In the early days of my turkey hunting, I was simply making noise and crossing my fingers. I still cross my fingers, but now I try to become one of the flock. I try to convince turkeys I’m the real deal by the sounds I render and the moves I make.
I ask myself, am I portraying a hen that’s lonely, feisty, curious or contented? Or, am I pretending to be a tom that’s spoiling for a pecking-order fight?
By adjusting volume and length, you can make a yelp represent all of the aforementioned attitudes. A lonely hen looking for company might yelp a dozen or more times consecutively. A feisty hen’s vocals have a kick-your-butt tone that’s difficult to ignore. By contrast, a contented hen might yelp softly and cluck a little.
Normally, I begin calling to a tom like a contented hen beckoning him, as I think that’s the most common scenario. If a feisty hen that’s accompanying him comes back with aggressive calls, however, I talk back to her accordingly. If she thinks I’m a competitor with an attitude, she might come looking for trouble and bring the gobbler with her.
On occasion, I break out a gobble call with which to stir the pot. I picture myself as a cocky gobbler that thinks he’s tough enough to goad the big boy into a confrontation. As a featherless human, though, I don’t use this tactic unless I’m sure I won’t attract another hunter.
Recently, I interviewed a turkey hunting legend who might actually grow feathers during the spring: Preston Pittman, of Pittman’s Game Calls.
“When I’m serious, I do my best to become a turkey,” he said. “I want to think like one, act like one and go where they go. My goal is to convince the turkeys that I’m simply one of the flock or, perhaps, an outsider about to crash their party. I try to anticipate how they’ll react to certain sounds based on what I think they’re doing at the time.”
Pittman goes on to say, “When you mentally become a turkey rather than a human just making noise, you better understand what drives them, and I think that ultimately leads to more success in the field.”