I have learned many lessons over 19 years of turkey hunting – most of them by doing something wrong. As a matter of fact, I must sheepishly admit that it took 6 years of mistakes before I connected with my first gobbler. Luckily for me, I have not been blanked since. But does luck really have anything to do with it? By a frustrating process of elimination, I’ve found out the hard way that successfful turkey hunting is a matter of avoiding a few simple but very natural mistakes, and by doing so, makes for a story that ends with pulling the trigger, rather than a heavy-footed sulk to the truck.
1. Movement. Turkeys are not inherently smart creatures, but they were granted a few blessed traits that help keep them alive. One of them is vision. I’ve gotten away with a shift here or a lean there, but if you move, I promise more often than not, you will be seen, and turkeys will become much more scarce. I actually think that staying completely still is more important than camo. I’d bet on a statue in blaze orange over a fidgety hunter in a ghillie suit every day of the week. Turkeys key on movement as danger. Period. So don’t move.
2. Over-Calling. Who in their right mind doesn’t enjoy a fired up tom ripping gobbles back to your every peep? But if you turkey call too much you are going to build that bird’s ego to the point that he may just stop and wait for you to come to him. That is how nature works. If you have turkey hunted enough, then you know you want the Tom to have an idea of where you are and that you are available – that’s it. Leave the rest to his imagination – or your decoys.
3. Sleeping In. You are not a Ninja. Turkeys can see when it’s light out. So get into position in the morning when it’s not. Enough Said.
4. Poor Preparation. If you wait until the last night before season to gather calls, shells, camo, blind, decoys and such, you will inevitably enter the woods short an item or two. Have you ever tried calling in a bird by mouth because your diaphragm call is lying in a box in your basement? Don’t ask. Just make a list and make sure that everything on it is within reach.
5. Laziness. If the best approach to a bird on the roost is across the river and from the other side of the mountain, take it. A spooked bird doesn’t respond well to the opposite sex.
6. Calling it Quits Too Early. I have killed nearly as many birds in the afternoon as morning while turkey hunting. They tend to gobble less, but often have been abandoned by their female friends. A lonely tom is a vulnerable one. Stick it out if the weather is stable and there is little wind.
7. Sticking with Tactics that aren’t Producing. By definition, it is insanity. If you get close to a tom on the roost two days in a row, and he answers every call you make, but doesn’t come in, DO NOT keep doing it. Come in from the opposite side of the farm, switch calls, try decoys, get rid of the decoys, whatever. Switch it up. A change in tactics might be his death sentence. But you will never know unless you go the extra mile and try it.
To be a successful turkey hunter, regardless of the game, YOU GOTTA WANT IT! Live and hunt by that Mantra, and I promise you a wall full of trophies and a mind full of great memories.
Straight shots, Louis J. Foggia III