What Gobblers Can Teach Us About Bucks

Scott Bestul |

Successful turkey hunting not only demands many of the same skills required to kill a whitetail, but in the process of becoming a turkey assassin, you’ll hone—or learn—tactics that will crossover into the whitetail woods. Here are the ones that stand out in my mind:

*Calling: The best turkey hunters I know devote hours to learning how gobblers and hens talk to each other and, consequently, how to mimic those sounds on a call. Beyond that, the best turkey callers are adept at reading a bird’s mood by judging how he responds to a call. Interestingly, I know very few deer hunters who spend the same amount of time learning deer vocabulary and how to produce it on a commercially-made call. That’s a huge mistake, in my opinion. Though deer certainly don’t yap with each other as loudly as turkeys (how I wish a buck would gobble now and then, just so I’d know where he was hanging out), they are highly social animals that talk to each other all the time. Become a proficient turkey caller, and I’m convinced the path to calling up deer will be a short one.

*Positioning/strategy: Of course the Big Lie about turkey hunting is that you need to be an expert caller to consistently kill gobblers. Horse puckey. One of the best turkey whackers I know—a man who’s killed dozens of birds with his bow and even more with a shotgun—wouldn’t make it past the first round of an amateur calling contest. But Bob knows something far more important than pro-level yelping, clucking and purring; he knows where to set up. There’s an old saying that goes “It’s always easier to call a turkey to a place he wants to be,” and Bob is living proof that the saying is true. Knowledge of how gobblers travel the landscape, the exact places they like to feed, strut and loaf is a huge key to Bob’s success. Not coincidentally, Bob is also an expert whitetail hunter, and he uses the same knowledge to tag a trophy buck every fall.

*Patience: The other misunderstanding a lot of folks have about turkeys is this: It takes patience to kill them on a consistent basis, especially when you’re dealing with mature gobblers. As my old friend (and former world champion caller) Mark Drury likes to say “Time means nothing to a turkey.” Truer words were never spoken, and I’m amazed on an almost-yearly basis how long it can take some birds to come to a call. With the benefit of age, hindsight, and hopefully a little wisdom, I know I walked away from (or spooked) gobblers in my unvarnished youth that I would have killed today had I simply kept my butt on the ground.

While deer hunting and waiting seem like soul-mates, it ain’t necessarily so. Many times I’ve bailed from a morning set at 10 when I know I should stay till noon. Or got frustrated with a cagey old buck when he didn’t commit suicide at my first (or second, or fifth) setup. Much of successful deer hunting boils down to simply grinding it out, and if turkeys have taught me anything, it’s to forget the clock on your wrist. They move when they move, and sometimes the only way to kill them is to wait.


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