Let’s Get Started Hunting Turkeys
Day 1: Develop Your Hunting Skills by Knowing Turkeys with Lovett Williams
Editor’s Note: With turkey season starting in many sections of the South within 1-2 weeks, I want to cover basic information you need to be successful. I’ve often asked Lovett Williams, who has a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology and was a wildlife biologist with the Florida Game and Fish Commission for more than two decades, for helpful turkey information. He’s spent many years studying the wild turkey and has written two books on the subject – “The Wild Turkey” and “The Voice and Vocabulary of the Wild Turkey.”
Most people who try to become master turkey hunters go about it all wrong. They learn techniques for dealing with gobblers that hang up. They look for ways of calling an old gobbler away from his hens. They try any new method they hear about from anybody who ever has hunted turkeys, and they rely heavily on luck. But these approaches are the worst ones to take. Turkey hunting is unlike any other hunting. You can’t rely on decoys to lure in a turkey. You can’t depend on a dog’s nose to find him, or on another hunter to drive him to you. To become a master turkey hunter, you must have confidence in your own skills. Turkey hunting is a discipline that requires lots of practice.
The most-important thing to know about is the turkey itself. Without knowing the game you hunt, the hunting becomes far more difficult, and luck is the only card with which you can hope to win. Read books and magazines on turkey hunting, listen to lectures, and go to turkey-hunting seminars and calling contests. Learn the places where turkeys like to roost, the movement patterns they most often follow and the times of day when they engage in various activities. For instance, find out what time turkeys fly up in the afternoon, where they like to go when they fly down, where they spend their midday hours, and where they prefer to be just before they return to the roost. Learn to identify the sounds they make and what the different sounds mean. You will discover, for instance, that the turkey hen yelps, so that other turkeys can locate her. The yelp has an acoustical quality that allows it to travel great distances. One important thing you’ll learn from books, seminars, and so on is that no matter how much you know, there’s still much more to learn. However, a basic knowledge of turkeys will help you start taking them and help you understand what you’re doing right. Another way to learn about turkeys is to find yourself a mentor. By that I mean locate a successful, experienced turkey hunter who will take you under his wing. Such a person can greatly increase your knowledge and awareness of turkeys.
The next source of knowledge is the turkeys themselves. Spend time in the woods listening to turkeys and looking at them. A master turkey hunter will observe turkeys before, during and after the turkey season. You should try to correlate what you’ve read and what you’ve heard from other hunters with what you see in the woods. When you see a turkey strut, drum or fly up to roost, you should be able to say to yourself, “I know why that turkey is turkey is doing that – I’ve read about it or heard someone mention it.” Beware of misinformation about the turkey’s ability to think and reason. A turkey is a bundle of instincts, innate reactions, habits and nerves. He doesn’t have a big brain and isn’t able to figure anything out as a human with. If you hunt turkeys believing they can reason like humans, you’ll never be able to understand them. If you watch turkeys, you’ll soon learn they’re as predictable as programmed robots. From your observations and reading, you’ll learn not to believe the turkey is smarter than he actually is.
To gain knowledge about the turkey, you’ll have to rely much more on your ears than you do with most other game. I’m convinced most hunters don’t know how to listen for turkeys. I rank the hunter’s ability to hear the turkey much higher than his ability to see it. You should be able not only to hear a turkey gobble, but also to hear him drag his wings when he’s strutting. You should understand what a putt is. You should be able to hear a turkey walking. You should know all the sounds the hens make and what they mean. You should be able to judge your distance from a turkey by sound alone. What you hear in the woods should be combined with what you observe, what you read, and what you hear from other hunters. With all this information, you can get to know the turkey very well.
To get these Kindle ebooks by John E. Phillips, including: “The Turkey Hunter's Bible, click here; “PhD Gobblers; click here; and “Turkey Hunting Tactics, click here, or go to http://www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks, type in the names of the books, and download them to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.
Check back at this website after March 10th for John E. Phillips’ latest Kindle ebook, “Outdoor Life’s Complete Turkey Hunting” and a reprint of his popular, sold-out book, “The Turkey Hunter’s Bible” 2nd edition.
About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.