2018-05-12 / Outdoors

INSIDE THE OUTDOORS

‘Old, wise Tom’ answers turkey call

When I was a youngster, I fell in love with turkey hunting. By the time I was hunting on my own at 16 years old, I had become quite proficient at using a mouth call.

I also occasionally used a box call and slate call, but the mouth call was my “go- to” call. I could make about any turkey noise imagin­able with it.

Eventually, I began experi­menting. Without the latex mouth call in my mouth, I began positioning my tongue and mouth similarly to when I used the mouth call and began making yelps. I fine- tuned this natural method and soon was cutting, yelp­ing, and clucking just like a hen.

Over the years I had called in several turkeys calling with just my mouth out of season. When it came to actually hunting turkeys, I would always revert to a turkey call.

This past Saturday found me hunting an area of state forest land in Cameron County. I heard a turkey gob­bling from the roost shortly after dawn. I didn’t attempt to go after him because he was on the other side of the valley, and I would have needed fishing waders to cross the large stream. Regardless, the gobbler had become silent.

I walked a couple hundred yards and pulled my box call out of my back pack. I prefer to use it when locat­ing turkeys. I feel the sound travels better and have had many experiences when a gobbler responded to the box call, but hadn’t answered a mouth call.

I carefully gripped the paddle and made a short series of yelps. A gobbler answered.

He sounded distant. How­ever, I wasn’t sure where he was. After about a minute, I called again with the box. The gobbler answered. He was closer than I had guessed and was coming in.

I didn’t like my location because I couldn’t see very far. I had to set up near the edge of the ridge, because behind me was a solid wall of white pines in the under­story. He would be close when I would see him if he came in. I picked an oak tree and set up at its base.

I laid my box call aside and yelped with my mouth. The gobbler responded. Thir­ty seconds later, he gobbled again. Now he was about 100 yards away. I yelped. He cut me off with a gobble.

I only called two more times after that. He kept coming right in. At one point as he drew near I could hear him drum. I had the gun up and my cheek to the stock.

A minute later, movement caught my eye, slightly to the left from where my gun was pointed. His head was just coming into view. He stopped and was looking right at me. He immediately began to alarm putt and took two steps away. I pushed the safety off, was on him, and pulled the trigger. At the explosion of the 12-gauge, he went down flopping.

He was dead, but he was going to flop the whole 300 yards down the steep hillside to the bottom of the mountain. In my state of excitement, I had to concen­trate to stay on my feet as I descended.

Soon, I saw him below me. I slid the last ten yards down the steepest part of the hillside and turned him over.

He had a long beard, nearly 11 inches. His spurs were just over an inch and both came to sharp points. He was heavy and was at least four years old.

I thought of the irony. He was most likely the biggest and oldest gobbler that I have ever killed, yet had by far been the easiest gobbler I have ever called in. Only a half-hour had elapsed from the time I left camp until I shot him. It had taken less than ten minutes to call him in.

Maybe it was the call I was using that fooled the old wise tom.

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