By Preston Pittman with John E. Phillips
The craziest thing I ever did to take a turkey was one time I put cow manure all over me. In the world of turkey calling, we have what are known as hand-me-down gobblers. This hunt happened back when I was in my twenties when I just was beginning to learn how to hunt turkeys. I learned pretty quickly that you never trusted a hunting buddy who said, “I have this ole turkey I’ve been hunting for several days. I won’t have time to hunt him the rest of the season. If you want to try and take him, I’ll get you permission.” When Edwin Lamb from Perry County, Mississippi, called me and said, “Preston, you know I work offshore on the oil rigs. I have to go back to work, and I won’t be able to hunt the rest of turkey season. However, I’ve found a gobbler on private land that I have been trying to take. I’ll let you have him, if you want him. This land is in Lamar County, where the season’s just opened.”
The cow manure I rubbed all over myself wasn’t as dry as this cow patty, but you get the idea.
I should’ve realized there was some problem with this bird, or Edwin wouldn’t have given him to me. In those days, I wouldn’t have given him a gobbler I’d found either, unless I was unable to take that bird. I called the landowner, went out to his house and met him. I asked him to tell me about the land he owned. He walked over to the back window of his house, waved his hand in front of the window and said, “All the land you can see is mine.” I saw a 60-acre cow pasture with a row of privet hedge dividing it. Above and surrounding the pasture was a beautiful hardwood and timber forest. I could see a creek running through a hardwood bottom. I’d never seen a better place to hunt turkeys. I couldn’t believe Edwin had helped me get the rights to hunt this property. The first thing I said to the landowner, Mr. Brown, was, “Those hardwoods on top of the hill above the pasture look like a great place to start hunting.” Mr. Brown answered, “No, you can’t hunt there. A doctor owns that land, and he said that my fence was 2-1/2-feet over his property line. He put out surveillance cameras, and he has people riding the property line. He said he’d have anyone arrested who got over on his land.” I said, “OK, can I start hunting down in that bottom on the left side of that pasture?” “No, you can’t hunt there,” Mr. Brown explained. “The farmer who owns that land, said that fence was 1-3/4-inches over the property line. I’ve been told he has a still down in that bottom, so he may shoot you if you go down there.
I couldn’t believe I only had a 40-acre cow pasture with a privet hedgerow dividing the 60-acre cow pasture into two 30-acre pastures. I decided to at least visit the next morning, get in that privet hedge and call to see what would happen. I selected a stand site inside the privet hedge where I knew the turkey couldn’t see me. The old bird started gobbling before daylight. I gave the turkey some light tree calls and he gobbled in response. Just as that first early-morning glow began to brighten-up the woods and the cow pasture, the old gobbler pitched out of a tree and landed in the middle of the cow pasture 100-yards away. He was gobbling and strutting and started walking straight toward me. At about 65 yards, he stopped, stood still for a few minutes and ran back into the woods for no reason at all. I knew that bird hadn’t seen me, and I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t come within gun range. I couldn’t see anything that might have spooked him or prevented him from coming to me.
The next morning, I decided I wouldn’t call at all. I’d wait and let the turkey fly into the field, then give some subtle clucks and purrs. When I started calling, the gobbler started coming to me, but like there was a brick wall 60-yards from me, the bird stopped, stuck his neck up, looked around and ran right back into the woods. He kept acting the same way every day, even when I changed to a slate call and then to a box call. I even got so desperate that I went and bought a Primos turkey call, hoping that by using a different call I could get the gobbler to come within gun range. But all my tactics still didn’t work. I tried everything that should work to bring a turkey within gun range, however, nothing worked. I hunted that silly turkey for 8-consecutive days. The ninth morning, when I got out of my truck, and the dome light in the truck turned on, I had a revelation. I went back and replayed in my mind everything that was happening around me when I was trying to call that gobbler. I finally figured-out the problem. On the way to my stand site, I found some liquid cow manure and rubbed it all over my hunting clothes. Once I put that cow manure on me, I said to myself, “That gobbler is going to die today. I’ve finally figured him out.”
I got to the hedge row where I’d been calling from, and when the gobbler flew out of the tree and landed in the field, I yelped to him three times. He came running in and stopped at 18 steps, and I put him on the ground. This turkey was the first I’d ever taken that had 1-3/4-inch spurs, indicating he was a really-old gobbler. When I’m telling this story at seminars, I always ask my audience, “Why do you think putting cow manure on me enabled me to take this gobbler?” No one ever has answered that question.
What I finally realized on that ninth morning was every time I called to that gobbler, a cow or a calf would come over to my stand to investigate what was making the call. Turkeys can’t smell, but cows can. They smelled a strange human being in that fence row and turned around and ran back into the pasture. This gobbler had learned to watch the cows. On the ninth day when the cows heard me call and came to investigate, thy smelled cow manure and not human odor. (This was many years ago before cover scents were ever introduced to the turkey market.) When the cows came to the fence and smelled what they thought was another cow, the gobbler relaxed and came in, thinking he was going to find a girlfriend instead of having lead applied to his head. The lesson
The turkey had learned from the cows when to stay away from the hedge.
To get “How to Hunt Turkeys with World Champion Preston Pittman, click the title.
For more information about John E. Phillips, check out his bio at https://johninthewild.com/get-know-john/.
To see other books by John E. Phillips, go to his author’s page at http://www.amazon.com/John-E.-Phillips.
For more information about turkey hunting, get John E. Phillips’ eBooks “The Turkey Hunter’s Bible,” “Turkey Hunting Tactics” and “PhD Gobblers: How to Hunt the Smartest Turkeys in the World.” Too, you can go to www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks, type in the name of the book and download it to your Kindle and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.