Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

Turkey Hunting: When to Call, When to Shut Up

Recent Comments

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Syndicate

Google Reader or Homepage
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My AOL

The Gun Nuts
in your Inbox

Enter your email address to get our new post everyday.

April 28, 2011

Turkey Hunting: When to Call, When to Shut Up

By Phil Bourjaily

by Phil Bourjaily

As a result of my job I have been guided by some of the best-known turkey hunters in the country. The latest was Toxey Haas of Mossy Oak, who took me hunting in Texas last week. On the last morning of my hunt Toxey and I tucked into the boughs of a cedar tree about 200 yards from a wall of roosted Rio Grande turkeys. In the 45 minutes we sat we heard almost every noise a jake, hen or gobbler can make.

Toxey called almost non-stop on a mouth call and a slate, making different calls on each in perfect rhythm at the same time. That, by the way, is a feat of coordination about as difficult as singing and playing the drums, and if it doesn’t sound hard, try it and get back to me. Toxey stopped the one-man band routine once to whisper: “If I don’t get my hat in the ring, they’ll never notice us,” then he went right back to calling.

We saw this gobbler at about 100 yards. It went into strut, letting the hen it was with drift away. After that, Toxey never called again. If he had kept calling the turkey might have stopped, stood there and strutted forever. Or, it might have noticed the two blobs sitting in the cedar tree, folded its fan and slunk away.

Instead, Toxey’s silence made the bird come look for us. The turkey obliged by strutting right down my gun barrel. Since this is a gun blog I should digress and mention the gun was a Mossberg 535 loaded with 3-inch Winchester Xtended Range 5s. I shot the turkey at 37 yards which is not close but is right in the sweet spot for tight patterning tungsten-iron shot.

Toxey Haas knows when to call and when to shut up. Even more important, he still gets excited. I shot, the bird went flat, and I was up and running to the turkey like I always do. I was halfway there when a blur in camo went tearing past me to get to the bird and stand on its neck. “You’re fast,” Toxey said. “I haven’t run that hard in a long time but I wasn’t going to let you beat me to that turkey.”

Comments (29)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Hillbilly Hunter wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Sounds like an awesome hunt. Thats great advice in the article as well. Thanks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drew McClure wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

That is a nice turkey gun, what choke did you end up using on the hunt?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 007 wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Good article, Phil, thanks. I'll have to try the diaphragm and friction call at the same time, never thought about that. It will probably sound like a bird with a really speech impediment but we shall see. Thanks again, regards to Toxey and company.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bobie wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Congrats on your hunt. My buddy and I talk about this every year when we are in the blind. Unless we can hear or see one close by, we call just enough to let them know we are there and then wait.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Phil, congrats on the nice bird. Knowing when to shut-up falls under the heading of woodsmanship IMO.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Haas's calling pretty much reflects the way I approach it down here as well, although I will continue to give some encouragement even after a tom starts coming if it seems like he's starting to hang up, and if a real hen enters the mix I'll lay it on hot and heavy again. Maybe it's different with eastern birds or in other states, but I learned a long time ago here in South Texas that if you want to shoot a Rio Grande you call aggressively and often. Biologists out at the Kerr WMA sent a couple of newbies my way last week to ask me what to do since I've hunted out there a lot, and the first question was whether or not they should just make one cluck or yelp and then shutup. I told them I try to be the most brazen hussy in the woods, because the hens around here never shut up. Most mornings it sounds like a 20-track overdub mix of The View. So I alternately cluck, yelp, purr, gobble and generally raise hell until I've got one coming, because if you don't you will never compete with the hens that are still making more noise than you can ever hope to make. That was especially true this year, with the hot, dry weather delaying the hens hitting their nests. I had three hens run past me within six feet and through my decoys to meet a gobbler I had coming toward my set. Try to compete with that by being passive.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Phil,
Great post. Interesting and informative.

