When the gobbler hears the sound of a hen clucking excitedly and sees her feeding in the middle of the field, I think he forgets all about seeing me and comes to investigate her. If you don’t have a decoy, then lie flat and pray. Be sure to check your state’s regulations on using decoys for turkey hunting. A turkey gobbler has a keen sense of curiosity. If he doesn’t know for sure what’s lying in a field, many times he may walk to within 30 yards or less just to see what you are. Then you can take the shot.
Sin No. 6 – Overcalling
Usually a hunter doesn’t realize he’s called too much to a bird, until the tom stops at 50 to 60 yards and refuses to come any closer. When this happens, wait until the gobbler can’t see you, and then change locations and callers. If you’ve been calling with a mouth diaphragm, use either a slate call or a box call. If you can’t move, wait until the tom walks off. Then make a big circle, attempt to get in front of the turkey, and call to him again.
Sin No. 7 – Being Caught in a Poor Position
Often a hunter will roost a turkey in the evening and return to that bird before daylight. When the tom gobbles the first time, the hunter may realize he’s less than 40-yards from the bird and must sit down immediately where he’s standing. A situation like this means you must pull out all the stops and become a turkey hunter rather than merely a turkey caller. When I’m this close to a gobbler, the only calls I’ll give are soft, contented purrs. I’ll scratch in the leaves lightly and brush my shirt up against the side of a tree to duplicate the sound of a feeding hen brushing up against a tree. If the tom is gobbling a lot from the roost, I take the opposite tactic. I cut, cackle and call aggressively. Often that gobbler will fly and light within 10 feet of me, or else he’ll come running to me when he leaves the limb.
The key to success is to let the tom tell you how to call to him when you’re in close. If he’s only gobbling a little, then give him the soft, subtle calls of purring, scratching in the leaves and brushing your shirt up against the tree. If the gobbler hasn’t shown up after 15 minutes, hit him with some aggressive cutting and cackling. Make him think a party’s going on, and he’d better come join it.
Sin No. 8 – Missing an Opportunity to Take a Shot
Sometimes when a turkey comes in, for one reason or another, you can’t take the shot. Maybe a twig is between you and the bird, or perhaps he steps behind a tree before you’re ready to shoot. Or, maybe you can’t get the bead on the bird in time to make the shot. Once the bird has passed by you and walked out of sight, circle, and get in front of the bird. Knowing where a turkey wants to go and where he likes to be at different times of the day may result in your having a second chance at a gobbler if you miss the first opportunity. Be sure to make a large enough circle to get in front of the tom without spooking him. If the turkey has been gobbling to the call you’ve been utilizing, then start off with that call. However, if the gobbler doesn’t answer you, change calls on your second attempt.
Sin No. 9 – Spooking a Tom
When you spook a turkey, continue to call. The sounds a tom makes when he’s spooked are the same sounds – fast clucking, wings beating and running in the leaves – he makes when he’s excited. When you spook a bird, cut at him, cackle to him, and call excitedly. Even if you flush a gobbler, cut and cackle to him, because these sounds are excited calls. Other turkeys in the area that hear the tom fly off and those excited calls you’re giving may think the gobbler is flying into you rather than away from you. Attempt to turn scared sounds into excited sounds to make other turkeys come in to where you are.
Sin No. 10 – Shooting and Missing
If you shoot and miss a gobbler, then start giving a cutting call quickly, before the smoke clears the gun barrel. Because turkeys regularly hear thunder in the woods, the turkey you’re aiming at may think that loud blast is thunder. If you start cutting immediately after you shoot, you’ll sound like an excited hen that also has been spooked by the thunder but is waiting for the gobbler to come to her. Don’t move after you shoot and miss to totally confuse a tom. Approximately three out of 10 times, that same gobbler will come right back to you. If the turkey has gobbled and responded previously to the call I’m using, then I’ll continue with that same call to try and get him back. If he doesn’t return within 30 minutes, I’ll move, circle, get in front of him and utilize that same call with more pleading in it to attempt to call that same turkey again.
Turkeys make mistakes just like hunters do. Because turkeys can be confused, often a tom will wonder if he’s seen and heard what he thinks he’s seen and heard. By confusing a gobbler or convincing him he hasn’t seen or heard you, you often will be able to take many of the birds you normally spook. To hide the 10-sins of turkey hunting, think, talk and act like a turkey when the sin is committed.