You know him. Whether you're obsessed with spring gobblers, or just a deer hunter or waterfowler who sits on the sidelines when the turkey chasers take to the woods, you know him. You've seen him around the hunt club, working in your town or praying at church. He might be a grizzled outdoorsman who has spent more hours outside than he can remember, or an over-achieving young gun. Whatever age and shape he comes in, the local turkey hunting legend inspires both friendship and awe. Anyone can kill a turkey, but to be a true turkey hunter--to take birds almost at will--is a feat worthy of respect from all who share a passion for the outdoors. The following four hunters can be counted among them.
Gabriel Jerome III’s Decoy Tips
> If toms are with hens, be sure to set two or three hen decoys around your tom decoy. It looks like some of the real gobbler’s hens have left him to be with the intruder.
> Set decoys where they can be seen from a distance. If your land doesn’t have a lot of fields, try a plot, a logging road or an open oak flat or pine stand.
> Set decoys within 20 to 25 yards of the shooter and aim toward the decoy. “Once they commit, that’s where they’re coming. There’s no need to move your gun around,” says Jerome.
Marty Eye’s Aggressive Hunting Tips
> To add realism to your calling, move slowly toward a distant gobbling bird. Stop periodically and call. If he has moved closer, set up.
> Toms frequently strut back and forth in a “strut zone.” If a bird moves away from you gobbling, move in to where you heard him before he moved, set up and call.
> If a gobbler is with hens, cutt and yelp aggressively to make the boss hen mad. Pull her in and the gobbler will almost always follow.
Steve Conover’s Gun Tips
> Pattern your shotgun in differing weather conditions. High
temperatures, humidity and wind can all affect how your shotgun shoots.
> Wind can greatly affect your shotgun’s point-of-impact. In high winds, it may be necessary to hold off the turkey to allow shot to drift into your target. Practice shooting in high winds.
> Shooting into a wind can also affect patterns, as it slows shot and can cause premature spreading of the shot column.
Wayne Shelby’s Scouting Tips
> If birds are henned up, the best thing you can do is find their roost and set up tight for early-morning success.
> If gobblers are on their own, don’t risk getting as tight. Work the bird with aggressive calls from farther out.
> On warm, sunny days, gobblers typically lounge in the same shady areas. Learn these loafing spots and set up near them for mid-morning hunts.
> Most hunters arrive early and are finished by 10 a.m. when they’re hunting public land. Sleep in and hunt after everyone else has left. Toms are less apt to be with hens then as well.
The key to scouting, according to Shelby, is to know which phase of the breeding cycle the birds are in. This will dictate how to work gobblers.
Although Jerome prefers to use a strutting gobbler decoy, longbeards can’t resist coming in to beat up on a jake–sometimes at a trot.
Eye never calls to gobblers on the roost, but once they’re down, he calls constantly so that gobblers will concentrate only on him.
While 870s and a Browning BPS are favorites for turkeys, Conover loves the longer taper of Invector choke barrels for super-tight patterns.
They aren’t among turkey hunting’s household names, but what they can teach you about spring gobblers will help you fill your tag this season.