1. Take Aim
Don't expect longbeards to march in announcing their approach. More often than not, they'll ghost in silently, appearing 15 or 20 yards to your left or right, or even coming from behind. Don't blink while that bird is staring you down, says White Oak Plantation guide Bo Pittman. Wait until it starts easing away, still trying to figure out what you are. If it walks behind a tree, take aim and be ready to shoot when it steps clear. If there isn't a tree, Pittman says, ease your gun slowly, but steadily, into position and fire as soon as you have the tom covered. The bird will give you just seconds before it bolts. 2. Target Dusting Bowls
More than just proof that turkeys are in the area, dusting bowls can be used to pattern birds. "Dusting bowls are like deer scrapes, to a point," says Knight & Hale's Chris Parrish. "You can tell when they're fresh and if they're still being used." Turkeys hit the sandy spots to cool off and clean mites from their feathers. Parrish suggests smoothing one out with your foot. Come back later that day or the next morning to determine if it has been hit and by how many birds. These spots seem to attract birds best during hot, dry weather, particularly at midday. Doug Howlett
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3. Make Your Move
“Calling position is so important. I might move three, four or five times on a tom before I get to where I want to be,” admits three-time Grand National calling champion Paul Butski. The Butski’s Game Calls call maker says he’ll close the distance toward a tom to where he feels comfortable, quickly sit, get his gun ready and call again. If he can still improve his position, he will. “The biggest thing that messes up hunters is indecision,” Butski says. “Make up your mind, move, get your gun ready and don’t waste time getting all set up.” 4. Lay It On
Anyone who knows Missouri’s Ray Eye knows that he does not go quietly into the turkey woods. Just ask him about soft or sparse calling and his face wrinkles up in disgust. “I get so tired of hearing that,” Eye says.
“Let me tell you. When I first started turkey hunting, I read an article that told me to go into the woods, yelp a couple of times on my call and sit there ready for the turkey to come before calling again in twenty minutes. Guess what? I wasn’t killing any turkeys. They don’t read the same magazines we do.”
Eye says that the only way to call in a bird is, well, by calling. I’ve seen him run a call so long and loud that he called in toms from a quarter-mile away despite 30 mph gusts. “I want to get that bird into a frenzy,” he says. “It works more often than not.” Doug Howlett
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5. Keep Going So, what’s a hunter to do when turkeys aren’t gobbling? To a pro, everyone we asked said to find one that is. If you have ample land, M.A.D. Calls founder Mark Drury and Knight & Hale’s Chris Parrish both say you’re better off walking the ground or driving from tract to tract until you hit a bird willing to gobble.
To pull gobbles from a shut-mouth tom, Parrish prefers to trade the standard crow call or owl hooter for something high and shrill, like a coyote call or elk bugle. He also likes a tube call for its high, loud and raspy cutts. Drury says that once a bird gives up its position, pinpoint it and get as close as you can. “I’ll try to get within shotgun range before setting down, if the terrain will let me,” he says. “Then I’m just going to call soft and subtle and scratch in the leaves.” 6. Don’t Rush In I was with Hunter’s Specialties’ Alex Rutledge on a day that had been oddly quiet for Missouri. Hitting a box call while set up in a food plot, we heard a gobble not 200 yards through the woods. We dashed forward. I was in the lead, ready to charge into an open bottom in order to close the gap between us and the tom, when Rutledge hissed for me to stop. He then blew a crow call. The gobbling tom had already closed the gap to less than 100 yards.
“Always use a shock call to check a bird’s position before moving on him,” Rutledge says. “If we had yelped instead, that turkey would have just run toward us that much faster, busting us before we got set up.” Doug Howlett
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7. Get Real
Realism is critical when calling. Just ask Realtree Road Trips host Michael Waddell. During one early-season Georgia hunt, where henned-up toms would gobble but remain in the same spot, Waddell frequently spiced up the calling by getting up and walking around as he worked his diaphragm. He would turn his head to throw calls in different directions, close the distance between a tom and us, and then call as he moved back toward where we had originally set up. “It sounds more like real turkeys than if you’re just calling from one spot,” he says. 8. Be Innovative
Whether designing calls, producing outdoors television shows or hunting, Mark Drury is known for his innovation. One situation in which hunters must break from the standard is when facing toms in open country. With few trees to set up against, Drury has killed lots of birds by lying flat in tall grass or a weed patch. He also says not to be afraid to throw a pop-up blind right in the middle of a field, especially if you have a decoy. “Deer need to get used to a blind before they’ll come near it, but turkeys don’t care,” he says. Doug Howlett
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9. Hunt Late
In states where spring turkey hunters can go all day, Lohman Game Calls’ Ricky Joe Bishop suggests targeting early-season, henned-up gobblers in the afternoon before they roost. Late in the day, toms are often alone or with uninterested hens. If you know where a longbeard ends his day, set up a gobbler decoy along his return route to catch his attention and make him jealous. “Hit him with a good cutting call as he’s going in as well,” says Bishop. The hope of roosting near a hen might pull him in close. “I’ve killed a lot of turkeys I couldn’t call in earlier in the day that way,” he says. 10. Go With a Bow
Spectrum Outdoors owner Sam Klement loves to videotape the action of a bow-hunt. But sitting in a blind isn’t his style. “The birds in Georgia are so tough to hunt, you have to be able to move on them,” he says. Klement dons a leafy suit to break up his outline, wraps his short-axle bow in ornamental ivy and sets a strutting decoy 10 yards away–facing almost toward him. When the real tom comes in, it faces its fake challenger, turning its attention away from Klement. Doug Howlett