TURKEY SEASON is in full swing now, and I for one, absolutely love this time of year. Spring turkey hunting is one of the most exciting hunts you can have. One of the reasons is that you are not hunting that turkey, he is hunting for you!
Yes, that’s right. Although you’re the one who dragged all that gear out to your favorite turkey haven, once you’ve located a bird, he is looking for you.
The only thing that’s so bad about spring turkey hunting is that dawn comes so early—and it is earlier every day. However, I guarantee that once you hear your first morning gobble and the sound gets closer and closer, those early mornings will not even be on your radar.
It doesn’t matter whether you hunt with a bow, gun, slingshot or pea shooter. The excitement is the same. However, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you use a legal weapon to bag a turkey.
Turkeys have seven basic calls they use when they communicate with each other. It would be wise for any turkey hunter to know them and know what each means. These calls in no specific order are:
1) Yelp. The easiest to master and the most common call of a hen turkey. A novice using a box call can duplicate this sound fairly easily. A slow and steady slide followed by four or five shorter slides of the handle across the top of the box is all you need to do.
2) Cluck. This is used to simulate a bird that is calm and just walking in the woods looking for food. If you take the handle of a box call and simply hit the top of the box with it will sound like a cluck. Be careful though. If you do more than one cluck at a time, it will sound like a warning call to any bird in the area.
3) Putt. This is the warning call that tells any turkeys that trouble is brewing and to get away fast.
4) Purr. When a bird stops his approach and is just strutting back and forth out of range, this call will bring them in fast. It tells a bird that you’re a hen and you are ready for him. This is a little harder to do, but with a little finesse, the box call works great. It requires a very light amount of pressure on the handle to the top of the box. I find it easier to do on a slate.
5) Kee Kee Run. This call is best used in the fall but I have called in birds in the spring as well using this call. It is the sound that hens will make when it is lost or away from other hens. In the fall, when you scatter the birds, after 15 minutes, a soft Kee Kee Run will fool any hen and bring her in along with a gobbler that may be with her.
6) Cackle. I like to use this call when I simulate a bird flying off the roost. I combine this sound with my hat slapping up against my leg to simulate the wings of a turkey on fly down. It sounds great. I usually cup my hand on the side of my mouth and move away from where I hear the gobbler to sound like the bird is flying in the opposite direction and not to him at all. The cackle also is the sound that an excited hen will use. That usually fires off a gobble or two.
7) Gobble. As you might expect, this is only done by the male turkey. I do not like to use this sound because it might bring any hunter within earshot to your location and is not safe at all.
So, what actually happens naturally during the spring mating season?
In the early morning hours, a gobbler will sound off from his roost. Basically, he is letting any hens around know that it is time to get up. After a short time, he’ll fly down and gobble again when he hits the ground. If any hens are near the tom turkey’s roost, they will yelp after they fly down to let him know they are there.
Mother Nature dictates that the hen will come to the gobbler. He will simply find a place to let his tail fan out and strut back and forth while he gobbles every few minutes. This is why I love turkey season so much.
The hunter does his best to try to fool that tom to come to him instead of what he expects. Many hunters make the mistake of calling too much. As a matter of fact, some guys will yelp after he hears a gobble—every time!
That’s not natural, and the bird will sneak in to your calls without gobbling, or turn tail and leave the area. Let him gobble a few times, looking for you.
Call sparingly. He will soon get frustrated and reveal his location as he gets closer and closer to you. The only thing that could get in the way of your hunt is a real hen. If a hen is around, she will go to the gobbler, and they will walk away from you.
Turkey decoys really work great in the spring. Here too, I think too many hunters out there use the same set up all the time (two hens and a jake). I think these smart birds get alerted whenever they see it.
It doesn’t hurt to mix it up a bit and try four or more hens alone. A tom turkey, knowing he has all those hens to himself, will be fooled into coming in.
I even take it a step further. I’ll set one of my decoys on the ground with no stake to hold it up. This represents a hen that is ready to mate. I used this set up last spring when Chester came to New York to hunt eastern turkeys. It worked like a charm for him, and it will work for you.
Understanding the language of a turkey is paramount if you want to be successful. You do not have to be a professional caller. A simple yelp will bring birds in for a good shot.
Just like anything else, practice makes perfect. However, make sure your wife isn’t home while you practice.
Spoiler alert—it’ll also drive your dog crazy!
Good luck. Have fun and hunt safe.
Email Lou Marullo at [email protected]