Get Real

Duping a tom into believing you have long scaly legs and breast feathers often takes a convincer.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Every morning for a week a mature tom gobbled at my clucks and yelps, but then pitched from his roost and strutted away. The sharp-spurred devil was making a fool out of me, and I was beginning to think he was enjoying it. It was definitely time to dig deep into my vest of tricks.

The next day I slipped close to the gobbler before sunrise and pulled out a wing I had kept from a turkey I'd shot the previous fall. The sky turned pewter and my nemesis started to sound off. Just before I thought he was going to fly down, I flapped the wing against a tree and beat the brush and leaves beside me. The tom gobbled in answer and a tremendous urge welled up inside me to yelp, but I suppressed it. In a few moments I heard the turkey pitch down, and minutes later I spotted his red head weaving through the foliage. I dropped him with a dose of No. 4 shot without making a single call.

My plan worked because this particular gobbler had become shy of calls, but he hadn't learned to doubt the flydown. If you don't have an old turkey wing lying around, a good alternative is the Real Wing from Primos Calls.

Here are 10 other sneaky tricks that will help you score some beards and spurs this spring.

1. Turkeys Are Bipeds, Too
When a tom gobbles out of calling range, most hunters pull off their face masks, hold their magnum shotguns at port arms and sneak toward the bird as if they were going on a covert CIA mission. "But why?" asks Ray Eye, the turkey-hunting wizard from Missouri. "When a gobbler is well out of sight, say, down in a draw or on the far side of a ridge, I walk straight to him, shuffling leaves and breaking twigs along the way. As I close the gap, I slow down and set up as close to him as I can comfortably get. Now I've got the gobbler wondering if it was a hen or another tom walking around over there. The turkey doesn't know, since we both walk with the same clump, clump, clump of two feet; as a result, he's primed to come to the first call you make," explains Eye.

** 2. Park in a Tom's Lane**
Scattered amid the thick greenery of every forest are sections of open hardwoods, fire lanes or small meadows. Turkeys often pitch down in or near such openings at dawn. Many toms will circle around and work to your calls through a more open area where it is easy for them to strut and look for hens. Set up in or near such areas and you'll call in more longbeards.

3. Try the Blind Bluff
One morning last spring I slipped within 150 yards of a tom that was strutting and gobbling on a hillside. The woods were fairly open, but my setup was perfect because the turkey was doing his thing on the opposite side of a large thicket. I wasn't able to see him, and he couldn't look over to where I was calling to see there was no hen on the scene.

The old boy thundered at my every call and I knew that he was coming. Looking over the terrain I thought it likely that he would skirt the thicket on the uphill side, so I moved my position to be within range of the top of the thicket. My hunch proved to be a good one, and I had an easy shot because I made the tom come for a look.

** 4. Slip Into His Bedroom**
Mark Drury, cofounder of M.A.D. Calls, doesn't just put a turkey to bed, he practically climbs into the sack with him. "When a bird gobbles at my owl hoots at sunset, I try to sneak within eighty yards or so of his roost," he says. "I get as close as I can without spooking him. In there tight, I can listen and tell if the bird has hens, I can look around for a setup tree and I can predict where he'll fly down. All of that helps a ton when I come back to hunt the turkey the next morning."

Drury waits until it's pitch black to leave a roosting area. He counts his steps to a landmark that he's sure he can find before sunrise and then heads to his truck. The next morning he counts his steps back in andoesn't have to worry about bumping the boss.

** 5. Encourage a Flyover**
When a tom is gobbling on the far side of a creek, river or canyon, it's best to cross over and call to the turkey from the same side, but sometimes you can't. The next best thing is to back off a hazard 100 to 150 yards, set up and yelp and cutt aggressively.

A tom might walk to the edge of a creek or gully and strut and gobble where he'll want to wait for you to come to him. Snub him and keep power-calling. If the bird is alone and hot enough, he might just fly across the hazard. Listen for that. The minute the tom comes to your side, tone down your calls and work him as you would any other bird.

**6. Use Small Talk **
Conventional wisdom says that when a turkey is gobbling hard and closing the gap, you should quit yelping and let him come. Do that, but the minute the bird slows down his walk and talk, go back to calling to prevent him from losing interest. I don't mean you should hammer him with loud, fancy yelps and cutts. Just coax him the final yards with soft, sexy clucks, purrs, whines and yelps. As long as a tom is gobbling and moving your way, keep whispering sweet nothings until he pops into gun range.

7. Don't Be a Blow Hard
Owl hooters, crow calls, coyote howlers and woodpecker calls all can make turkeys gobble, but don't overdo it. If you blow a 15-second series of booming hoots or five coyote barks followed by a long, shrill howl, a tom might shock-gobble all right, but with all of the racket, you might not hear him. Start out with a single hoot, two sharp crow caws or a short bark-and-howl on a coyote screamer. Then lower your locator call and perk your ears. You might catch only the tail end of a shock gobble, but that's all you need to hear.