Knowing when to shut up applies to turkey hunting and marriage!! :)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Hunting Rio's on the south Texas ranches is fun. There are typically so many birds in a roost that you have to make your own entrance. It is a completely different type of turkey calling experience. When you have that much going on you have to jump right in.

I was turkey hunting on the Kennedy Ranch before it was tied up by commercial enterprises. The evening before my friend who had a concession on the ranch spotted a big Rio Gobbler by himself in a small oak motte. He decided that I needed to hunt that bird the next morning and would drive me out to him. He was not a turkey hunter and hoping to save me a walk and make sure I found the spot he decided to get me close. I got out of the truck thinking I was several hundred yards away from the bird, only to be almost directly under him. As the truck pulled away I heard putting and then wings beating as he flew off!

As the sun started to rise I could hear birds gobbling behind me at what sounded like 300-400 yards. After walking close to 3/4 of a mile I found the birds in a Live Oak Hammock about 200 yards long and 50 yards wide. I've never seen so many turkeys in a single place. The motte was completely brown with birds and they would litteraly wave gobble from one end and back to the other. As the birds began to fly down they would pair up in 6 to 10 birds groups of toms and they would fight and harass each other and strutt. The hens were cutting and toms gobbling non stop. After about 30 minutes of this during which I was calling on a box and a mouth call at the same time the toms began to break up only to discover most of the hens had slipped off. Six old toms remembered those two hens in that little mesquite grove I was in and headed my way. I soon found myself surrounded. It looked like some kind of feathered merry go round with all six looking like they had been poured from the same mold.

After 5 minutes of enjoying the show I dumped one of the toms as they circled around. The other gobblers just looked at him like, "what the heck are you doing Ralph..." one of them pecked at him a couple of times and they just walked away.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nathan Ross wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

I got two Turkeys this year, one within 15 yards and one within 10, both outside the blind. Makes me wish want to start bow hunting.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fitch270 wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Looks to be a good beard, how 'bout some measurements and
weight?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

OMG, Phil drank the Mossberg Kool-Aid!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from z41 wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Thanks for using a plain old gun and not some super priced fancy thing the average person won't have. My Mossberg 500 stands right by my Brownings and gets the nod as often as not for the duty at hand.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

A note to you young fellas out there just getting into turkey hunting. Do not lean your camouflage shotgun against a tree then wander off looking for mushrooms. It may take you an hour or so to find that shotgun again. Not saying I performed such a stupid act this morning...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Amflyer wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

OMG, WAM used the term OMG.

LOL.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from pittrehab wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Congratulations on an outstanding bird! Also the great advice on making the gobbler come find you.

I will also be using a Mossberg 535, 12gauge with full choke. I plan on shooting federal number 5's.

Thanks for the great advice.
Accessible Hunter

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Fitch270 -- Yes, this was a big turkey, probably the local boss. I didn't weigh or measure this one. It was heavy for a Rio, though, and had longish but rounded spurs.

As for Mossbergs, I am a fan of Mossberg pumps as turkey guns. They are lightweight and they always work. I shot an 835 Grand Slam at turkeys for several seasons

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from iron giant wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Congrats on the Turkey.

A friend and I were talking about this just yesterday. We had been out Turkey hunting all day, no luck though.

Glad to see you using a gun that doesn't break the bank. Most outdoors writers are using gear that the average Jo can't afford. My shotgun is a 535 too and I love it. With two barrels to switch out I can hunt pretty much everything with it, and it is Mossy Oak so it works well in the Turkey woods. How long is your Turkey barrel? Are you in the "use a shorter handier barrel because there is no ballistic loss" camp or the "you need a long barrel to wring out the most performance for long range shots" camp

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Phil,

Is a couple of seasons all it took to wear it out or malfunction?

Amflyer

I apologize for my outburst, sir.

