Hunting Turkeys – For the Love of the Addiction with John E. Phillips
Turkey Hunting Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This
Editor’s Note: I was bitten by the turkey bug more than 45-years ago, and the addiction was so strong that I not only couldn’t shake it, I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to try. I still feel the same way. There’s a certain magic whether you take the turkey or the turkey tricks you that is every bit as alluring as the sirens’ call to the Greek sailors in the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey.” Each spring, I get as giddy as a child on Christmas Eve and as excited as a bride about to walk down the aisle. I hope that maybe you can understand and enjoy this addiction to chasing turkeys as much as I have for most of my life.
Hiding behind large rolled-up bales of hay, I heard the woods birds begin to sing and strained my ears for the first turkey sounds of the morning on this my first turkey hunt for 2010. I was hunting by myself, which was a rare occurrence, because I generally hunted with other hunters and wrote their stories about how they hunted and called turkeys. Getting to hunt alone was a rare treat, one I always hoped to enjoy at least once or twice during each year’s turkey season. As the sun was issuing the promise of a bright new day, I heard very-low and quiet tree calls from hens and one jake not 50 yards from the bale of hay I was standing beside. At first, I thought I’d sit down between the two bales, set-up a blind and try to take a gobbler, if one flew out into the big, open field. But after checking out that stand site, I discovered that my field of view would be very limited if I sat between the bales. Too, I’d stick out like a big sore thumb wrapped in a half-mile of gauze bandaging, if I sat in front of the bales. Therefore, I opted to take a stand under an elevated deer stand. The cross members under the stand and the weeds growing-up around the base of the stand created a perfect natural blind.
Once I was in position, I gave a few very-light tree calls on the new Hunter’s Specialties’ Ring Zone friction call. Immediately, hens answered. Then as the sun opened one eye and peaked over the horizon, the hens still roosted in the trees really began to talk. One particular hen had a rough, gravelly-sounding voice, causing me to identify her as the boss hen (the most-dominant hen in the flock). When I called back to her, I could tell she was greatly irritated, because she started yelping loudly and aggressively before I completed my series of calls. Since I heard no gobblers, I decided to carry-on a conversation with this boss hen. I started telling her that she wasn’t nearly as attractive as she thought she was, that she no longer was in charge, and if there was a gobbler in the area, I intended to have a date with him before her. Because I understood the language of turkeys, I could say all these things on a friction call by interrupting the boss hen and calling on top of her calls every time she opened her beak.
The old lady and I were getting into a heated verbal dispute when I heard the first gobbler of the morning sound-off about 100-yards away. He really started talking. However, instead of answering him, I waited for the old lady to yelp. Then I cut her off short by yelping, clucking and cackling before she finished her call. The old gobbler was getting fired-up when he heard these two ladies in a cussing fight. While all this was happening, I heard three more turkeys gobble about 1/4-mile away to my left and another longbeard gobble about the same distance away to my right. But instead of speaking to any of those gobblers by calling right after they gobbled, I continued to talk to the dominant hen. Every time she yelped, I’d yelp on top of her. The gobblers now were answering both me and the dominant hen, as all five of the birds moved to where this very-vocal hen fight was taking place. The gobbling grew louder as the boss hen’s cutting, cackling and yelping and my imitating her calls got louder.
Watching the edge of the woodline where I expected a tom to appear, I said to myself, “You’re going to take one of those big ole gobblers any minute now.” However, when I looked over my shoulder back at the largest part of the field that was probably 150-yards wide and 250-yards long, I spotted another gobbler, about 100-yards away. This longbeard hadn’t said a word. I never would have known he was there had I not accidentally seen him coming-up through the field. I quickly repositioned myself and focused my attention on the gobbler I could see coming to all the calling. In less than 2 minutes by my watch, the lone longbeard was straight in front of me, but about 75-yards out. I realized that generally when anyone saw a tom that the hunter probably shouldn’t call. But I knew this gobbler would walk past me and go to the hens, if I didn’t take drastic action. When the gobbler was feeding with his head down, I turned my Ring Zone call so the sound chamber would be directly behind me. I gave a few light clucks and purrs. Immediately, the old gobbler’s head went up like a periscope. But after looking around for 10 or 15 seconds, he returned to feeding. Once his head was down, and he couldn’t see me, I once again stroked the Ring Zone with the peg. However, this time instead of clucking and purring, I gave more-demanding types of yelps. The gobbler’s head came up quickly, and he went into full strut and finally gobbled. Then he turned, faced me and began walking toward my stand. The bird stopped at 40 yards, turned sideways to me and cocked his head to listen for the hen. My Thompson/Center 20-gauge, 3-inch magnum was already on my shoulder. I cocked the hammer and aimed for the wattles at the base of the turkey’s neck. The instant I squeezed the trigger, the old gobbler went down.
Today's Video Clip
Tomorrow: Pulling a Gobbler That’s Leaving Back at White Oak Plantation with Joe Smith
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