John’s Note: Avid outdoorsman Jerry Lambert of Battle Creek, Michigan, has been hunting turkeys for almost two decades and has been a Mossy Oak (www.mossyoak.com) Pro Staffer for 8 years.
A couple of seasons ago, I hunted with my brother Jeff. I started calling, and we had four gobblers coming across the field toward us. Since I wasn’t planning to hunt that day, I had my digital camera with me, and I was shooting photos as the gobblers came to us. These gobblers came to within 40 yards in a full strut with their tail feathers fanned. My brother had a bow and arrows, but 40 yards was a little farther than Jeff liked to shoot. Finally, the turkeys turned around and left the field, and Jeff didn’t get a shot.
But we went back and hunted that same area two or three more times. We found where the turkeys were roosting and an old logging road we felt certain the turkeys were using to go back and forth to feed and to roost. When gun turkey season arrived, I had what I considered a slam dunk hunt. I set-up to take one of those gobblers right where that trail exited the woods, and the turkeys went into the field. I heard the turkeys gobbling on the limb that first morning and fly down right behind me. The plan worked. Pretty soon I saw one blue head on that trail, and I prepared to take the shot. But before I could get my safety off and squeeze the trigger, I spotted four more blue heads all in a tight circle. If I squeezed the trigger, I knew that I would harvest two or three of those turkeys with one shot. So, I kept waiting on the gobblers to separate themselves to allow me to get a clean shot at one turkey without hitting two or three more. The turkeys kept walking as I continued to wait for a clear shot. When they got 50 yards away from me, they went down in a ravine, and I didn’t have the opportunity to shoot. However, for me, this was a very-memorable hunt. I thought I had a slam dunk. I thought there was no way I would leave the woods without a gobbler. I had set-up in the right place, I had used my calls correctly, and I had called the gobblers within 30 yards. I should have had an easy shot, but those turkeys outsmarted me.
I’ve been really humbled by the experience and realized again that that’s why this sport is called turkey hunting. Even when you do everything right, and you believe there’s no way you will go into the woods and not go home without a turkey, turkeys can prove you wrong. They can keep you humble and keep reminding you that every time you hunt turkeys you’re not going to take a turkey. Fate can intervene, but still you can have a great turkey hunt without taking home a tom.
I’m pretty confident in my woodsmanship. I believe that if I scout the woods, if I know where the turkey is roosting, if I figure out where he’s going when he leaves the roost, if I determine where they’ll be feeding, if I know where they’re going to strut, and if I know the trail they will travel back to the roost in the afternoon, I should be able to harvest a gobbler. That morning those turkeys proved to me that no matter how good a woodsman or a caller you are, the turkeys still can figure out a way to defeat you. Everything about this hunt went perfectly, except all the gobblers’ heads stayed too close to each other for me to take a shot. However, I had a great morning of turkey hunting. My plan had worked. The turkeys just figured out a new way to defeat me, and I relearned that there is nothing guaranteed when you go turkey hunting.
I was camouflaged so well that even when all four gobblers looked at me they couldn’t see me. When I’m turkey hunting, I like to wear Mossy Oak Obsession. Often, I’ll often use an Ameristep pop-up blind (http://ameristep.com). Sometimes I won’t use a blind. I’ll just sit with my back against a big tree. I’ll carry a chair into the blind with me, and I can sit in the chair rather than sitting on the ground. When our turkey season comes in, so does our tick season, which is the main reason I prefer a blind. I started using Permethrin last year and spraying all my clothes down with Permethrin – because we really have a problem with ticks up here. By spraying down with Permethrin, I’ve found that I can keep ticks off me.
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,” (also available in an audio book from http://www.audible.com/pd/Self-Development/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 book, “The Turkey Gobbler Getter Manual,” for free, go to www.johninthewild.com/free-books to download.