All rise for the National Anthem!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPCjC543llU

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

WA Mtn Hunter -- I sold three guns to pay for the vet bill when my shorthair Jed had to have a pair of nylon tights surgically removed from his intestinal tract.
Beretta 391 Sporting gun
BPS Stalker
835 Grand Slam turkey gun

I miss all three, but would do the same thing again.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from fitch270 wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

New York season opens Sunday, but I doubt I'll run into any Rio's. I'll be carrying an 835 with the 24" barrel.
So far it's been a pure turkey rig, but I recently picked up a used 28" barrel so I may finally have to try
hunting geese this fall.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Well I tried the two call thing today in the living room. The turkeys could be heard laughing all over the county. It will definitely take a little practice.
Sounds like a fun hunt, wish we had turkey problems like that here in MN.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

First recieved a response to a blind call at 10:30AM. Continued to call occasionally. Less often and softer as the birds approached until I finally stopped and readied my gun.
A gobble behind me told me the birds had passed me by in the thickett I was in!
Begin calling again, seldom and softly. They came so close up behind me I could hear them walking in the leaves. They finally crossed the pipeline clearcut 30 yards to my left. None of the three presented a "do-able" shot!
Regained my call (slate) and began calling the THIRD time.
The gobbles told me the birds had gone fifty yards or so beyond me.
The gobbles in response to my calling told me they were returning, AGAIN!
The three toms FINALLY broke cover at 40 yards. One of them finally spotted my decoy, gobbled, strutted and came to within 25 yards to check out the strange new lady in the area. A Rio of twenty one pounds with a 7.5 in beard and 1 inch spurs.
Rem 870 w/Super full choke, Win Super X High Brass 2 3/4 inch with No. 7 1/2 shot. D.I.R.T. (Dead, Instantly! Right There!)

Knowing when and when NOT to call is tough! For me anyway! LOL

BTW, Phil. Nice bird!

Bubba

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tygh98 wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

What type of sight do you have mounted on there? I tried a Tru-glo for the first time this year and I had a very hard time seeing much of anything through it at first light. Will probably be looking for something different next year.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

It is really nice when you can see the bird(s) you are calling to. That takes a lot of the guesswork out. I will guarantee you that you had a master with you who knows when to call and when to shut up. I hope you were edified by his tutorial.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve in Virginia wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Good, timely piece. We were out this past Saturday where I worked a gobbler with a box call. After we went back and forth a few times, he went silent. About the time I thought that he'd abandoned us, he suddenly appeared through the woods -- he'd been stalking up on us. Unfortunately, he saw something he didn't like as he got closer and walked off.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 99explorer wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Thanks Phil, for a great tip, and the simple explanation for its success.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FiddleJim wrote 2 years 49 weeks ago

I lived this same scenario just two days ago but I kept calling and the Tom hung up and eventually other hens came in and took him away. The next day I used I called only when the bird was on roost just to let him know I was there then shut up. My cousin got his first Tom that day. This tactic does work.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 49 weeks ago

Steve in Va: What did you learn from this experience?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ScottyBee wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

Good post Phil. Sometimes it's really hard to know when to call and when to not. It's kind of like Phil Robertson over at www.duckcommander.com , he knows exactly when to blow his duck calls as to not scare away ducks but to draw them in.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

WA Mtn Hunter -- I sold three guns to pay for the vet bill when my shorthair Jed had to have a pair of nylon tights surgically removed from his intestinal tract.
Beretta 391 Sporting gun
BPS Stalker
835 Grand Slam turkey gun

I miss all three, but would do the same thing again.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hillbilly Hunter wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Sounds like an awesome hunt. Thats great advice in the article as well. Thanks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beekeeper wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Hunting Rio's on the south Texas ranches is fun. There are typically so many birds in a roost that you have to make your own entrance. It is a completely different type of turkey calling experience. When you have that much going on you have to jump right in.

I was turkey hunting on the Kennedy Ranch before it was tied up by commercial enterprises. The evening before my friend who had a concession on the ranch spotted a big Rio Gobbler by himself in a small oak motte. He decided that I needed to hunt that bird the next morning and would drive me out to him. He was not a turkey hunter and hoping to save me a walk and make sure I found the spot he decided to get me close. I got out of the truck thinking I was several hundred yards away from the bird, only to be almost directly under him. As the truck pulled away I heard putting and then wings beating as he flew off!

