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How to Locate and Take Tough Turkeys Day 2: How Some Turkeys Can Kill Your Season

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Editor’s Note: When you’re looking at versatility in bowhunting, game calling and wildlife videography, Harrison, Arkansas, resident Phillip Vanderpool has done it all. With over 40+ years of hunting experience, Vanderpool is the complete hunting/videography package. After hunting turkeys since childhood with a shotgun, Phillip decided to try the ultimate challenge – bowhunting the wild turkey – and has taken about three dozen turkeys with his bow and has captured some of his turkey bowhunts on videotape. Vanderpool also is in high demand as a seminar speaker.

The tough-to-take turkey I named Ole Fred gave me the slip – outsmarted me – several times during one season. I knew this kind of gobbler could be a season-killing gobbler, if I stayed with him and hunted him all season long. After he beat me three or four mornings, I left him and had pretty much forgotten about him until the end of the season.

Then we had a major storm the night before the last day of turkey season. The next morning I got up early and went to the area where I felt Ole Fred would be roosting. I made sure to try and get close to his roost tree well before daylight. I was ready to take Fred on this morning. Just before daylight, Fred started to gobble. Fred then stayed in his tree until 10:00 am. I tried everything I could think of except dynamite to get Fred out of the tree and coming to me. I’d call to Fred, and he’d gobble back to me. I’d move and get on the other side of Fred and call to him. He’d gobble back but still wouldn’t fly down. Although I did everything I knew to do, Fred wouldn’t budge.

Finally, I went back to the place I’d first started calling from and moved in as close as I could get to the roost tree without spooking Fred. Then I started soft clucking and scratching in the leaves. Sometime after 10:00 am, Fred flew out of the tree and came to me, and I took him.

Fred lived on public land, and I knew he’d been hunted hard. By the end of the season, Fred had learned not fly out of the tree, until he saw hens. I think the bad storm we’d had the night before caused Fred to stay in the tree longer. I believe Fred also had learned that if he didn’t go to hens until he saw them, there was a good chance he wouldn’t get shot. I was able to take Fred because, I think, I quit calling to him with clucks and yelps and only used contented hen purrs and scratched in the leaves like a feeding hen that really wasn’t interested in breeding.

Fred taught me that:

* public-land turkeys often will stay in the tree much longer after daylight than private-land turkeys will.

* a hard-to-take gobbler often will want to see his hens before he flies down.

* turkeys are more reluctant to leave their roost trees early in the morning when there’s a lot of foliage and leaves on the trees like at the end of the season.

* the storm the night before may have caused this gobbler to stay in his roost tree longer than normal.

* you may not have any competition from the hens for a gobbler like this at the end of the season when most hens are on their nests.

To learn more about turkey hunting, check out John E. Phillips’s book “Mossy Oak Pros Talk Turkey Tactics,” available in print and Kindle versions at

Tomorrow: How to Hunt and Take Public Land Turkeys

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