My Turkey Calling Lesson in The Bluegrass State
By Patrick Carrothers, President & CEO
I owe a big thank you to my friend and neighbor, Jim Boehl, for calling in a beautiful gobbler for me last Saturday. Jim, a retired police officer from Reading, Ohio, is well known among his friends as the best turkey caller in our neck of the woods. So when he asked if I wanted to go on a hunt with him on private land in Kentucky, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Jim knew I had struck out last year, both spring and fall turkey seasons. He wanted to help, and I need all the help I can get.
The afternoon before opening day, we set up Jim’s blind, a Primos Double Bull, on a creek bottom in the hilly Elk Lake region that lies just west of the Kentucky Bluegrass. He knew from past experience these hills were full of turkeys. Jim positioned the blind with its back to the creek, giving a wide view of grassy bottom land and cleared hillsides that ran along some deep woods to our right. I was impressed with the quality construction of the blind and the ease with which it set up. Once inside we had plenty of room for two chairs. Plush.
Next morning we started our long walk downhill under the stars to our set up. A chill west wind was blowing on top of the hill. By the time we reached flat bottomland, there was no wind, just a mist glowing in the moonlight. Jim positioned a big gobbler decoy named Bubba close behind a hen and about 15 yards in front of our blind. “That way if a turkey hangs up it will probably be in shooting range,” Jim whispered. “Position the decoys on the side of the blind that’s away from the woods where you expect the turkey to come from. They’ll have to walk past you to get to the decoys.”
Many turkey hunters will tell you being out in the woods during the transition from night to day is just about the best part of turkey hunting. In this part of Kentucky, the whip-poor-will is the first to break the quiet darkness with song. Cardinals, jays, robins join in next. Then crows and turkeys. Due to the unusually warm early spring in this part of the country, we worried the mating season might be over by the time of opening day. But a couple of unmistakable gobbles came from behind us; a few toms were still on the prowl.
Jim started calling with a slate. Soft yelps and clucks with a few purrs. I was surprised by how soft he was calling. “We already know there are gobblers here so there’s no need for loud calling,” he said. Then he used a mouth call to start clucking. It wasn’t long before the gobbles behind us started moving closer. We could hear feathers drumming. Soon I saw two huge gobblers emerge side by side from the woods to our right walking directly to old Bubba. That was my side.
It would have to be a left hand shot. I managed to mount my Benelli 12 gauge on my left shoulder without making any noise. The toms were only 15 yards away, intent on Bubba. They didn’t see my gun extend from the blind. I put the bead on the one closest to me and fired. That three inch Remington magnum with #5 shot did its job. My turkey dropped. The other took off immediately instead of standing there in a moment of shock as they usually do. By the time Jim could get a shot off the bird was behind a tree in full flight. Jim may have killed that tree, but the bird lived to see another day.
I’m glad I was carrying the sharpest hunting knife in the woods. It had started to rain, hard. My Havalon Original made quick work of field dressing that turkey. I had the breast meat off the bird and on ice in record time. Now I can’t wait to use what I learned from Jim on my next hunt. In a couple weeks I’ll be chasing turkeys in Tranquility Wildlife Area in southern Ohio with my son-in-law. It’s always a challenge to get a bird on pressured public land. But hunting with Jim has given me an advantage. That’s the timeless beauty of hunting, passing along knowledge and traditions, building friendships, putting meat on the table, all in the great outdoors.
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