Turkey Hunting Terminology
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, May 2, 2009.)
We sometimes don’t realize that the words we use can be misleading. I “roosted” a turkey one night this week, and it occurred to me that some people wouldn’t understand that word.
Take off your running shoes,
and try sneaking and speaking.
It doesn’t mean I somehow forced it, prompted it, or otherwise compelled it to fly up into his roost.
A synonymous phrase is “putting a gobbler to bed.” Yes, the image of tucking him in with a bedtime story and kissing him goodnight is ridiculous. All we’re really doing is trying to get him to disclose the location of his nighttime roost.
In “roosting” him, or “putting him to bed” a hunter doesn’t actually do anything at all, other than be nearby when it’s time for the gobbler to fly up into a tree for the night – so that he knows where to be when it flies down at daybreak about 9½ hours later.
That almost sounds like cheating, but it often doesn’t work out. And it leads to another phrase, the meaning of which should be obvious: “Roosted ain’t roasted.” So true.
These phrases probably won’t mislead even the greenest of greenhorn hunters. But turkey hunters sometimes use phrases that might steer a rookie hunter down the wrong path.
“Cutting and running” is one of those phrases. Ideally, turkey hunters like to be near a gobbling turkey at first light. But when tom turkeys turn silent, lots of hunters turn to a strategy they call “cutting and running.”
But “cutting and running” doesn’t describe what turkey hunters do. It might even imply some things that put hunters at a disadvantage. “Cutting and running” doesn’t mean we hightail it out of there. Rather, “cutting” describes a particular sound in the turkey vocabulary – loud, sharp, irregular staccato clucking.
But why limit yourself to one call? And why call loudly? If you call loudly and use only one call, you won’t get very many turkeys.
Nor will a hunter who goes running through the woods have much success. In fact, it’s not a good idea to run through the woods. Remember, you have a loaded gun in your hands. You might get hurt, and you’re likely to give turkeys the “heads up,” telling them where you’re coming from and where you’re going.
An even less descriptive phrase that means the same thing is “running and gunning.” Taken literally, I can’t think of a more counterproductive strategy in the turkey woods. “Running and gunning” will tip-off any gobbler that a hunter is coming.
You’ll overlook a lot if you “run” through the woods. It’s better to move slowly. If you need to cover a lot of ground, move slowly and steadily.
Brian Lovett, editor of Turkey and Turkey Hunting magazine, objects to the term “cutting and running,” and probably wouldn’t think much of “running and gunning” either. He likes the term “piddle and crawl.” To me, that isn’t quite right either, but it’s a move in the right direction.
“Piddle and crawl.” “Cutt and run.” “Run and gun.” If you like rhyme and alliteration, maybe you’ll like the phrase “sneaking and speaking.” Yes, that’s it. That’s the way to move though the turkey woods, disturbing the least wildlife, and speaking the language of turkeys before they realize you’re not a turkey.
Sneak along and stop every 50-100 yards to call softly with quiet yelps. Add some low volume purrs and clucks. Perhaps there’s a ravine that’s worth calling into. Or maybe a thicket could hide a gobbler. Before calling, always choose a place where you can quickly set up, in case a gobbler answers and he’s close.
Add some volume and get more aggressive here and there – maybe add some louder cutting. The cutting calls just might do double duty. They might not only “shock” him into gobbling. They might also make him believe an excited hen is nearby and he’s desperate to get to her.
Having trouble getting a gobbler? Take off your running shoes, and try sneaking and speaking.