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Author Topic: Trying to Learn from beginner mistakes in the woods  (Read 257 times)

Offline COMerriamNovice

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Trying to Learn from beginner mistakes in the woods
« on: May 10, 2019, 06:54:30 PM »

This is my first season hunting Merriam turkeys in Colorado. I have hunted bird previously, upland and waterfowl but no Turkey, but am generally pretty inexperienced. However I love learning and have been passionately absorbing all information I can in books, forums, and youtube to learn about Turkey biology, habitat, behavior and hunting strategy. I have been out six times this year and am watching and learning as much as I can about the birds and where they live. I have not yet filled my tag but do feel I am learning and making progress, although it is slow going with no mentor and limited populations in my home area.

On my most recent hunt I was very close to having a gobbling turkey in range. I was in my chosen hunting area about 45 mins before Sunrise and heard one very distant gobble. I continued to listen and walk along a fire-road that bifurcated the national forest area; then quietly sat in a clearing area. I heard the same Turkey gobble but this time closer. I called to him with no immediate response but he did proceed to continue to gobble, progressing closer. I put myself in a position that I felt I could shoot him from and called again. At this point he seemed to not be responding to my call but was intermittently gobbling and moving back and forth about the same distance out. I moved into the denser forest towards him, set back up and called again. Again no direct response but he continued to gobble and keep his distance.

Due to my lack of experience I was unable to determine exactly how far away he was. I felt torn between sitting and being quiet, waiting for him to come to me, or try moving just a little closer or farther away and calling again to keep him talking. After waiting for a while, in retrospect probably not long enough, I got up to move slightly closer. After that move he was quiet. Then a gobble that was farther away, then distant gobbles as he moved down valley into private property.

Over the next 15 minutes he showed no signs of coming back and given there was private property I did not pursue him. This was all done by an hour, maybe a little longer, after sunrise.

The rest of my day was spent exploring the area, looking for signs and sounds of birds. I saw one hen and lots of tracks and poop but no Toms.

I feel that my inexperience prevented me from being successful with this one turkey and I would appreciate all feedback and thoughts on what could have been done better. My specific thoughts are even though I was not receiving gobbles directly after or connected to my calls, was the Turkey responding to me or just generally gobbling? Should I have stayed in the area and continued to wait and call to the bird to see if he would come back across privet to public land?


Offline GobbleNut

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Re: Trying to Learn from beginner mistakes in the woods
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2019, 08:55:19 AM »
Your experience with that gobbler is not at all uncommon, even for long-time turkey hunters.  Many gobblers will approach a turkey call to a certain point and then stop, especially gobblers that have "rid in this rodeo" before,...that is, gobblers that have had bad experiences getting too close to turkey sounds that they cannot identify as a real, live turkey.

There are methods of possibly convincing those birds that you are the real thing.  We talk about "scratching in the leaves" like a turkey feeding as one tactic.  That works at times.  The one tactic that I have been using recently that I have found to be the real "deal maker" on a gobbler is imitating a turkey "flapping" its wings sporadically between calls.  The other "coup de grass" tactic I use is having a visual aid at hand when a gobbler gets where you can see it. 

Combine all of the above when having that gobbler hang up out of range and you will likely see your success rate in pulling those stubborn birds in skyrocket. 

Now, if you are having trouble finding gobblers to hunt, "square one" for that is learning to use the right locator call at the right time to get them to tell you where they area.  We have discussed that numerous times in the past on O.G..  You might take a look back at some of the old threads on locator calls and their use.



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Offline silvestris

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Re: Trying to Learn from beginner mistakes in the woods
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2019, 04:11:59 PM »
If you even thought the gobbler might have been responding to your call, you best bet is shutting up and using only your eyes.  In other words, hunt him like Charles Jordan.

