John’s Note: J.J. Kent owns Kent Outdoors in Pottsboro, Texas (www.kentoutdoors.com) about one hour north of Dallas where his hunters have about 20,000 acres to chase turkeys like he has for 32 years. The Regional Mossy Oak (www.mossyoak.com) Pro Staff Manager for Texas, he’s a Pro Staffer for Zink Calls (www.zinkcalls.com) and Avian-X decoys (www.avian-x.com). “My wardrobe includes Mossy Oak Obsession, Mossy Oak Bottomland and Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity (www.mossyoak.com),” Kent says. “Often, I’ll mix and match my camo, depending on where I’m hunting.” He especially likes the Lost Lady diaphragm call and the Power Hen slate call and shoots a Browning shotgun (www.browning.com) with a Patternmaster choke tube (www.patternmaster.com) and Hevi-Shot Magnum blend #5, #6 and #7 shot shells (www.hevishot.com/catalog/magnum-blend).
I like the Avian-X decoys, because they can take a whipping and not look like they’ve been beat up. We had so much fun last year watching gobblers fighting decoys. On almost every hunt, we got to see a fight. Some decoys are very fragile. If they’re subjected to a real turkey fight, they’ll look like they’ve been in a fight. But even after enduring 10 or 15 fights with live turkeys, I’ve found that the Avian-X decoys still look just as bright and pretty as they have the first day I’ve taken then out of the bag. I’ve had one exception. I called in one really big gobbler last season that jumped on top of my decoy and broke the stake holding the decoy up. But with a bird so big that he broke the support stick, well, I don’t feel like this was the fault of the decoy. We’re able to let the gobblers fight the decoys, since decoys have gone through a dramatic change in the last five to 10 years. When we first started using decoys, they looked okay, and they were effective to lure a gobbler in close. However, with the new decoys being produced today, the decoys look so realistic that the gobblers want to whip them. I have a lot of veteran turkey hunters who enjoy hunting gobblers with me. Often, they’ll bring their own Avian-X decoys with them. They feel that these decoys look so realistic that they don’t want to hunt without them. That’s when I feel good – when my hunters believe so strongly in the decoys I use that they bring their own.
I’ve seen the sport of turkey hunting changing. In the past, if we called to a gobbler, and he gobbled back, and if he came in to the decoys and strutted and drummed in front of my hunters for a little while before they took their shots, they had turkey hunts of their lifetimes. Most of the turkey hunters I guided last year never had seen a turkey gobbler fight with the decoys. Once they saw that kind of action 14 steps from where they were sitting or closer, they really got fired-up about hunting turkeys. Afterwards they were so excited that today they’re willing to sit still long enough to experience that same type of close encounter with a fighting gobbler. I know that some of the TV show producers have started showing gobblers fighting with the decoys, and I think that’s great. There’s nothing like being at the arena and watching one of those fights first hand, up close and personal.
Watching a turkey fight like I’ve described, enriches the turkey-hunting experience. Now I know that a turkey hunter who just wants to kill a turkey can squeeze the trigger on a gobbler at 40 or 50 yards and take him, thanks to the newer and better turkey shotguns, better chokes and better ammunition that are on the market today. However, I think that type of hunting is comparable to sitting in a fencerow and pass shooting geese at 50 to 60 yards, instead of having the thrill of calling those geese out of the sky, bringing them into the blind, watching them cup their wings and getting ready to light 14 to 20 yards from the blind. Either way you’ve harvested a goose. But when you let that goose come in really close and get right on top of you, you get a totally-different sensation than when you take him when you shoot that goose sky high.
Since the hunt is over when you squeeze the trigger, why not get the most fun, excitement and joy that you can out of a turkey hunt? By being a little bit more patient and watching that turkey do all he can do before he leaves, or you harvest him, and waiting on the turkey to fight the decoy and then watching that fight, I think takes turkey hunting to an all-together different level. Let me explain. Not every turkey will come in and fight the decoys. But if we feel that we have one that will come in and fight the decoys, we wait and let the show happen.
On our hunts, we try to build memories that last for lifetimes. For instance, the first turkey hunt that my dad and I went on together, we really didn’t know what we were doing. I took a shotgun, and my dad took a rifle (it’s legal to take a turkey with a rifle in Texas). We were hunting in the Hill Country of Texas. We got on top of a hill, and Dad was using an old Lynch box call. He started yelping, and a turkey gobbled. We worked out a way to get close to the turkey. Dad told me to move up in front of him. I lay down on a little ranch road and waited on the turkey to come to me. Dad was a few yards behind me in some scrub oaks, and I heard him start yelping again. I saw the turkey coming, walking straight down the road to me, before turning and strutting in the middle of the road. Then, he strutted behind a cactus. I knew all I had to do was wait on the turkey to come out from behind the cactus, and I could shoot him. My dad was off at an angle to me. When that gobbler took two more steps, Dad shot my turkey with his rifle. The turkey hit the ground flopping. I looked back at my dad and whispered, “Why did you shoot? I was about to shoot.”
I turned to look back at the turkey. A gray fox came out of the bushes, grabbed the turkey, and began dragging the turkey off. I looked back at my dad like, “What am I supposed to do now?” He yelled, “Shoot it.” I turned back around and looked at the fox that had an uh-oh look on his face. The fox dropped the turkey and ran of out of sight. I didn’t have a shot. Being there in the middle of the road and trying to comprehend what I’d just seen, I looked back at my dad. He told me, “That was cool.” We got our turkey and went home. That was probably one of the most-memorable hunts I’ve ever been on in my life – before and since. When you get to watch a turkey or a group of gobblers fighting a decoy, you’ll take home one of those lifetime memories. Remember, patience is the key!
To learn more about turkey hunting from the masters, get these Kindle eBooks and print books by John E. Phillips, including: “Mossy Oak Pros Talk Turkey Tactics,” “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,” (also available in an audio book from http://www.audible.com/pd/Self-Development/Turkey-Hunting-Tactics), “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 book, “The Turkey Gobbler Getter Manual,” for free, go to www.johninthewild.com/free-books to download.