I’ll be the first to admit that I believed turkey hunting was easy. Go out. Set up. Bam! Turkey on the ground – No big deal, right? I was wrong. Turkey hunting is an art form of calling and trickery that can leave even the most experienced hunter frustrated and defeated. Joe Wilson shares seven lessons learned from his turkey hunting endeavors over the past few years. Enjoy! – AP
By Joe Wilson
In all honesty, I always figured turkeys were some of the dumbest animals to walk this earth. Seriously. We raised domestic turkeys when I was younger and to say they were unintelligent would be like saying Babe Ruth was a ball player. They were constantly dying for unknown reasons and we considered it a small miracle if we could get one to live old enough to eat. My firsthand experience with the wild eastern turkeys of Michigan took place during my fall deer hunts. They ranged from watching them pinball their way through tree branches on the way to their roosts to having them walk 10 yards from me while I was on the ground in blaze orange. Needless to say, turkey hunting never appealed to me for these reasons. I figured hunting them consisted of walking through the woods until you saw one, shooting it and then trying to ingest their less than stellar meat. That was until this year.
As my hunting passion has evolved from a part-time love affair to a full-fledged heroin-type addiction, I have begun venturing out into other realms of the sport. I was especially interested in those that I could partake in during the down times of the year. Enter spring turkey season. It was a way for me to be out in the woods in the spring and I would enjoy myself more because I wouldn’t need to spend tiresome hours on stand like during deer season, or so I thought. In my mind, the whole hunt shouldn’t take more than an hour. I walk into the woods, throw out some amazing turkey calls, a mature Tom is so punch-drunk from said calls that he comes strutting in with a 12-inch beard in tow, I laser him with my bow, and I walk home to a chorus of cheers from the other woodland creatures. What follows are my notes from my first year in the turkey woods. Now mind you, I have been deer hunting for almost 15 seasons so this wasn’t my first rodeo trying to take a wild animal. My results in no way, shape, or form reflect that but I figured it was good background information.
- Calling is definitely an art. Previous thoughts had me thinking all you had to do was throw out a few yelps on a box call and turkeys would be flocking to you. I found that they mostly ignore you if you don’t know what you are saying. In approximately 27 hours in the woods, I managed to call in one Tom. One. Looking back I am guessing it was blind luck. I did manage to call in a few Jakes which brings me to my next point.
- Jakes might just be the dumbest creatures in the woods. Jakes were the only turkeys that lived up to the stereotype in my mind. During my lame excuse for calling, I was actually able to call in a number of different Jakes. I watched multiple Toms ignore me but truth be told in could be in part because…
- Good luck calling Toms off from a hen. Even if she doesn’t seem the least bit interested, they will still attempt to court her. The best I could get when a hen was nearby was a casual glance in my direction as if to say,” Yeah, I hear you but I ain’t about to leave this hot hunny.”
- Finding the roost site does not guarantee you a bird. It took me a couple days to find but I spent three mornings near roosted Toms. Two of the mornings I was far enough away that I couldn’t sway them to come in and the third I set up too close. It certainly helps being in the ballgame by finding where they rest their head but to say it assures success is laughable.
- Open areas give you your best chance at success. The first few days I set up in spots that weren’t nearly open enough and heard gobbles but never had anything come in. Then I remembered I am an idiot and decided an animal that relies on its vision for survival probably wants to be in open areas.
- Using a bow ups the degree of difficulty. Truthfully, I figured a gun would seem too easy which is why I decided to venture out with a stick and string. After having Jakes in close proximity, I can now say it is near impossible to draw back without a ground blind.
- A Jake decoy with your hen(s) is a good idea. This may seem obvious to some but I figured I would have success bringing in gobblers with just one hen decoy. Not so. The smart birds will sit back out of range but a Jake just might be the thing to lure them in.
I learned a lot about turkeys and myself during my time in the woods this spring. The turkeys impressed me with their ability to differentiate between my calling with actual hens and their ability to survive with their pea-sized brains. I amazed myself with my own ignorance and failure to appreciate the beauty and subtleties for the “thunder chicken.” Needless to say, you don’t have to ask me what I will be doing next April. I will be one of those fools chasing around these “dumb” birds in the woods except this time, I will probably have a shotgun in my hands.