These Guys Know the Ropes
Turkey hunting might look easy in videos and on television. But it isn’t. It’s pretty darn tough. And these pros know a thing or two about killing red-headed, long-bearded, sharp-spurred turkeys.
Take note of what these guys have to say.
They might just help you fill a turkey tag this spring.
(Photos courtesy of the pros.)
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1 | Tyler Jordan
Tactic: Fanning Turkeys
“There's something about seeing that fan come closer that just gets turkeys fired up,” Tyler said. “I learned this tip from my dad when I was 13. It was a hot afternoon. The gobbler, underneath some shade on the edge of a big food plot, strutted with two hens and stopped responding to any of my calls. I snuck up the hill with [the] fan in front of my face and occasionally looked around to make sure he was looking. Sure enough, he came out of strut and stared at the fan for 15 to 20 seconds before he made a break in my direction. I quickly backed up and got behind a tree before he reached the crest of the hill. He came right in at about 20 yards before I took the shot. I've had great success using this tactic over the years, and it is my favorite to use whenever a bird is hung up.”
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2 | Michael Waddell
Tactic: The Decoy Beat Down
Mr. Waddell — founder of Bone Collector and cohost of Realtree Road Trips — has fanned in a many turkeys in his day. But now he prefers to use a variation of that tactic that takes a little less energy.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to realize it isn’t as fun to military crawl 500 yards across a field,” Michael said. “I very rarely set up a decoy, but when I do it’s usually a jake about five to 10 yards away. But I do take a gobbler decoy and lay it to my right-hand side. If [a tom] wants to come in, you don’t have to worry about a decoy. But if [it’s] henned up or out in a field, wait until [it] can’t see you and grab the decoy. Spin the decoy and show it to [the bird]. If that doesn’t work, fight purr as you beat the decoy on the ground. When they see that, they’ll break and come in. It’s definitely a private land deal and comes with a [safety] risk. But it’s a deadly tactic.”
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3 | Nate Hosie
Tactic: Call with Cadence
Nate Hosie — cohost of Headhunters T.V. — puts a lot of stock into calling. He loves to hear a gobbler respond to his call. That’s why he makes his vocalizations sound as much like the real thing as possible.
"Call as hen-like as you can,” Nate said. “Be creative in your cadence and tempo when calling to a gobbler. [It] helps add realism to your calling sequence."
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4 | Randy Birdsong
Tactic: Advanced Roosting
Randy Birdsong — cohost of Headhunters T.V. — knows a thing or two about turkeys. That’s why he takes roosting turkeys one step further than most do.
“Roosted don't mean roasted, but one tip to help you succeed on a roosted bird is to slip in close the evening before,” Randy said. “Throw a few soft yelps his way and let him sleep on it. The next morning, when you get into position, that roosted tom is already going to have you on his mind. Hopefully you'll be the first one he comes looking for.”
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5 | Anthony Virga
Tactic: Call to the Hens
Anthony Virga — a decorated turkey caller — doesn’t just call to the gobblers. He calls to the hens, too. And it works like a charm.
“Having a vest full of different sounding calls can help with a preoccupied gobbler,” Anthony said. “Being able to have 'that one call' to entice his hen to come into your set with him following could play a huge role in harvesting a henned-up gobbler.”
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6 | Chad Schearer
Tactic: The Run and Gun
Those hens generally leave the gobblers by mid-morning and Chad Schearer — host of Shoot Straight T.V. — knows it. That’s why he takes advantage of it.
“Mid-morning, late season birds are some of my favorite birds to hunt,” Chad said. “The hens go to nest and the gobblers get lonely. I run and gun and cover ground until I can get a gobbler to strike back at my locator call. The foliage is usually thicker by then and sound doesn’t carry as far. If you hear a gobble, and it sounds close, you better set up quick as it probably is.”
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7 | Phillip Vanderpool
Tactic: Take a Hike
Phillip Vanderpool — host of The Virtue — has killed a lot of turkeys over the years. I’ve hunted with this cat and he knows how to get the job done. And many of his filled tags have been with a bow nonetheless.
“This tip is for people who want to be stationary on their setup,” Phillip said. “I like to leave my setup position and do a 360-degree [walk] around my setup with some very aggressive calling (cutting and pleading hen yelps). Sometimes you might [hear] gobbles right off. Otherwise go back to your setup position and have patience. You can [do this] with decoys or without. I prefer decoys. That way, if a gobbler comes in silent, you have a decoy to take his attention away. This works wonders with bowhunting. Many ol’ gobblers have bit the dust with this strategy.”
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8 | Rick White
Tactic: The Silent Treatment
Rick White — who filmed for Hunter’s Specialties for a long time — is another fellow I’ve had the privilege to hunt with. And he knows his stuff. He kills numerous gobblers every spring and pulls out trick after trick to fill his tags.
“When turkeys aren't gobbling good and you think it's time to get up and move, stay where you're at. Next make a call and don't be afraid to get aggressive with your calling. And then shut up. Wait a half hour without making a call. You might be surprised how many turkeys will come in within that half hour.”
Editor's note: This Realtree.com post was first published March 23, 2016.