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How To/Pro-Tips

Don't Overshock Gobblers

Using an owl, crow or hawk call to elicit a "shock" gobble is a useful turkey hunting practice. Getting a gobbler to sound off early reveals his position and gives you more time to get there and set up. However, as much as we all love to hear Mr. Tom do his spring thing, there can be too much of a good thing. A gobbling gobbler gets lots of attention. If there are other hunters in the woods, they will head for him too. At best this can foul things up and at worst it sets up an unsafe hunting situation. Hens naturally go to the gobbler. Thus a lustily gobbling bird may attract a flock of very effective competitors for his attention. Hens almost always win this calling contest. Finally, you can "gobble him out". After a while, the gobbler may ignore the owl, crow or hawk call and shut up -- just when you may need that one last gobble to really pin him down.

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 Decoys

Decoys are a great aid to turkey hunters. In particular, bowhunters find they focus an incoming gobbler's attention on the decoy rather than on the hunter, allowing the bow to be drawn. Light, flexible, foldable and packable decoys are easily transported and will move a bit in a light breeze. This movement greatly adds to the decoy's life-like appearance and effectiveness. Combined with a good blind, a decoy can help your turkey hunting success across the board. For dedicated bowhunters like myself, it doesn't remove all the challenge but it sure helps. Hunters should use turkey decoys with care and caution. Always set the decoy up well away from your location and have a long view in a straight line beyond the decoy in case it lures in hunters with hair triggers. Never carry the decoy around exposed to plain sight in hunting terrain. With today's super-effective camouflage, the decoy stands out and you don't. Carry decoys totally concealed or in an orange bag.

Turkey Target Area

We often talk about shooting at a gobbler's head, but a surer shot is at the neck. A gobbler's head is a small target and easy to miss with a small, dense pattern from a super-tight full choke. Shooting for the neck, about half way down, puts your whole pattern on the head and neck area. Just above the wattles, where the feathers stop and bare skin begins, is a good aiming point. A strutting gobbler presents a poor target because his neck is compressed and offers a small target area. Also it is semi-protected by his "shoulders". Don't shoot through brush. This is unsafe and it doesn't take much brush to really wreck your pattern. Wait until the gobbler is in the clear. If he is in strut, a sharp cluck will often make him "stick his neck out". When he stands erect and periscopes his head up for a look around, that is your best shot -- take him!

Turkey Calling Tactics

If a turkey hunter could competently perform only two of the basic turkey calls --the yelp and the cluck -- he could hunt turkeys effectively. In fact many of the more advanced calls are based on these two basic sounds. The assembly call is a long series of yelps and it is not hard to master. It is a good call to use in the mid-morning to locate a gobbler. The cackle is a rapid series of yelps and cutting is loud, staccato clucking. They indicate high excitement and can really get a gobbler fired up. Both take a bit of time and practice to get right but they can pay dividends in excited gobblers and exciting hunts. The purr is a low, trembly, quavering sound. It is a "confidence" call and is useful when the gobbler is in close. The so-called "fighting purr" is much louder and more aggressive. It is used more like a cackle or cutting to increase aggression and stir up a gobbler.

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