It was one of those days. The bad luck started early that morning when I busted an old gobbler that had been schooling me all week off his roost. By midday, I was bone-tired and totally frustrated. It seemed as though I was putting out one fire after another at work, and by that afternoon I was done, done with the… well, let’s keep it PG. Just done.
Such is the life of an obsessed turkey hunter. I had tried my best to finish work early enough to take off after lunch, head to the farm and make an afternoon turkey hunt with my father-in-law. Needless to say, that did not happen. During happy hour that evening, I regained some much-needed perspective, courtesy of one Billy “Pop” Hull, who always had a way with words.
As I brought him his bourbon, he looked at my haggard face, which he was very good at reading, and said, “You might as well just relax, you’ve screwed up the hunting for today.” (I’ll keep that PG as well). I couldn’t help but laugh. Happy hour became, well, happy, and after the day I had experienced, I needed it.
That day occurred during the turkey season of 2016 — April 2016 to be exact, and I think about it often. The next morning, I called in a fine longbeard for Pop. It proved to be the the last gobbler I would ever call in for him, and I can still remember that bird strutting sideways across the field toward us, the wind blowing his large fan like the sail of a sailboat.
After an action-packed and successful Thursday and Friday morning in the turkey woods this past week, I was looking forward to a weekend of hunting with my son. Our Saturday hunt was quiet, and Sunday morning started out that way as well, which provided me with some much-needed time for reflection.
During the gobbling lull, I found myself reminiscing about past turkey hunts with Dan. However, my thoughts were interrupted by the first gobbling turkey of the morning, and soon thereafter, the repeated crow calling of another hunter on the adjoining property.
This “calling” was quite persistent, which was surprising considering the number of real crows voicing their “caw, caw, caws” all around. The gobbler quickly became tight-lipped as a result of the “crow call concerto,” and I was reminded of a bit of valuable turkey hunting knowledge that I learned early on from a mentor: use locator calls sparingly.
On the first morning that I hunted with that mentor, who happens to be the best turkey hunter that I know, I kept waiting for him to break out an owl hooter at first light. Finally, after I could take it no longer, I asked him when he was going to hoot. He looked at me and whispered, “The good Lord made plenty of owls and crows,” adding, “Be patient.”
He was right, and the woods soon came alive with the sounds of both. I’ve stuck with his advice since then. Over the years, I have been fooled in the woods by another hunter’s turkey calls, but I have never failed to identify a “fake crow,” and I don’t live in the woods like a turkey (although my wife would argue that fact in the spring).
With that said, here are a few more turkey hunting pearls: First, don’t trust the weather forecast. To be clear, I always trust our local meteorologists when it comes to severe weather. If they say take shelter, then I take shelter.
However, if the forecast for opening day (or any day for that matter) calls for, let’s say, an 80% chance of rain, then take your chances with the other 20% and go hunting. I’ve had some great hunts in the rain (two last week in fact), but I’ve never taken a gobbler from the comforts of my bed.
Second, hunt when you can. I once thought of turkey hunting as only a morning activity, and while turkeys typically gobble more in the morning, they also gobble throughout the day.
An “old pro” turkey hunter once asked me if I hunted in the afternoon. When I told him no, he responded by telling me that was when he was most successful. “They gobble good in the afternoon, too.” he said, adding, “If he answers your call in the afternoon, then click off your safety and get ready, ‘cause he’s coming!”
Take these tips with a grain of salt, as I do not proclaim to be an expert turkey hunter. Furthermore, we all have different styles of hunting this great bird, and what I like may not be what you like. Whatever your style, take someone new hunting this year, and until next time, I look forward to seeing you out there in our great outdoors.
Email outdoors columnist Brad Dye at firstname.lastname@example.org.