Gary West Has Learned Plenty from Turkey Guides

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Find the Turkey Gobbler Before You Hunt Him

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Editor’s Note: Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland is Mossy Oak’s vice president of television and video. From the early days of working with Primos Game Calls and Mossy Oak camo up until today, Cuz has probably called up as many, if not more, turkeys for other people as anyone and guided more first-time hunters to their birds.

Oftentimes, I think first-time turkey hunters spend too much time learning to call and listening to turkey-hunting stories and not enough time finding out where turkeys live. Plenty of turkeys live on public lands, but you have to go and find them. One of the best ways to find turkeys is by talking to deer hunters who’ve hunted that public land during the fall season and find out where they’ve seen turkeys. Turkeys may change their locations some between the fall and the spring. But at least if you know where the turkeys were in the fall during deer season, you have a good place to start searching for turkeys. Notice I used the word, turkeys. To know where turkeys are, you need to identify four of five different places that you can hunt turkeys and have a reasonable chance of bagging one, especially on opening day of turkey season. More than likely, you won’t be the only person trying to find one or more gobblers. So, if someone is already working a turkey you’ve planned to call, you need to have another spot to call turkeys.

Before turkey season, I talk to farmers who own the lands where I’m hunting or people who own private lands close to the public lands I’m hunting to learn where they’ve seen turkeys. I talk to the rural postman because he/she covers a lot of distance every day delivering mail and may have seen turkeys. I also talk to the barber to see if he knows where some turkeys are located. If I’m going to take someone turkey hunting that’s never been turkey hunting or never harvested a turkey, I want to know where a turkey is before I take that person turkey hunting. I believe knowing where the turkey is before you take a newbie turkey hunting, is the most-important element to taking a newcomer on his first turkey hunt. You don’t just have to hunt public land. In many areas of the country, a lot of people who deer hunt don’t turkey hunt. You may be able to obtain permission to hunt turkeys on their lands. So, in my opinion, the number-one thing for you to have a successful turkey hunt or for you to take someone to bag their first turkey is to find the turkey before the hunt.

Go in to the woods, and look for turkey signs – places where turkeys have been scratching in the leaves, turkey droppings, turkey tracks and turkey strut zones where you may see signs of a gobbler dragging his wings as he struts. You may want to take your new or young hunter with you on a scouting expedition. Then you both will know that there are turkeys where you’re planning to hunt, which makes getting up at 4:00-5:00 am much easier, especially for a new hunter.

When I’m taking someone turkey hunting who will be the shooter, and I’ll be the caller, I like to go to the place where we’re going to hunt at least a day or two before my hunter arrives. Then I’ll have confidence in the area we’re hunting. I want him to have confidence not only in that region, but in me and my ability to find a turkey for him to bag.

To learn more about turkey hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ print, Audible, Kindle and Nook turkey books at and at You also can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or SmartPhone. You can learn more about calling turkeys by going to for audio turkey tapes to purchase of Lovett Williams, Rob Keck and Chris Kirby, available for download to your SmartPhone, tablet or computer. For a free copy of John E. Phillips’ “The Turkey Gobbler Getter Manual,” go to to download.

Tomorrow: Locate a Listening Place

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