Since the mid-seventies, I’ve been addicted to hunting spring turkeys. As far as experience goes, I’ve been blessed to spend more than my share of spring days listening for that distant gobble that would hopefully result in a big long beard strutting within bow or shotgun range.
When I began ‘mulling’ over the topic of turkey hunting tips for this column, I quickly realized there were only about three or four ‘constants’ when it comes to successfully bagging a spring gobbler.
I’ve often said that every turkey hunt I’ve enjoyed was different from the others; turkeys often change their habits from day to day. One day they will be gobbling their heads off, the next become silent.
First, it’s important to be camouflaged from head to toe and remain as motionless as possible. Obviously, one must hunt where there are turkeys, which requires a bit of scouting with trail camera. Additionally, looking for dusting areas, droppings, or information from landowners as to where they see turkeys feeding.
The last ‘constant’ when it comes to closing the distance on a spring gobbler is patience. My old hunting buddy, the late Bob Hood, wrote about the outdoors for over 40 years. He had a saying that I came to believe as the one constant to killing a spring gobbler.
“Patience kills more turkeys than anything”.
I’ve heard Bob make this statement a thousand times. I have come to believe it to be one of — if not possibly the only — complete truth when it comes to turkey hunting tips. Bob would ease into an area he knew turkeys were ranging. He’d set up a couple of decoys, disappear in the brush, and stay put…for hours.
Bob didn’t always kill a gobbler on every hunt, but he certainly earned his PhD in gobbler hunting through the years. He hunted with an old Ithaca single-shot shotgun that he used for about 46 years. If my memory serves me correctly, he’s harvested well over 200 gobblers in Texas and several other states.
Turkeys have built in GPS and can somehow precisely pinpoint sounds from several hundred yards. The text book scenario goes something like this: Hunter makes a series of hen yelps on his or her box, slate or diaphragm call and hears a distant gobbler. After a minute, he calls again and hears the resulting gobble coming closer. And then, right there, 20 yards from his position, the gobbler is strutting and gobbling. This is textbook turkey hunting and the scenario sometimes unfolds precisely as described.
There are however, many variables to consider.
I was once hunting on a ranch adjacent the Brazos River. I was back in the brush, looking down what was left of an overgrown ranch road with decoy in place. With each stroke of the box call, I heard what sounded like three or four gobblers sounding off down by the river. I could tell by their gobbling that they were staying in place. Finally, I decided to take the hunt to the birds.
I quietly slipped down to the tree line adjacent the river and called softly. Three gobblers answered instantly and simultaneously from the far side of the river. There was a long line of brush several feet high that was deposited on the river’s bend by past flooding. The gobblers were just on the other side and for whatever reason, refused to fly over. I found a spot where the water was only a couple feet deep and crossed to the other side.
I walked down the long line of debris until I was just a few yards from the birds that were gobbling their heads off. Down the row of dead limbs and brush several hundred yards, I spotted an opening. Working my way toward the spot where I hoped the gobblers would cross, I would call every fifty yards or so. The gobblers continued following me, on their side of the brush. About 30 yards from the opening in the brush, I set down and pointed my shotgun toward the opening. Sure enough, when the gobblers spotted the opening, they rounded the brush line. I soon had a big gobbler on the ground. Turkeys do the strangest things!
Large Number of Turkeys in Schleicher County
Another hunt I’ll never forget was back in the eighties near El Dorado in Schleicher County. I had a buddy with me on this hunt and he had never hunted spring turkey. On the long drive out to the ranch, I gave him a few basic tips about being quiet and completely still when the birds approach.
There was, and still is, a large number of turkeys in Schleicher County. I was confident we would be successful. So confident in fact, that I packed all the staples necessary for a meal of fried turkey breast, biscuits, rice and gravy. We spent a quiet evening in our tent camp and were in the woods well before sunup. I was using my old wooden box call and as soon as legal shooting time arrived, I began a series of hen yelps. We instantly heard several gobblers sounding off and in a matter of minutes, 3 gobblers were strutting 20 yards from our position.
My buddy was hunting with his bow, but the brush in front of our makeshift blind blocked a clean bow shot. I softly made a few yelps on the box call, hoping the gobblers would move a few feet and give him a clean shot. After my calling, I accidently dropped the wooden call on the hard ground. It made an awful sound rattling around. I was sure it would send the gobblers into the next county. Instead, all three of them stopped, strutted and gobbled. My buddy arrowed his first gobbler and then looked at me with puzzled eyes. Turkeys do the strangest things. I think this is the primary reason I’ve been hunting them the past 40 springs!
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