Notes on How NOT to Call a Turkey

Monday, August 2nd, 2010 | Posted in Hunting

Reb's Gobbler

Many, many years ago when my brother and I were bow hunting on the White River Refuge in Arkansas, we came upon a flock of wild turkeys foraging in the woods. We had grown up hunting ducks and doves and deer, but had no experience with these huge reptilian birds.   We hunkered down and watched them scratching and pecking and meandering across the hillside. They seemed like mythical creatures: 20 pound birds with coppery feathers, long serpentine necks, able to fly like quail, run like racehorses, and see like eagles. We were pretty much transfixed.

We bought turkey calls and went back the following April with shotguns. On a dark logging road, we split up, having no idea where the birds might be. He went one way, I went the other. He sat down in one spot, scraped his box call a few times, and some minutes later a jake and gobbler walked up. He managed to shoot the jake. All I found was a pile of feathers where a bobcat or coyote had dined on a turkey. We went back the next morning, and he shot another one. Again, I saw nothing. As Jimmy Carter said, life is unfair.

I spent the next 20 years or so trying to kill a turkey. In my meek defense, work kept me from hunting more than a few days a year, some years none at all. And, more importantly, I spent too much time hunting places that had too many hunters and not enough turkeys. Anyway, I am well qualified to share with you all the mistakes I made along the way:

First of all, learn to use at least two different types of calls. For reasons known only to the birds, some days one will work better than another. When I set up, I like to have a diaphragm call in my mouth, and start calling with a slate call. If the slate doesn’t get a response, I try the diaphragm, then a box call. When a gob gets close, you can use the diaphragm without moving your hands.

Go to the source. There are lots of instructional tapes and websites with turkey sounds, but the best way to learn is to spend time around real birds. If at all possible, get out and find a flock of wild turkeys and get close enough to hear them well. Pay attention to the pitch and cadence of their sounds, not just vocal sounds, but all the noises they make: scratching leaves, wings flapping, all of it. If you can’t get among wild birds, find some tame turkeys and imitate their sounds.

Less is more. Call no more than absolutely necessary. Pretend that it’s costing you serious money every time you hit a lick on that call, and save them up. Some of the best turkey hunters I know seldom call at all, and will often kill smart old gobblers without a call. There is no substitute for knowing the terrain well. Figure out where the birds are and where they want to be, and put yourself where they will come to you. Which brings me to my next point… (more…)

Jack County Monster Boar

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010 | Posted in Hunting

Febuary 15, 2010

Jacksboro, Texas – I left East Texas on a Friday after a night of rare snowing to go to our deer camp for a weekend of deer hunting with my dad.   I got to the camp a little early that evening, so I didn’t even change out of my traveling clothes, I just grabbed my 7mag and jumped on the 4 wheeler and took off towards a deer stand.

Big tracks in the snow..

On my way to the stand, I noticed huge tracks in the snow following the road, then they turned and headed towards a feeder.  I didn’t plan to hunt that stand, but I figured I’d at least go take a look and see.  I killed the 4 wheeler in the road and started crunching through the snow towards the feeder.

I followed the tracks towards the feeder until I rounded a corner and could see where the feeder was.  When I got the feeder in view, I could see an animal under it.  I crouched down, I put a big bush between me and the feeder, and walked right towards him so if it heard me, it wouldn’t be able to see me.  With snow everywhere, I was wearing a black Carhartt jacket, blue jeans, work boots, and a hat, no gloves, no face mask, no camo, nothing you would find me wearing on a normal planned hunt.

Walking in the snow was really dang loud, I didn’t think there would be any way I could sneak up on any wild animal.  I got about 50 yards from the feeder and I stepped sideways from the bush to take another look, and it was still there, still moving around and not alarmed.  I could tell he was big, but didn’t realize how big.  The brush was thick from that angle, but I could tell it was a hog for sure.  Our landowner hates hogs and wants us to kill as many as possible, so I aimed freehanded into the bushes, waited until he was either facing me or facing away, I couldn’t tell which, and shot right in the middle of the black blob through the brush. (more…)

The Belgian 12

Friday, January 29th, 2010 | Posted in Gear, Hunting

Round Rock, TX – “Well I just got that Benelli last year, I should just go with it again this year”, I say to myself, holding and looking up and down the possible opening-day-dove-hunt shotgun alternative.

The Belgian 12

A few years ago, my granddad traded someone somewhere for two Belgian guild-made side-by-side (SxS) hammer-guns made around 1930: an English stock 12ga., and a 28ga./7mm shotgun/rifle combo gun.  At the time, I was probably mesmerized with German or Spanish double-guns, and working toward justifying a $4000 expense attempt at entry into the world of fine SxS craftsmanship.  So I hadn’t ever asked to borrow or try these guns, even at the range.  I was also probably scared to fire them.

But now, as my gun wisdom/mantras had cycled over after a few years (note: and are sure to cycle again), I made my way to the gun safe and was imagining taking the old 12ga. out to hit some birds.  I wanted to shoot a dove with a SxS hammergun.  The gun’s action locked up solid, its hammers and triggers had little play.  Overall, the gun felt pretty good, and trustworthy.  It wasn’t my granddad’s trusty shotgun.  In fact, he traded guns often and he simply hadn’t traded this one away yet.  But it was $4000 cheaper than a Merkel, “shot the same shells”, and had enjoyed 70+ years of aging in its wood that gave it a feel and color as warm as some old whiskey.  I asked my granddad if I could borrow it.  Stupid question. (more…)

Thanksgiving Notes for 2010

Thursday, November 26th, 2009 | Posted in Cooking, Hunting

Food HuntingSomewhere I heard of a Thanksgiving tradition of the man of the house going out and shooting something, I guess preferably a turkey, on Thanksgiving day.  I could go look up the source, but I’d rather just envy the idea and plan a trip for next year. 

Next Thanksgiving, I’d like to take the Belgian 12ga SxS out to some land (that I aint bought, the first predicament this publication is in), with 10 rounds of assorted shotgun shells: buckshot, no4′s and no8′s.  I’ll assemble a crew of guns, maybe, and we’ll all head out before daylight to see what we can’t shoot.  Then, we’ll come back to the house, clean up whatever we have, and try to make a meal out of it (the cooking part of the challenge).

For some reason, I get the feeling that we’ll end up eating assorted rodents under this plan, so I’ll have to get creative.