It's a well-known fact that the best way to be successful in the spring turkey woods is not to over-call. Let me repeat that: To be successful in the spring turkey woods do not over-call.
Coming from a guy who makes his living designing, manufacturing, promoting and selling game calls, that's an interesting statement to make. But it's so very true.
Any successful gobbler hunter should know when it's time to call and when to shut up.
In just a handful of weeks, New York State hunters will be taking to the woods in search of the eastern wild turkey. I am truly in love with spring turkey hunting. In fact, some would say I'm addicted to spring turkey hunting. There is nothing I have experienced in this hunting world that gets my heart pumping more than hearing a gobbler at first light and then me putting together a plan to outsmart him.
Knowing what birds are doing in your hunting area is an important piece of the turkey-hunting puzzle. Without birds in the area, all the calling, set-ups and fancy equipment are for naught.
For those who have done any amount of preseason scouting know that there seems to be birds in every field. Not just a few birds, but flocks of 20-plus birds. They are not average birds, but long beards and a bunches of them. The recent cold front Mother Nature has blessed us with, should keep the gobblers from getting too fired up too early. So for those who are upset at this past week's weather, look at this way: The longer it stays colder, the better chance we have for excited gobblers May 1.
When one is attempting to tag a thunder chicken by convincing him to come to your hen calls, it's a difficult gig. In the world of the wild turkey, the hen comes to the gobbler not the gobbler to the hen. So by design what we are attempting to get the bird to do is against what he is accustomed to.
Like most spring turkey hunters, I carry a variety of calls, but a couple of my favorites are paddle boat-style boxes made of curly maple, American black walnut and purple heart and a new pod called the Copperhead. The Copperhead is a camo poly pod call with a frying pan-style, sand-blasted copper surface. From soft purrs to locator yelps, the Copperhead reach out and touch them, and also make them take their final steps.
For some reason this new pod call has a great distance call. No matter what I attempt to use - mouth call, slate or aluminum - knowing what and were the birds are going to the key.
No discussion about turkey calls would be complete without bringing up mouth calls. Mouth or diaphragm calls - whatever one calls it - is a call that is made out of tape, latex and aluminum frame.
Over the years, mouth call frames have been made out of everything plastic to steel to wood. The majority of today's mouth call frames are made from aluminum. One of the reasons is aluminum, by design, is easy to form, which makes it simple to form the call to the roof of the user's mouth.
There are dozens of different mouth-call cuts but each call is basically a variation of a couple different cuts - the bat wing and V design cuts.
One of the most popular is what is called the bat wing cut. Different layers of latex under the bat wing cut will give the call different pitches. A good rule of thumb is the more layers of latex on the call the raspier the call. Hence, a single-reed call will be higher pitched, much easier to use and a better starter call.
Now I'm not the greatest mouth caller, but have called in and actually won a few contests over the years. The one thing I learned a long time ago was that a real turkey would never win a turkey calling contest. This is not to say the folks that call in contests can't call in turkeys. Nothing could be further from the truth. Contest callers are some of the best in the country at mimicking the sound of the wild turkey. Whether you are a seasoned caller or rookie, you can learn a lot from listening to others using a mouth call. Listening and watching a veteran caller is priceless, but many of us don't have that opportunity.
In today's world of the Internet, there are a thousands of how-to video on the proper use of a mouth a call only the click of a mouse away.
The big thing about preseason practicing is to do it anywhere but in the woods. One the biggest mistakes made every year is hunters in the woods practicing their calling on real birds before the season opens. There are a bunch of problems with practicing in the woods before the season opens and one of the biggest ones is letting the birds you are going to hunt learn your calling style and technique.
The growth of a spring turkey hunter can be gauged by the mistakes he makes. Talk to any successful spring turkey hunter and you will find a hunter who does his homework and has made their share of mistakes. Like anything in life, learning from your mistakes is crucial to your future success.
Spring turkey hunting is more then mouth, slate or box calls; it's knowing when to use those tools and when not to. Often times I find it best to sit back, not call, just let the birds do their own thing and let you learn from the birds.
There are very few hard-and-fast facts in the wild, but a couple calls that are best include a soft sexy purr will get a gobbler to take those final few steps and loud box call will get a distant gobbler to answer. Beyond that everything else is old-fashioned spring turkey woods experience.
Understanding that the eastern wild turkey has some of the best eyesight and hearing in the woods will help you be successful. Knowing what birds do and when they do it will make you a better turkey hunter.