John's Journal...


The Textbook Turkey, PhD

EDITOR’S NOTE: Any turkey hunter who tells you he knows everything about taking a turkey will lie to you about something else. Turkey hunting is a continuing-education program. Every spring you learn more than you have the spring before. There are several ways to learn the sport of turkey hunting, including videos, television shows, books, magazine articles and newspaper articles. But the very-best way to learn how to hunt a turkey are from the turkeys themselves, especially the PhD gobblers that know as much about the hunters who hunt them, as the hunters know about the turkeys they are trying to take. I’ve just completed my fifth turkey-hunting book, “Hunter’s Specialties’ PhD Gobblers.” In the book I’ve interviewed some of the greatest turkey hunters in the nation - the Hunter’s Specialties’ Pros - and each pro tells us about three different gobblers and what they’ve learned from these PhD gobblers. For the next few days, you can read excerpts from the book. You can buy the book from us by calling (205) 967-3830 or emailing us at for $24.95 each plus $4 shipping and handling. I’ll sign and date the book for you if you’ll send a check or a money order for $28.95 each or use PayPal-

Click to enlargeAs a youngster, J.R. Keller grew up in Delta, Colorado, and acquired a love for the outdoors from his father as he fished, hunted and camped with him. Through the years, Keller found a passion for turkey hunting that would consume most of his free time and lead him to become an avid turkey caller and competition caller. Keller entered his first calling contest in 1985 and won four Colorado State Junior Turkey Calling titles. Too, J.R. won the Utah Open Turkey Calling Championship twice and the 2000 Colorado Western Slope Elk and Open competitions. He still competes to better his calling ability as a competition caller and also to sharpen his skills as a top-notch hunter. An active member of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Keller travels the country conducting seminars and sharing his knowledge and experiences with other hunters and outdoor enthusiasts as a member of the Hunter’s Specialties’ Pro Team. Keller excels in the teaching process and particularly enjoys teaching young hunters the importance of safety, hunting ethics and the skills necessary to preserve the great sport to which he’s dedicated himself. Keller’s philosophy is that knowledge is the most-important piece of equipment you can take in the woods, particularly if you hunt toms that have their PhDs.

Click to enlarge“When I was hunting in Texas a few years ago, I thought I’d have a typical turkey hunt, strictly by the textbook, except that it was my first time to ever hunt in Texas,” Keller explains. “In Texas, the land was more open than where I usually hunted, and the turkeys roosted in mesquite flats and mesquite trees. The night before the hunt, I went out and roosted a turkey. I was convinced I had that turkey nailed to a tree. I’d studied the terrain, thought about how I could get close to the turkey the next morning before daylight and decided I’d have no trouble taking him.

“I got up early the next morning and started sneaking toward the tree where my gobbler was roosted. I passed another roost tree and spooked a tom because I hadn’t seen where that turkey had flown up the previous evening. When that turkey flew out of his tree, he spooked the turkey in the tree that I was planning on hunting. I’d been so focused on reaching the turkey I’d roosted the night before that I wasn’t looking for any other turkeys in any of the trees near my gobbler’s roost tree. I finally took the turkey I’d intended to take in the morning, late in the afternoon.

Click to enlarge“From the Textbook Turkey, PhD, I’ve learned to:
* “not leave the woods after I’ve seen one turkey fly-up when I’m roosting turkeys. I need to stay there until I’ve heard or seen all the other turkeys in the area fly up.
* “assume other turkeys always may be in the area where I’m hoping to hunt. Look and listen for turkeys as you go to the gobbler you’ve roosted the previous night.
* “never think a turkey hunt will be as simple or as easy as the textbook says it will be. “With the Textbook PhD Gobbler, I assumed that since I’d roosted the turkey, seen him fly up to the roost and selected the route I needed to travel to get to my calling site, all I’d have to do was to reach my calling site the next morning before daylight, take a stand there, make a few calls, let the gobbler fly off the roost to me, shoot the bird and get back to camp before the bacon had quit frying. That’s the way a textbook turkey hunt should be. But I relearned from this PhD gobbler that very rarely would a turkey hunt happen the way the textbook on turkeys said a hunt should. I realized that when I hunted turkeys, I needed to expect the unexpected and change and adapt my turkey hunting to the terrain and the birds I encountered. Very rarely would I ever go right to a turkey that was gobbling from the roost, call him straight to me and return to camp in a short time.”


Check back each day this week for more about HUNTER’S SPECIALTIES’ PHD GOBBLERS

Day 1: The Textbook Turkey, PhD
Day 2: Mr. On-the-Move Gobbler, PhD
Day 3: Piketown PhD Tom
Day 4: The Crooked Toe Tom, PhD
Day 5: The Head Thumping PhDs



Entry 343, Day 1