Offline GobbleNut

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Re: Trying to Learn from beginner mistakes in the woods
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2019, 06:06:35 PM »
I'm not going to say that there are not times when you should stop calling altogether and just sit, wait, and watch.  From what others have said here in the past, there are apparently places where that is the standard tactic.  However, having hunted New Mexico for most all of my life, as well as a few other western states, my experience is that, once you have a gobbler hooked, it is best not to give him too much slack.

Assuming that your name implies you are hunting Merriam's turkeys in Colorado,...and are relatively new to the game,...ceasing to call when a bird is coming,...except for when he actually gets in sight,...can cause a very interested gobbler to suddenly decide that the hen he is courting is not really all that interested in him,...and he may wander off.

Get a Merriam's gobbler fired up, and keep him that way, and often he will end up coming to investigate.  Use the tactics I mentioned above, and your chances will usually increase even more. While silence is definitely golden in some rare cases, my suggestion is to only fall back on that tactic as your last resort when hunting western turkeys.



Founder of ReapMasters   Catch and Release Turkey Hunting Society

Offline Marc

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Re: Trying to Learn from beginner mistakes in the woods
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2019, 09:46:23 PM »
More times than not, I have a bird respond to calling that does not come all the way to the gun.  I have far more stories of "almost" than I do of killing a bird...  I hunt in a reasonably productive area, and generally average 2-5 trips per bird killed...  On years of lower turkey populations more like 5-10 trips per bird... 

Often times there is an unseen hen that captures that tom's attention, or that tom is waiting for the hen to come the rest of the way to him...  Or a coyote went after him...  Or the moon and stars just aren't aligned correctly.

Seems like 80 yards is that magic number that is tough to break for me all too often...  They hang up at that "almost there" range; so do not feel discouraged.

Sometimes getting on that bird with aggressive calling is the key...  I am generally of mind to get a bird worked up, and then let him dictate the conversation.  Let him gobble a couple times and respond to every 2 or 3 gobbles.  Sometimes this entails waiting 5-15 minutes between calling, sometimes I will stay on the call hard until that bird is flopping.

Very often, I will initiate subtle calling with clucks and purrs along with scratching leaves or grass, with a very occasional "lonely yelp"...  A contented bird that is not necessarily interested, but not necessarily disinterested...  I have been amazed at the distance that a bird will gobble to what I consider an inaudible cluck or quiet purr.

And, very often when a bird does show, he comes in quiet and attentive...  And hardly ever from the direction I expect him to.  He might be below you to your left, and suddenly there he is above you to your right...  How he got there, I have no idea???  If you hear a bird that is getting closer and then goes quiet, most important advice I can give is to stay still; so very often the bird will cover those last few yards quietly....

Also, look for some videos on "spitting and drumming."  It seems to me that I almost "feel" this sound more than hear it, but birds are fairly close when you can detect it.  This sound, once again means "hold very, very still."  (Hearing a drumming bird does not preclude calling, but it can mean that there is an interested bird very close that you did not know about)

Also, birds will often give a nervous cluck when they are in the area and cannot see that hen that is calling to them (previously referred to on these forums as a "bubble-cluck"); sometimes this nervous cluck turns into an "alarm putt."  If you do not know what this sounds like, look on YouTube...  I will usually try to answer this bird with some contented turkey sound, unless he can see me, and I will wait for him to go behind an obstruction before answering him.
Did I do that?

Fly fishermen are born honest, but they get over it.

Offline Ctrize

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Re: Trying to Learn from beginner mistakes in the woods
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2019, 11:25:09 AM »
First rule is be where they want to go. If you can figure that out, calling becomes secondary, although not as much fun. Good Chance that bird has been called to from that trail and moves to a comfort zone for all the afore mentioned reasons. If the chance arrives move to the back edge of the property to start your hunt. Most guys will set up immediately upon hearing a gobble trying to call it to them .


Offline COMerriamNovice

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Re: Trying to Learn from beginner mistakes in the woods
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2019, 02:44:13 PM »
Thank you all for your thoughts and feedback.

