John’s Note: Hunting a turkey is different than calling a turkey. To take a turkey by hunting and not calling, you must learn the tom’s daily routine from when he flies off the roost and then flies back up. You also need to know where the turkey’s going and when he should arrive. Then you may can bag that bird without calling him. David Hale of Cadiz, Kentucky, co-founder of Knight & Hale Game Calls (www.knightandhale.com), was known as a turkey taker before he learned to use a turkey call. To become a master of the sport of turkey, Hale believes that a hunter must learn to hunt turkeys first and to call them secondly. As the late 5-time World Champion turkey caller Ben Rodgers Lee always said, “There are some turkeys that if you call to them, you’ll never take them.”
I began to hunt turkeys in 1967.
During my first year, I took a turkey and reached the heights to which most of the men at the country store aspired. There were only 17 turkeys killed that year at the Land Between the Lakes (LBL), and I had bagged one of them. I never will forget how I took my first turkey, and how I learned more about turkeys without a call than many hunters do with a call.
This buddy from school and I had been going over to LBL and had not heard any turkeys. Finally, on the fourth morning I heard a turkey gobble, which was the greatest thrill of my life. Although I never dreamed at the time that I would actually kill a turkey, at least I had heard one gobble and then knew what a tom sounded like. I probably ought to explain here that the reason I didn’t have a turkey call was that I didn’t know what one was, what it looked like, or how it worked. I was just ignorant of calling. However, since I was a pretty-fair deer hunter, I felt I might be able to slip up on one of those turkeys and shoot him. I am also a good listener and had trained myself to pay attention to different sounds in the woods to try and pinpoint them and to see what was making the sound.
Once I heard that tom gobble, I pinpointed his location, and then I took off after him. On the way to that turkey, I began to remember what I had heard the fellows saying back at the country store. Those fellows believed that the way you hunted gobblers was to sit back 300- or 400-yards away from the turkey and then spend 3 or 4 hours calling them up. So I figured that as many turkey hunters as there were in the woods that day, and as few turkeys as there were to hunt, that the only way I could kill one of those turkeys was to get closer to the gobbler and to get there first – before the other hunters did. I thought, “If those old timers will be waiting a ridge or two away from the turkey while attempting to call him, I’m going to get on the same ridge with the bird and try and shoot him.”
The turkey gobbled for about 1- to 1-1/2-hours. I decided that he was pretty much staying in one small saddle of the mountain where he was apparently doing all of his gobbling and strutting. So, I belly crawled up that ridge to where the turkey was strutting. When the turkey moved away from me, I would crawl close to him. When he turned back and walked toward me, I would lay down flat and not move. I kept crawling until I was within 50 yards of the spot where the turkey generally turned around to walk back toward me. While the gobbler was still going away from me, I sat down next to a tree and waited for him to make his turn and come back. After about 45 minutes of waiting on the tom, I knew that sooner or later he either was going to come back walking past me, or he was going to walk off in the opposite direction from where I was. Luckily when the turkey quit strutting, he walked close to me, and I shot him.
To learn more about turkey hunting from the masters, get these Kindle eBooks and print books by John E. Phillips, including: “The Turkey Hunter’s Bible (available as an eBook or in paperback),” “PhD Gobblers: How to Hunt the Smartest Turkeys in the World,” “Turkey Hunting Tactics,” “How to Hunt Turkeys with World Champion Preston Pittman,” “The 10 Sins of Turkey Hunting with Preston Pittman,” and “Outdoor Life’s Complete Turkey Hunting.” Click here to get these books. To get John’s newest book, “The Turkey Gobbler Getter Manual,” for free, click here.