St. Augustine On Turkey Hunting
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, May 16, 2009.)
St. Augustine said, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” The sainted philosopher and theologian wasn’t talking about turkey hunting, but his advice is as good in the turkey woods as it is anywhere.
I once watched a gobbler stand
as still as a statue at 60 yards, for 45 minutes.
The longer I hunt turkeys, the more I realize that the biggest challenge a turkey hunter must overcome is a lack of patience. Lots of turkey hunters would quickly advance from novice to veteran if they practiced more patience. But patience is not always easy, and the lack of it shows up in many ways.
In fact, a lack of patience probably leads to most of the main mistakes turkey hunters make: calling too loudly, calling too much, moving too soon, and quitting too early.
Calling too loudly: If we know a gobbler is nearby but he isn’t answering our calls, we think he isn’t responding at all. Yes, he might have hens with him, or he might be coming to the call. Either way, we become impatient to get an answer and, thinking the gobbler might not hear us, we yelp louder.
Call softly – he can hear you. And don’t worry because plenty of gobblers go silent when they’re coming. By calling louder we make it easier for him to pinpoint us, and a gobbler that knows where the caller is will probably be a “hung up” gobbler. Don’t let impatience make you call louder. I don’t advocate never calling loudly, but calling softly is seldom a mistake.
Calling too much: If the gobbler gobbles only a little, we often assume he will gobble more if we call more. But the more we call the more eager he thinks the hen is to come to him. When he thinks he has an eager hen, he’ll probably come to where he thinks she can see him and strut there, expecting to reel her in. Call sparingly. Don’t respond to him; let him respond to you.
Moving too soon: Sometimes impatience leads to moving too soon. How long should we sit waiting for the gobbler to come to our call? Is 4½ hours long enough? On one of my hunts the answer was “no.” Five more minutes would have produced a dead gobbler. I know that for sure because he was close, and the moment I chose to move was the moment he showed up.
Quitting too early: Sometimes impatience leads to quitting too early. Several times I’ve had to stop working an active gobbler and leave the woods in order to be somewhere at a certain time. Wild turkeys don’t have that kind of schedule. Sometimes a gobbler will come to a calling location you’ve left or revisit that vicinity until it’s time to fly up to roost. More than once, I’ve returned at daylight to a spot that I left the previous morning to find the gobbler roosted right there. If I had stayed the previous day, I’d have added his beard to my collection.
These are four ways impatience works to the gobbler’s advantage. If I could eliminate all the mistakes my impatience has caused, I’d have given more gobblers a ride in my truck. How many, I don’t know. But one thing is sure – the more patient a turkey hunter is, the more successful he will be.
I once watched a gobbler stand as still as a statue at 60 yards, for 45 minutes. If I had made any of these mistakes, he would have kept his spurs. But that time, I had more patience than he did. And it prompts the question: How many times have I called gobblers in but didn’t know it because I got impatient?
St. Augustine is right. Patience is the companion of wisdom. That’s why it’s the turkey hunter’s number one virtue.