8. Arouse the Hen's Curiosity
When toms are "henned up," be careful how aggressively you call. If you yelp and cutt too much, you'll irritate a lot of hens and push them away from your setup. Instead of calling, sneak within 100 yards or so of the tom, set up and make some soft clucks, purrs and yelps. Call just loudly enough so the hens will hear you. Then scratch in the leaves and maybe pop a wing against a bush. Those nonthreatening calls and sounds might lure a hen or two with a longbeard in tow.

9. Get His Dander Up
The Spring Jealousy Decoy Adaptor ($19.99; 877-743-WILD; www.thewildoutdoors.com), developed by Jay Gregory, host of The Outdoor Channel's The Wild Outdoors, will combine almost any jake and hen decoy set into a realistic breeder setup. (Feather Flex started this trend with its "True Position Breeders.") The product is essentially a stake with a spring in the middle. Set out the stake, stick a foam hen on it and pin a jake decoy on top. Attach a string to the decoys and pull it as you call to give it motion. Try it in a field where you know toms come to strut. A gobbler might spot the spectacle and waddle over to establish his dominance. He might even jump up and try to spur the jake off the gal. Here's the best part: When a turkey is riled up and transfixed on the decoys, he is less likely to notice you.

10. Keep 'Em Guessing
To up your odds of bagging a bird you've hunted on several occasions, do things differently. For example, if you've hunted the turkey at daybreak, hunt somewhere else early and come back in the late morning. If you've been trying to call him in with a box call, try a friction or mouth call instead.

Another strategy is to approach a gobbler from a different direction. If he's had a few scares from the same location, he may become reluctant to approach that area. Keep him guessing and he's more likely to be duped into thinking you're the real thing.

New Advantages

Wingbone Yelper
Many companies have tried but failed to reproduce the wingbone call, a call that is traditionally made from the bones in a turkey's wing. Primos, however, has hit the mark with its new Wingbone Yelper. Like the true wingbone call, which was first constructed by Native Americans, the call works by sucking air out of it. ($12.99; 800-523-2395; www.primos.com)

Right Side Up
M.A.D. Calls has found a way to give both sides a say. Rather than working properly only when the short reed is facing down (as most mouth calls do), its three models of Flip Over Series Mouth Calls make sweet yelps and cutts when run on one side and raspier calls when placed on the other. ($14.99 for three; 800-922-9034; www.outlandsports.com)

Smooth Talker
The five new Ultimate Hunting Team diaphragms from Knight & Hale feature specially blended latex reeds. The thin, lively reeds produce some of the best turkey tones we've heard in a while. (800-500-9357; www.knightandhale.com)

Direct Marketing
The Sidewinder Slate from Quaker Boy has a small "sound horn" on its side that allows the caller to funnel yelps and cutts in a particular direction. There's also a Triple Sidewinder with slate, glass and aluminum surfaces. ($19.99; 800-544-1600; www.quakerboygamecalls.com)

Back Support
The hottest new vest is the Epeards-Lounge from Little Big Horn Outdoors. An internal frame/back support lets you plop down anywhere without hesitation. ($72.50; 606-331-4120; www.little- bighorn.com)

**Instant Turkeys **
Unlike foam decoys, inflatable decoys can be squished flat and then carried in your pocket. And when you do need one, it takes just three big breaths to have an instant hen or jake. The Inflatable Flock from Feather Flex may be the most realistic on the market. ($14.99 for one; $39.99 for the whole flock; 800-922-9034; www. outlandsports.com) ingbone call, a call that is traditionally made from the bones in a turkey's wing. Primos, however, has hit the mark with its new Wingbone Yelper. Like the true wingbone call, which was first constructed by Native Americans, the call works by sucking air out of it. ($12.99; 800-523-2395; www.primos.com)

Right Side Up
M.A.D. Calls has found a way to give both sides a say. Rather than working properly only when the short reed is facing down (as most mouth calls do), its three models of Flip Over Series Mouth Calls make sweet yelps and cutts when run on one side and raspier calls when placed on the other. ($14.99 for three; 800-922-9034; www.outlandsports.com)

Smooth Talker
The five new Ultimate Hunting Team diaphragms from Knight & Hale feature specially blended latex reeds. The thin, lively reeds produce some of the best turkey tones we've heard in a while. (800-500-9357; www.knightandhale.com)

Direct Marketing
The Sidewinder Slate from Quaker Boy has a small "sound horn" on its side that allows the caller to funnel yelps and cutts in a particular direction. There's also a Triple Sidewinder with slate, glass and aluminum surfaces. ($19.99; 800-544-1600; www.quakerboygamecalls.com)

Back Support
The hottest new vest is the Epeards-Lounge from Little Big Horn Outdoors. An internal frame/back support lets you plop down anywhere without hesitation. ($72.50; 606-331-4120; www.little- bighorn.com)

**Instant Turkeys **
Unlike foam decoys, inflatable decoys can be squished flat and then carried in your pocket. And when you do need one, it takes just three big breaths to have an instant hen or jake. The Inflatable Flock from Feather Flex may be the most realistic on the market. ($14.99 for one; $39.99 for the whole flock; 800-922-9034; www. outlandsports.com)