by Donald Devereaux Jarrett
I think we all prefer to call a lot to a turkey, even excessively, rather than keep it to a minimum. Personally, I love to hear a turkey gobble, especially when I’m the reason behind it. However, I have to be careful not to get too wrapped up in calling and lose focus on actually bringing the bird in. After all, excessive calling doesn’t necessarily lead to success. In the early 90s, I had convinced myself that I was an expert caller and that I could break any bird with enough calling. Little did I know, a particular turkey would teach me a valuable lesson on “how not to call a turkey.” He was a character bird in my area, and I believe I was the sole reason he never fell victim to another hunter. Those who tried, like me, returned home empty-handed and humbled.
Table of Contents
Lesson #1: Overcalling
Overcalling is a common trap to fall into when engaged with an enthusiastic gobbling turkey. When a turkey is gobbling a lot, it might seem like calling even more is the way to go. However, it’s important to consider the message we’re sending to the bird. Constant calling can be interpreted by the gobbler as extreme interest and willingness to spend time together. This might make him hesitant to come closer, as he expects the hen to come to him. So, when a gobbler is already on his way and still gobbling occasionally, it’s best to let him come without additional calls. If you can see him and he’s approaching, resist the urge to call. Remember, fewer gobbles might lead to more successful hunts.
Lesson #2: Out of Sight Calling
One of the biggest challenges is dealing with turkeys that gobble very rarely or not at all. I’ve often left birds in the woods because I didn’t believe they would show up. However, constantly calling can slow their progress and make it difficult to determine if they are actually coming. In such cases, assuming the turkey is coming and giving him time without calling is a better option. This approach follows the old-school turkey hunting method of yelping a few times and then remaining silent for 30 minutes to an hour. Even if a bird doesn’t gobble again and remains unseen, it’s important to remember that he still knows your location. Assuming he’s on his way until proven otherwise has helped me succeed on countless hunts.
Lesson #3: Pressured Bird Calling
Experienced and wise turkeys can be quite challenging to hunt. These birds have encountered various dangers and learned how to survive over the years. While they may not become call-shy, they tend to be more reluctant to respond to calling and less likely to actively seek out the sound’s source. Some pressured birds may still respond, but they typically prefer to hold their ground. When dealing with these turkeys, it’s essential to exercise patience and limit your calling. If you struggle to remain quiet for long periods, consider removing your mouth call or stowing away your box or pot call.
Lesson #4: Bad Calling
Let’s be honest, we all start somewhere when it comes to turkey calling. It’s a learning process, and that’s okay. The problem arises when we fail to recognize or admit our lack of proficiency. Sounding realistic and natural is crucial in turkey calling. The more authentic you sound, the better your chances of success. However, being a decent caller isn’t solely about the sound; it’s also about knowing what to say and when to say it. I learned this lesson the hard way with an old mountain bird. He loved aggressive calling, but not every turkey responds the same way. So, it’s important to work on both sounding like a turkey and understanding their behavior. Becoming a proficient caller and knowing when to call will increase your chances of success.
Lesson #5: The Cat and Mouse
We’ve all experienced the frustration of turkey hunting turning into a game of cat and mouse. I recall a friend sharing his ordeal, where a turkey toyed with him for hours, evading his every move. The turkey didn’t do anything extraordinary; he simply relied on his instincts to survive. My friend called frequently, hoping to entice the bird, but his constant movement and calling only made the turkey cautious. When my friend finally settled in one spot without calling, the turkey approached his previous setup. The key lesson here is that less calling and movement can lead to success. Sometimes, the least amount of calling necessary is the most effective. By paying close attention to the turkey’s behavior, we can adjust our approach accordingly and increase our chances of a successful hunt.
Remember, turkey hunting is all about understanding the bird and adapting to their responses. It’s not about bombarding them with excessive calling. So, next time you’re out in the field, keep in mind that less is often more.