John's Journal...

What Are Your Personal Rules for Hunting Wild Turkeys?

Day 1: Is the Sport of Turkey Hunting and Turkey Calling the Same?

Editor’s Note: Every turkey hunter sets-up his own set of rules about what’s fair and not fair within the laws of the area where he’s hunting when he hunts the wily gobbler. Often a turkey hunter believes his personal ethical turkey-hunting code should be implemented by every other turkey hunter. Many wild turkeys earn their names, because of their characteristics or actions. The men and women who hunt them have intimate relationships with these gobblers. In the situations we’ll describe this week, you’ll make up your own mind as to whether the hunter should have taken the gobbler or let the tom survive another day.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger View“There isn’t anything to this turkey hunting,” Collier Snow, told me. “I did exactly what you said to do. I went out into the woods, located a place where turkeys had been scratching and dusting, found turkey feathers, bought a full suit of camo and a turkey call and learned how to use it. Then on opening morning I returned, sat next to a tree that was wider than my shoulders and waited on daylight. Just before the sun came up, I heard a hen call 20 yards in front of me. Since she was doing a much better job of calling than I could, I didn’t pick up my call. In a few minutes, I heard a turkey gobbler 50 yards further into the woods. Just at daylight, a hen flew from the roost, cackled, began to yelp and walked right past me. In less than 10 minutes, here came the gobbler to right where she had been. When the bird was 18-steps from me, I shot. This was my first turkey hunt. I’m not sure there’s much expertise involved in gobbler chasing.”

Do we cheapen a turkey hunt when we don’t call to the bird? Is the sport of turkey hunting and turkey calling the same? In my many years of chasing wily gobblers, I’ve had the opportunity to hunt with sportsmen of both persuasions. One of my mentors taught the philosophy that, “Turkey hunting is a sport for the caller, like duck hunting. Any hunter who doesn’t call a tom to gun range doesn’t have the right to bag the bird. If the turkey doesn’t come on that day, then the gobbler wins. If the gobbler does come to gun range, the hunter wins.”

Another of my teachers lived by the philosophy of, “Far more skill is required to learn a turkey’s movement patterns, to guess where and when he will show up, to get ahead of the bird without calling and without being seen, then is needed to sit down next to a tree, make a turkey sound and have the bird run to where you are.” Yet another turkey hunting sage put it this way, which I believe is a combination of both philosophies, when he told me that, “There comes a time after you’ve fooled with an ole gobbler for several days when you must decide whether you’re going to call to him or kill him. You know that if you call to him, you’ll not take him.”

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewThese three different philosophies have been responsible for varying opinions of turkey-hunting ethics. To be honest, I have adhered to all three at different times in my turkey-hunting career that spans 50 years. Should each hunter follow the same code when trying to take toms? Or, should each hunter determine from his own experience what constitutes taking a turkey fairly? I have mixed feelings about the question, since I’ve seen my own attitude change over the years. Too, should there be one code for the beginning turkey hunter and a separate code for the man who’s taken several turkeys? This week we’ll try to explore both.

To learn more about turkey hunting from the masters, get these Kindle eBooks by John E. Phillips, including: “The Turkey Hunter's Bible (available as an eBook or in paperback),”PhD Gobblers: How to Hunt the Smartest Turkeys in the World,” “Turkey Hunting Tactics” and his latest eBook, “Outdoor Life’s Complete Turkey Hunting.” Click on the links above, or go to, 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.

Share this page with a friend!

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.

Tomorrow: Taking the Flying Turkey Gobbler and the Slow Tom

Check back each day this week for more about What Are Your Personal Rules for Hunting Wild Turkeys?"

Day 1: Is the Sport of Turkey Hunting and Turkey Calling the Same?
Day 2: Taking the Flying Turkey Gobbler and the Slow Tom
Day 3: Hunting the Lightning Turkey and the Air Gobbler and the Dirt Road Tom
Day 4: Hunting the Field Turkey and the Spooked Gobbler
Day 5: Hunting the Processional Tom and the Not Close Enough Gobbler

ALL CONTENT PROTECTED UNDER THE DIGITAL MILLENIUM COPYRIGHT ACT. Content theft, either printed or electronic is a federal offense.


Entry 763, Day 1