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Turkey Season Primer

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    Bagging a turkey is a bonus prize for spending time in the spring woods. Drink in the green, and good luck to the turkey hunters. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published April 26. 2019 10:57PM

I always make the guy call twice, and that’s a technique that also works when you’re hunting turkeys. As the turkey hunting season progresses in Pennsylvania, you’ll start to hear hunters say things about turkeys such as “they are call smart” or “they are henned up” and “they just plain shut up.”

But the fact is, turkeys are very vocal critters. Although the brain of a turkey is about the size of a walnut, there are times when we humans with our larger brains can’t figure out what they’re doing – or what they’re not doing, such as responding to our turkey calls.

Is it correct to say a turkey has become “call smart” or “educated” to our calls? Turkey behavior makes me think that can’t be true. I’ve shot a turkey, and seen another tom proceed to beat the snot out of the dead turkey. I’ve sneezed and had a turkey gobble in response.

What I do think the turkey has, over us, is very sharp vision and a huge amount of wariness. Since birth, the turkey has been beset by predators from land and sky. When I’m archery hunting, I’ve had a turkey pick me out up in my tree stand, when I was only thinking about moving.

I do think a turkey can become “human smart” to certain scenarios that don’t play out in a natural manner – scenarios that go against nature. In the turkey world the tom or jake gobbles and the hen moves to the boys. When a male turkey “hangs up” at the sight of a decoy or group of decoys, it’s not because the turkey is smart. He is waiting for the hen to do what she’s supposed to do, hurry to his side. Or he saw you move.

Another scenario that runs against the normal turkey world is when a turkey is in a tree, gobbling, and the humans respond with hen yelping calls – on the ground, when it’s still dark, and no hen would be on the ground. The turkey’s innate wariness takes over and they fly down away from that call, because something’s not right.

A few weeks ago, I started thinking about getting some new turkey calls and got out my turkey calls and thought, well, this is ridiculous. (But at least I buy these things and not an overabundance of shoes.) I have two box calls (one for using in the rain), friction calls, mouth calls, locator calls and gobble calls. I even have a kit for holding the mouth calls and keeping them moist and ready to use. Right away I could see I needed more calls, and perhaps a vest with more pockets.

It’s important that no matter which call you’re trying, start out quietly. If you’ve ever watched a group of turkeys walking through an area, you know that the sounds they make are soft. Think about it – how long would a turkey survive if it called loudly? Every fox or coyote in the woods would come at a gallop.

It can’t be said enough – you’ll never get one from the couch. I love the sounds and scenes of the spring woods; turkey hunting is a great bonus. Get out there and best of luck to all the turkey hunters!

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