As the sun started to rise I could hear birds gobbling behind me at what sounded like 300-400 yards. After walking close to 3/4 of a mile I found the birds in a Live Oak Hammock about 200 yards long and 50 yards wide. I've never seen so many turkeys in a single place. The motte was completely brown with birds and they would litteraly wave gobble from one end and back to the other. As the birds began to fly down they would pair up in 6 to 10 birds groups of toms and they would fight and harass each other and strutt. The hens were cutting and toms gobbling non stop. After about 30 minutes of this during which I was calling on a box and a mouth call at the same time the toms began to break up only to discover most of the hens had slipped off. Six old toms remembered those two hens in that little mesquite grove I was in and headed my way. I soon found myself surrounded. It looked like some kind of feathered merry go round with all six looking like they had been poured from the same mold.

After 5 minutes of enjoying the show I dumped one of the toms as they circled around. The other gobblers just looked at him like, "what the heck are you doing Ralph..." one of them pecked at him a couple of times and they just walked away.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

OMG, Phil drank the Mossberg Kool-Aid!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

A note to you young fellas out there just getting into turkey hunting. Do not lean your camouflage shotgun against a tree then wander off looking for mushrooms. It may take you an hour or so to find that shotgun again. Not saying I performed such a stupid act this morning...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Amflyer wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

OMG, WAM used the term OMG.

LOL.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

First recieved a response to a blind call at 10:30AM. Continued to call occasionally. Less often and softer as the birds approached until I finally stopped and readied my gun.
A gobble behind me told me the birds had passed me by in the thickett I was in!
Begin calling again, seldom and softly. They came so close up behind me I could hear them walking in the leaves. They finally crossed the pipeline clearcut 30 yards to my left. None of the three presented a "do-able" shot!
Regained my call (slate) and began calling the THIRD time.
The gobbles told me the birds had gone fifty yards or so beyond me.
The gobbles in response to my calling told me they were returning, AGAIN!
The three toms FINALLY broke cover at 40 yards. One of them finally spotted my decoy, gobbled, strutted and came to within 25 yards to check out the strange new lady in the area. A Rio of twenty one pounds with a 7.5 in beard and 1 inch spurs.
Rem 870 w/Super full choke, Win Super X High Brass 2 3/4 inch with No. 7 1/2 shot. D.I.R.T. (Dead, Instantly! Right There!)

Knowing when and when NOT to call is tough! For me anyway! LOL

BTW, Phil. Nice bird!

Bubba

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drew McClure wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

That is a nice turkey gun, what choke did you end up using on the hunt?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 007 wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Good article, Phil, thanks. I'll have to try the diaphragm and friction call at the same time, never thought about that. It will probably sound like a bird with a really speech impediment but we shall see. Thanks again, regards to Toxey and company.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bobie wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Congrats on your hunt. My buddy and I talk about this every year when we are in the blind. Unless we can hear or see one close by, we call just enough to let them know we are there and then wait.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Phil, congrats on the nice bird. Knowing when to shut-up falls under the heading of woodsmanship IMO.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Haas's calling pretty much reflects the way I approach it down here as well, although I will continue to give some encouragement even after a tom starts coming if it seems like he's starting to hang up, and if a real hen enters the mix I'll lay it on hot and heavy again. Maybe it's different with eastern birds or in other states, but I learned a long time ago here in South Texas that if you want to shoot a Rio Grande you call aggressively and often. Biologists out at the Kerr WMA sent a couple of newbies my way last week to ask me what to do since I've hunted out there a lot, and the first question was whether or not they should just make one cluck or yelp and then shutup. I told them I try to be the most brazen hussy in the woods, because the hens around here never shut up. Most mornings it sounds like a 20-track overdub mix of The View. So I alternately cluck, yelp, purr, gobble and generally raise hell until I've got one coming, because if you don't you will never compete with the hens that are still making more noise than you can ever hope to make. That was especially true this year, with the hot, dry weather delaying the hens hitting their nests. I had three hens run past me within six feet and through my decoys to meet a gobbler I had coming toward my set. Try to compete with that by being passive.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

Phil,
Great post. Interesting and informative.

