By Steve Sorensen
An experienced gobbler is a survivalist.
He trusts nothing, and is suspicious of everything.
The hunt I described in Part 1 was, without a doubt, my most exciting fall turkey hunt. So much came into play. In this segment, I’ll analyze some of the aspects of tracking and calling that made this my most memorable fall turkey hunt ever.
Tracking – I had tracked turkeys in the snow before with good success, and had heard of hunters tracking in leaves. Up to that time, however, I had never tracked turkeys in the leaves. Snow tracking can take you miles because turkeys will leave tracks whether they’re feeding or not. But leaf-tracking is more difficult. Turkeys don’t make sign by walking on leaves. They make sign only when they’re scratching the leaves or happen to step in mud.
So, when following turkeys in the leaves, analyzing the scratchings they make as they feed is your only clue. Turkey scratchings are dinner-plate sized bare spots. A turkey’s foot functions as a little rake. They stack the leaves behind them and examine the bare spot for something they can eat. That tells you which way they’re going. The more the leaves are stacked up, and the more moisture in the bare dirt, the more recent the scratching.
Snow tracking is much easier, not only because the tracks reveal everything the turkeys are doing, but also because snow increases visibility. With a white background, you can spot turkeys as far away as you can see. In open hardwoods, that can be as much as 200 yards. However, don’t think they won’t see you that far away. Turkeys have amazing eyesight, and it’s harder than tracking a single animal. An average flock of a dozen birds has two dozen eyes scanning the landscape for danger.
Use good judgment when tracking turkeys. In leaves, you must go slowly because you can’t see far ahead. In snow, your pace will depend on visibility. Even though tracking is slow, it’s not boring. It tells you for sure that turkeys aren’t far away. It raises your level of alertness. It keeps you thinking ahead. It reveals what the turkeys are doing. It gives you time to make decisions. And it lets you hunt the classic way people have hunted for eons.
Calling — I’ve called plenty of turkeys – young fall birds, hens, spring gobblers and fall gobblers – but here I learned an important lesson about calling mature gobblers.
When I heard a yelp from one of these gobblers, I wasn’t sure whether it was a young bird, a mother hen, or a mature gobbler. But that really didn’t matter. I wanted to call back to send the message turkeys are in the area, because that says to them that the area is safe.
An experienced gobbler is a survivalist. He trusts nothing, and is suspicious of everything. But he is still a turkey, and turkeys want to be with other turkeys. When they call, they want a response. My call was simply saying, “If you’re lost, we’re friends, and it’s safe
I also learned something about calling while I watched that turkey stand as still as a taxidermy mount for 45 minutes. It’s no wonder they beat hunters so often. How many times have gobblers stood frozen like that, watching for something to move? Then we decide he’s not coming so we get up and leave. We’ve all done it without even being aware that we’ve done it. The lesson is this: when you know a gobbler is in the vicinity, but he won’t come, he may be standing there, surveying the scene, not moving so much as a pinfeather. He’s waiting for you – or the turkey he thinks you are – to make your move. They have all day to wait out the danger.
A word about rifles for fall turkey hunting — Check your state regulations. Rifles aren’t always legal in the fall. And know this – if you ever have a hunting accident with a rifle, it will be deadly serious. Always, always, know your target and know what’s
About Steve Sorensen
Outdoor writer and speaker Steve Sorensen writes an award-winning newspaper column called “The Everyday Hunter®,” and he is the editor of the Havalon Post. He has also published articles in Deer & Deer Hunting, North American Whitetail, and many other top magazines across the USA. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at www.EverydayHunter.com.
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