Offline SD_smith

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Re: Trying to Learn from beginner mistakes in the woods
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2019, 02:09:01 PM »
If you even thought the gobbler might have been responding to your call, you best bet is shutting up and using only your eyes.  In other words, hunt him like Charles Jordan.

For most western states with Merriam’s I’d disagree with this.

Online Paulmyr

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Re: Trying to Learn from beginner mistakes in the woods
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2019, 11:11:49 PM »
If you even thought the gobbler might have been responding to your call, you best bet is shutting up and using only your eyes.  In other words, hunt him like Charles Jordan.

For most western states with Merriam’s I’d disagree with this.
[/quote

 I disagree with this as I well. It might have worked 30/50 years ago. But not today. I don't no how many times I tried going silent on a bird just to have them walk away. I will try it but if the bird is gobbling and moving forward I will not wait more than 10 min before I call. Usually less. I hunt public land and these birds lose interest quickly. I find if you fire em up. I mean get him hot! Gobbling 4/5 times or more a min and than go quiet it sometimes works. Most times you can call him to less than 100 yrds than you make him look for you. Yes you risk pulling other hunters in but slow playing and only trying to keep his interest usually sees him fading away. Both will attract the attention of nearby hunters but if you get em in quick the chances of that are unlikely. Plus I don't turkey hunt to kill turkeys. I turkey hunt to fool em! To bring em in! It's the interaction that makes my heart go pitter patter. Granted you can kill turkey by sitting in one place for hours upon hours and calling every 40 mins or so but thats not for me. If I get em to respond to me I usually kill em or run out out time as in the case of recent Mo hunts or they go other way following what I'm guess is hens leading away. Either that or they belong to the lgbqxyz community and I should have been gobbling to em and not yelping. In 30 yrs only had one Hunter come in fowl things up this way and that was this year. That's usually cause I hunt the areas that are hardest to get to,  in the middle between any access point where I pressure is high. Usually when 1st contact is made on a bird within 200 yrds it's down within the hour maybe 1 1/2 hr. Now don't get me wrong I don't go storming around the woods blowing every call I have. I wait till hear a bird gobbling than move in as close as I think I can get than wait for another gobble. It might take 15 mins and it might take 2 hours. If he is still gobbling I will get into his wheelhous and than call. If I know birds are in the area I can go 2/3 hours with out pulling a call out of my pockets. I do blind call but it's when I'm in unfamiliar territory and my back is against a tree. And I wait and listen. This has been the case for me in the 4 states I have hunted. GA., MO., AR., and MN. Granted in the few times I hunted the Ozarks of AR. All I got was poison oak! Did have a couple birds within 60 yds but just couldn't get the drop on em. Poison oak does not pair well with sleeping in the back of your truck. Ooooooh it was everywhere when I got back home.........!!!!!!!!!!
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 01:03:38 AM by Paulmyr »

Offline Jester87

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Re: Trying to Learn from beginner mistakes in the woods
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2019, 08:11:14 PM »
From what you describe, sounds like he was gobbling to let hens know he's there. And like an educated bird often does upon hearing you, headed to his safe space (private property) for the hook up. It's always a gamble closing distance but sometimes that's what we have to do to convince a bird you are the real deal. I'd try him again, set up closer to where he wanted to be.

I hunt AZ/NM and rarely go completely silent for too long out here. Once I get a gobble, I respond. Sometimes immediately, sometimes let em gobble a few times and then I sound off again. I dont go silent very long or they tend to lose interest and leave. If he's several hundred yards plus away I'll close distance some, call, determine my next move by his response. Our terrain can play a factor in frequency of calls. I've had to play marco polo to bring em out of rough stuff/canyons to my position. Not to say the silent approach doesnt work because it can in the right circumstances. Like late season when they get call shy. That's usually when they come in silent and/or hang up at the 70-100 yard mark and having a decoy or other stimulus like wing flap/scratching as GobbleNut suggested will seal the deal. 

Its the ultimate game of chess!