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Sunday, May 08, 2011

Spring Gobbler Goof-Ups

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, May 7, 2011.)

A turkey hunter who wriggles and
squirms won’t see many gobblers.
If you’re like most spring gobbler hunters, you’ve probably committed several gobbler goof-ups by now. Before the season is over, how many mistakes will hunters make as they hope to tote home a beard-dragging gobbler? Too many to count, and there are lots of ways to describe them.

The English language is abundant with words for mistakes: blooper, blunder, bobble, boo-boo, botch, bungle, and those are just the b-words! The list goes on with nouns and verbs galore – clunker, fault, flub, foul-up, error, gaffe, misstep, muff, slip up, stumble. They all apply to turkey hunting.

As if we didn’t have enough of our own words, we even borrow from the French, using their phrase faux pas, meaning “false step.” And we’re not finished making up new phrases – “my bad” is a recent innovation.

Whatever we CALL our mistakes, no one is as inventive in ways to MAKE mistakes as spring gobbler hunters. And the longer we hunt spring gobblers, the more ways we find to flub.

After you make your next mistake – and you will – look in the mirror. If you’re like me, odds are you’ll see a stupid turkey hunter looking back at you.

One almost universal mistake is that we call too much. We might not intend to, but we do it anyway. We want to make that perfect call. We get bored. We think we can force something to happen. We think we haven’t called enough. We want to try that call that our buddy said was a killer.

On the other hand, it’s possible to call too little, and allow a pretty little hen to come and take your gobbler away. Unfortunately, only the gobbler knows what’s too much and what’s too little.

Another mistake is that we call too loudly. While there is a place for loud calling, most real hens call softly. Turkeys have exceptional hearing, so always start out quietly. You can always turn up the volume. But call too loudly, and you can’t un-call that. Probably 90% of the sounds a hen turkey makes are soft. So, imitate her.

Sometimes hunters call too soon. When you do, the gobbler may arrive while you’re standing there planning your setup. Or, if you make too many quiet “tree calls” too early in the morning, before the gobbler comes off the roost, he’ll just stand on his limb and wait. Why should he come to the hen if the hen tells him she’s coming to him?

Fidgeting is a big failure. Turkeys have first-class optics, and will see the slightest movement at a long distance. The fact that you can’t see the turkey doesn’t mean the turkey can’t see you. So, a hunter who wriggles and squirms won’t see many gobblers. If you absolutely must adjust to that tree root under your bottom, or stretch a leg that went numb, or scratch your nose, follow this rule – move like a sloth.

Another slip up is to give up, which hunters often do because they assume the gobbler is gone. Just because you haven’t heard the gobbler for a half hour doesn’t mean it’s time to get up and go. A gobbler has all day, and often, he’s just waiting for the hen to make a move. The hunter needs to be more patient than the gobbler.

Hunters hesitant to hunt rainy days are making a mistake. Avoiding thunderstorms is a blunder. Gobblers often give their vocal cords lots of exercise in response to thunder.

Some hunters botch something even before opening day – they overlook patterning their shotguns, fail to do enough scouting, or neglect to practice calling.

We tend to helplessly and unwittingly customize our gaffes, over and over again, to each unique situation. We seem to find almost as many ways to stumble as there are situations in the turkey woods.

What’s the solution to all these mistakes? Yes, we need to learn from them and think of ways we could have changed the outcome. But wild turkeys are wild turkeys – one of the most unpredictable game animals.

We’ll never have all the answers, so the best advice I can give is that no matter what, getting out of bed to hunt turkeys is never a mistake! Keep at it, and success will come.


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