We just finished another great turkey season at Mellon Creek Outfitters recently and one question that I consistently get asked is; what is the most important tool to have when hunting turkey?!
In todays world, there are so many different calls and other tools that it would be hard to say which of those are the most important. To me, however, the most important tool we can carry doesn’t require a vest or a sling. Patience, in my opinion, is the single greatest tool there is. The second most important tool for me is, knowing turkeys and what they will likely do. Third for me is, what I call adaptability. I will discuss each of these in detail in the following lines.
Patience, why is that so important?! The first thing people new to turkey hunting should know is that a turkey isn’t one bit curious. In other words, if a turkey thinks he may have seen something out of place, something move, or heard something he’s gone. Turkeys are born in a panic and basically stay there for their entire lives. Impatient hunters start moving their hands, exhaling long breaths of disparity, or other motion consistent with impatience. Sometimes a bird will hang up and gobble a hundred are more yards away. If cover allows, there are times when moving on that bird will work but more often than not impatience causes hunters to prematurely move and get busted. In fact, impatience is the nucleus of most if not all problems in the woods. For example, everyone loves to hear that tom hammering his head off as he closes the gap to whoever is calling. Many times, gobblers will initially answer your call and then come in silent. This causes people to become impatient and start calling too much. Calling too much has caused more birds to hang up then just about anything. As a rule of thumb, I always stay an extra fifteen minutes after I last heard a gobble and then I will most times give it a half hour more. In doing that, I will have given the bird 45 minutes to do what turkeys do. Just because the tom doesn’t come in running and gobbling doesn’t mean he isn’t coming. We have to remember that when we call a tom turkey to us, we are reversing the natural order of how things work. Toms gobble to attract hens to him. We need to remain patient to give him time to arrive on the scene.
Another thing that I believe is, over looked is the importance of scouting. Sitting with a pair of binoculars just watching where the birds like to travel, how they travel, and their basic daily routine is paramount. We can learn so much just by observing. If we pay really close attention we can learn how to move through the woods without sounding like the last charge on the Alamo. Watch the deer and turkey as they meander through their habitat. They move slowly and quietly. They stop feed on this and smell that. All animals stop ever so often and just have a look around with their eyes as their nose and ears are looking for what their eyes can’t see. We as humans hardly ever wonder around, we have a specific place we are going. If we are out scouting we want to get to this bottom or the top of a specific hill. That is fine but what we don’t realize is that when we are on our way to those places we sound like a semi-truck. As a human, we are programmed to not pay much attention to the middle but concern ourselves with point A and B. I suggest that everyone slow down and move like an animal. You don’t have to worry about wind with turkeys but you sure have to worry about their eyes and ears. If they hear footsteps in dry leaves moving slowly, stopping frequently, and moving again they will most likely think nothing of it. However, if they here crunch, crunch, crunch, mixed with branches breaking they’ll know something is up. Nothing in the woods moves like that on a normal basis.
The third topic that I would like to discuss is what I call adaptability. I have been a hunting guide for three and a half decades. One thing that I consistently see that hinders hunters is the cookie-cutter mold in which they practice. I can’t possibly count the number of times I’ve seen this prevent someone from being successful. People practice shooting a certain way from three or four distances. It becomes habitual to sit a certain way and have the perfect rest with total comfort, etc. Reality isn’t like that. Turkeys aren’t always going to come in as they do in the mind’s eye. Sometimes they are going to be to one side or the other. Many times I’ve had turkeys come in for my clients on one side or the other and subsequently walk off. Bewildered, I will ask why they didn’t shoot and they’ll say that they could turn on him. They just aren’t comfortable taking a shot with their body in that position. This is one of many reasons why you must practice for all things that may arise. Hunters need to become efficient and adaptable to any and all circumstances. On two personal hunts in my life, I have had to slowly switch from my normal right handed shooting position to left handed. Of course, I despise shooting left handed and the shotgun kicks like a mule when I shoot that way. But, it was that or no turkey. One of those two times was finishing a slam with a Goulds. I didn’t travel all that way, freeze in a tent all night, just to let that bird walk off. I adapted to what I had to work with and finished my slam. Practicing for any scenario is what gave me the ability to do that.
Hunters just need to be more patient and when they practice, practice for all situations. Nine out of ten times, turkeys aren’t going to play by the script we write. Be patient and be ready. Happy hunting!