Knowing when to shut up applies to turkey hunting and marriage!! :)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nathan Ross wrote 2 years 51 weeks ago

I got two Turkeys this year, one within 15 yards and one within 10, both outside the blind. Makes me wish want to start bow hunting.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fitch270 wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Looks to be a good beard, how 'bout some measurements and
weight?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from z41 wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Thanks for using a plain old gun and not some super priced fancy thing the average person won't have. My Mossberg 500 stands right by my Brownings and gets the nod as often as not for the duty at hand.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from pittrehab wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Congratulations on an outstanding bird! Also the great advice on making the gobbler come find you.

I will also be using a Mossberg 535, 12gauge with full choke. I plan on shooting federal number 5's.

Thanks for the great advice.
Accessible Hunter

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Fitch270 -- Yes, this was a big turkey, probably the local boss. I didn't weigh or measure this one. It was heavy for a Rio, though, and had longish but rounded spurs.

As for Mossbergs, I am a fan of Mossberg pumps as turkey guns. They are lightweight and they always work. I shot an 835 Grand Slam at turkeys for several seasons

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from iron giant wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Congrats on the Turkey.

A friend and I were talking about this just yesterday. We had been out Turkey hunting all day, no luck though.

Glad to see you using a gun that doesn't break the bank. Most outdoors writers are using gear that the average Jo can't afford. My shotgun is a 535 too and I love it. With two barrels to switch out I can hunt pretty much everything with it, and it is Mossy Oak so it works well in the Turkey woods. How long is your Turkey barrel? Are you in the "use a shorter handier barrel because there is no ballistic loss" camp or the "you need a long barrel to wring out the most performance for long range shots" camp

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Phil,

Is a couple of seasons all it took to wear it out or malfunction?

Amflyer

I apologize for my outburst, sir.

All rise for the National Anthem!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPCjC543llU

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fitch270 wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

New York season opens Sunday, but I doubt I'll run into any Rio's. I'll be carrying an 835 with the 24" barrel.
So far it's been a pure turkey rig, but I recently picked up a used 28" barrel so I may finally have to try
hunting geese this fall.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Well I tried the two call thing today in the living room. The turkeys could be heard laughing all over the county. It will definitely take a little practice.
Sounds like a fun hunt, wish we had turkey problems like that here in MN.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tygh98 wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

What type of sight do you have mounted on there? I tried a Tru-glo for the first time this year and I had a very hard time seeing much of anything through it at first light. Will probably be looking for something different next year.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

It is really nice when you can see the bird(s) you are calling to. That takes a lot of the guesswork out. I will guarantee you that you had a master with you who knows when to call and when to shut up. I hope you were edified by his tutorial.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve in Virginia wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Good, timely piece. We were out this past Saturday where I worked a gobbler with a box call. After we went back and forth a few times, he went silent. About the time I thought that he'd abandoned us, he suddenly appeared through the woods -- he'd been stalking up on us. Unfortunately, he saw something he didn't like as he got closer and walked off.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 99explorer wrote 2 years 50 weeks ago

Thanks Phil, for a great tip, and the simple explanation for its success.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FiddleJim wrote 2 years 49 weeks ago

I lived this same scenario just two days ago but I kept calling and the Tom hung up and eventually other hens came in and took him away. The next day I used I called only when the bird was on roost just to let him know I was there then shut up. My cousin got his first Tom that day. This tactic does work.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 49 weeks ago

Steve in Va: What did you learn from this experience?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ScottyBee wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

Good post Phil. Sometimes it's really hard to know when to call and when to not. It's kind of like Phil Robertson over at www.duckcommander.com , he knows exactly when to blow his duck calls as to not scare away ducks but to draw them in.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment