Grant Carmichael's Montana Merriams

Pot Call Tips with David Halloran

In this turkey calling tips video with David Halloran, he covers the following pot call tips that will help you call in more turkey this spring:

  • How to hold a pot call. Make sure you don’t grip the call too tight.
  • Demonstration on how to cut with a pot call
  • How to kee kee on a pot friction call by griping the striker tight and using the outer edge of the call surface
  • How to purr and cluck on a pot call by letting the striker skip across the surface

The Crystal Mistress’ sister has arrived – the Twisted Sister. She’s a raspy yelping, sharp cutting call that is sure to bring tom in on a rope. The laminate pot combines the stability of thermal treated poplar with the tonal quality of yellow heart. When matched with the crystal striking surface over a slate soundboard, this call becomes a devastating tool in the turkey woods. Each call comes with a dymondwood striker and a purple heart striker.

World Record Goulds Turkey by Jim Bates

Jim Bates: Holder of NWTF’s World Record Goulds Turkey

Jim Bates resides in Las Cruces New Mexico and has been involved with the NWTF and with the state of New Mexico’s conservation efforts for many years. I met Jim 3 years ago and I can tell you he is as unselfish and humble as the day is long and it took me a year of knowing him before I even found out about this bird. The Grand Slam Network asked Jim Bates to share his story about the hunt involving his taking of the World Record Goulds turkey. It took some prying on our part as Jim is one of those guys who never wants to appear as though he’s bragging about anything. Well this is something to brag about and fortunately for us, Jim is a very good writer as well as turkey hunter. The following is his story regarding this once in a lifetime hunt.

Bobby Parks

Ocho Barvas by Jim Bates

“Shoot him, Dennis!” I whispered to my hunting companion who sat next to me under the scraggly juniper tree we had chosen for our blind.

“No…you shoot him!”

“Dennis, shoot him…he’s got at least three beards!” I emphasized as the big gobbler walked casually by us five yards away.

“No…he’s your bird, shoot him! Dennis retorted as the distance between us and the bird gradually widened.

“It’s your turn; I shot the last bird yesterday!” I hissed.

“He’s walkin’ off, you better shoot him!” Dennis responded, matter-of-factly.

Such was our animated exchange as we slowly watched the Goulds gobbler walk out of sight up the canyon, and presumably, out of our lives forever.

“I can’t believe you didn’t shoot that bird! Did you see how big he was!…how many beards he had!” I scolded Dennis as we both sat there in utter disbelief, recognizing that we had just bickered our way out of the bird of a lifetime for one of us. Disbelief soon turned to laughter as we both shook our heads and chided each other over what we had just done.

That whole episode and what had transpired on this morning and the two days before, were a result of a series of events caused by our association with the National Wild Turkey Federation. Until five years prior to this adventure, Dennis Daniel and I had never laid eyes on one another, had never spoken, and likely never would have except for our respective positions with the NWTF. You see, at the time Dennis was working out of the NWTF headquarters in Edgefield as the Making Tracks coordinator with the Forest Service, and I was serving an extended term as the New Mexico State chapter president.

The two of us had become acquainted when we met at a NWTF regional biologist’s meeting held in New Mexico’s Lincoln National Forest several years prior. As is generally the case in these situations, our initial conversations had eventually turned to hunting as Dennis and I, along with other attendees at the meeting, discussed the possibilities to be found in the mountains and forests of New Mexico, as well as the respective locales from which each of us had come. In the next several years, Dennis and I would run into each other at NWTF meetings and events on occasion, or find ourselves chatting about NWTF or Forest Service issues via e-mail.

Ultimately, our conversations would invariably lead back to hunting. Dennis and I found we shared common hunting interests, not only with wild turkeys, but also with elk, and soon we found ourselves contemplating hunts for both. The spring of 2005 found us hunting together in Florida for the Osceola subspecies, and again in the fall, when we got together for an elk hunt in New Mexico. During that hunt, we discussed the possibilities of an excursion into Mexico to hunt Gould’s gobblers. I had mentioned to Dennis previously that I had been attempting to make contacts in Mexico to set up some spring hunts, and that a hunt for the spring of ’06 was beginning to look promising.

“Count me in if it comes together”, Dennis said.

“Okay, you’re on my short list” I assured him.

As time went by, the possibilities of a Gould’s hunt became more promising. Numerous obstacles that had looked almost insurmountable at one time or another slowly began to fall by the wayside. One by one, issues and concerns were addressed. Arrangements were made with my contacts to procure the necessary licenses and permits. Access to a property that had Goulds turkeys was obtained. Shotguns for the hunt were gathered up by our Mexican contacts so that we would not have to deal with trying to jump through all of the hoops needed to take our own shotguns. Insurance and registration concerns about taking vehicles into Mexico were explored. By the end of March, I felt fairly confident that our “do it yourself” Goulds hunt was going to come together. From that point forward, Dennis and I referred to our hunt as “the great adventure”.

And so, on May 3rd, I picked up Dennis at the El Paso International Airport, both of us anxious to see how things were going to work out. After gathering up food and provisions for our journey south, and confirming plans with the other two individuals who were to be part of our group, we went to bed that evening believing that we had covered all the bases and were ready to go.

At dawn on May 4th, the four of us departed Las Cruces, Dennis and I in my 4X4 pickup and the others in theirs. The first bump in the road occurred when we tried to cross the border. Dennis and I had all of our paperwork in order, and had no problem getting the necessary permits for ourselves and my vehicle. However, our companions, it turned out, did not have all of their “ducks in a row” in terms of paperwork on their truck, even though we had discussed and cussed the details “ad nauseum” for weeks before the hunt. To make a long story short, the two of us were allowed into Mexico, and the other two were turned back. I insisted that they try to get things straightened out and try to come down to meet us later but after all was said and done, they could not.

We were scheduled to meet our Mexican contacts before noon, so Dennis and I headed south toward Chihuahua City. After a three-hour drive, we met Jeremy, the owner of the property we were to hunt, at an intersection of two highways, and after waiting for the arrival of our two assigned guides, Pedro and Carlos, we headed west towards the Sierra Madres. By mid-afternoon, we had made our way through one mountain range, across a high plain, and into the next mountain range, which comprised the ranch we were to hunt, and which supposedly held an abundance of our quarry.

Upon arrival at our destination, a neat little Mexican ranch nestled in a small canyon at the base of the mountain range, we were shown our quarters and given a brief rundown on the facility and the hunt. I had been told, in my initial contacts with the outfitter, that the ranch was about 9800 acres in size. After questioning Jeremy about the size of the property, his first response was “who told you that?” Expecting “ranch shrinkage” to occur at this point in time, imagine our delight when he informed us that his place was almost 50,000 acres! And not only that, but the turkeys, of which he assured us there were many, had not been hunted in at least five years that he knew of!

So here we were, the two of us, hunting a huge Mexican ranch on which the current generation of Gould’s turkeys had never been harassed by hunters! We looked at each other with sly smiles which essentially conveyed the meaning: “What a Deal!!” Needless to say, our optimism for the possibilities for “our adventure” was sky-high!

That afternoon, that optimism was rewarded when our hosts drove us higher into the rugged mountains to a rock dam on the edge of a high mesa. We parked the truck and eased our way to within a couple hundred yards of the dam, and there, in a sun-drenched clearing, were perhaps two dozen Gould’s turkeys, gobblers and hens, going about their business. As we sat and watched the birds—we had chosen not to take guns on this first afternoon reconnaissance mission—-we marveled at the size of the strutting gobblers and their glistening white fans and rump feathers. There were at least eight mature toms in this procession, and even though it was late afternoon when gobblers are generally prone to be somewhat hush-mouthed, these birds were whoopin’ it up. Gobbles rang out with regularity, and Dennis and I just looked at each other and gleamed. It was beginning to look more and more like this adventure was going to be a doozy!

That evening, over a mesquite-grilled steak dinner, we discussed our plans for the next morning with our hosts. We would return to the rock dam on the mesa before daylight and head for the first gobbles, wherever they might be. After inspecting the five shotguns that our hosts had rounded up, all 12 gauges of various persuasions and chokes, we settled on a Beretta semi-auto and a Remington pump as our weapons of choice for the next morning.

At first light, we found ourselves standing in the pre-dawn darkness in the clearing next to the dam. We were somewhat surprised when it was nearly full daylight before the first gobbler sounded off in a deep canyon immediately to the south of the dam. We hiked to the edge of the canyon, and soon we could see him strutting on a shale rockslide near the canyon bottom 500 yards away. We briefly contemplated attempting to find a way off of the precipice and into the chasm, but eventually came to our senses and decided instead to bide our time in the vicinity of the dam. Finally, after another half-hour, we were rewarded with distant gobbling on the mesa a few hundred yards to the west. Our entourage of four moved quickly in the direction of the gobbler, which, we were fairly certain, was now on the ground and readying himself for the morning’s courtships.

We moved through the scattered oaks, junipers, pinons, and manzanita until we thought we were within striking distance. Dennis and our two assistants crawled up under the low branches of a small juniper tree while I hurriedly looked for a suitable spot to try to film the action with my video camera. After all of us were satisfied with the set-up, Dennis enticed the bird with a soft series of yelps. From that direction came a responding gobble. All was well. A couple minutes later Dennis once again called to the gobbler but this time received no response in return.

I was busily trying to pan the area to get some set-up footage for the hunt. As I panned to the left and out in front of us, something looked out of place. Closer inspection revealed a lone mature gobbler, standing at the base of a pinon tree forty yards distant. The bird had quietly moved in and was now surveying the situation. Soon he ballooned into full strut, and began what would turn out to be an excruciatingly long performance within a five yard radius of that pinon tree. Not knowing how the Beretta would perform at that distance, Dennis chose to bide his time and hope that the big gobbler would eventually venture closer. Such was not the case however, as the bird had set up shop and was not about to sully his reputation by advancing further toward this apparently irreverent hen.

As time slowly slipped by, I was beginning to wonder if we had reached an impasse with the bird. He would not take a step closer than about forty yards, and try as we might, we could not entice him to come further. At about the forty-five minute mark of what was now turning into quite an ordeal, since both of my legs had fallen asleep and my back was screaming for some Doan’s pills, I thought I heard faint drumming from behind us. As the sound grew closer and more distinct, it soon was apparent that another gobbler was approaching from our backside.

This gobbler’s approach was slow and calculated as well, but soon I could see the bird swinging around the far side of the tree under which Dennis and our two amigos sat, and I swung the camera around just as the bird passed by them at about ten yards. As I filmed, the tom headed directly toward the other gobbler, and at fifteen yards, Dennis raised his gun and ended the suspense of this opening act of our hunt.

His first Gould’s gobbler under his belt, which incidentally completed his royal slam, Dennis was all smiles as we admired the beautiful tom. After the obligatory back-slapping, picture-taking, and story re-hashing, we continued on with the hunt in an effort to find another bird for me, and although we heard a few more gobblers and tried a couple of set-ups, the big birds were content to go about their morning without indulging us.

Later that afternoon, after eating a late breakfast at the ranch and taking care of the processing of Dennis’ gobbler, we decided to once again head back to the rock dam to try to find me a bird. It was basically a repeat of the first afternoon in that we approached the dam and found several turkeys, including at least four adult toms, hanging out there. Moving as close as we could without being detected, I got out in front of our quartet and called to the birds.

The brush was fairly thick in the area of our set-up, which ultimately led to me not noticing the first pair of gobblers that eased by to our left at about forty yards. As they moved away from us, I chastised myself for not being attentive enough. However, Dennis motioned to me that another gobbler was approaching on the far side of a juniper tree that obscured my vision. I scooted slightly to my left to see around the tree, and immediately could see not one, but two gobblers slinking through the brush at twenty yards, skirting to my left.

They were not aware of our presence, and a couple of soft yelps on a mouth call, brought them out into the open at fifteen yards. Both were good, mature gobblers, and I shouldered the same Beretta that Dennis had used to dispatch his bird that morning and placed the bead on the head of what I thought was the larger of the two. At the shot, the birds (yes, that’s right… birds) startled and began running for cover. In a momentary state of shock over having missed the tom at no more than fifteen yards, I barely recovered in time to roll him with a second shot before he could dart into the brush.

I was relieved that I had managed to cleanly kill the bird with the second shot, which had I not done would surely have meant an endless barrage of needling from Dennis, not to mention the two guides. Any such badgering, I’m sure, would have continued non-stop for the remainder of the trip (and in Dennis’ case, for the remainder of our association). We gathered up the bird and proceeded with another round of congratulations, pictures, and hunt summaries.

Needless to say, Dennis and I were in good spirits that evening, especially after our successful negotiation of an agreement with our compadres to hunt for a second bird apiece. With a plan in place to hunt a new area of the ranch on the second day, we enjoyed the evening, along with our new friends, over grilled country ribs and a number of cold beverages.

The next morning found us in the situation described at the beginning of this article. Pedro and Carlos had taken us to another known roosting area in the bottom of one of the major canyons on the ranch and at daybreak we had several gobblers within earshot. The first bird to come to our calls was the big old boy that we inexplicably, and apparently with a full dose of turkey hunter’s irrationality, let walk away unscathed.

After mutual admonishment for what we had done, we continued to call from the same location for another hour. Two other mature gobblers came to investigate during that time, but neither was exceptional, or at least not in the same class as the first bird. We could hear hens yelping, and occasional gobbling, up the canyon bottom we were in, so after concluding that we had milked our stand for as much action as it was going to give us, we got up and gathered up Pedro and Carlos from the brush behind us. By this time, we had made the two of them the designated hunt videographers, and they were enjoying trying to get good video footage of these two American buffoons who had just let “guajolote macho grande” (REALLY big gobbler) walk off.

Easing up the canyon bottom toward the still-very-vocal group of Gould’s turkeys, we approached as closely as we thought we should. There were two good-sized Chihuahuan pine trees nearby, and we agreed that we would just stand against the two of them and call to the birds to see what developed. Our two movie-makers ducked into the brush behind us as we sent forth a few inquiring yelps. Immediately, at least two hens on the slope above us responded, and soon we were in a four-way conversation with them. They would respond to every call we made, although the gobblers that were presumably with them would not, and we were finding ourselves quite entertained by the whole exchange, so much so that we failed to notice a big lone gobbler coming down the canyon bottom toward us. Fortunately, Carlos saw him, and whispered to let us know of his approach.

By the time Dennis and I noticed the bird, he was forty yards out and on a steady march to locate these two new noisy hens. As he closed the distance, I heard Dennis whisper, “Jim, I think it’s that same gobbler!”

“Are you sure?” I asked, not yet being able to see the bird’s chest well.

“Yeah, it’s him….shoot him!”

“YOU shoot him!” I whispered emphatically, while at the same time thinking to myself, “Oh no, here we go again”.

“No, I want YOU to shoot him!”

“Dennis, we’re not going to let that bird walk away again…SHOOT HIM!” I demanded, the gobbler by now walking past us at fifteen yards, and obviously becoming concerned about the two talking tree trunks.

“I don’t have a shell in my gun!” Dennis whispered with a smirk, content that this probably intentional oversight would finally settle the issue. “YOU are going to have to shoot him!”

Realizing that Dennis had played the final trump card, and that it was time to throw in the towel, I raised the shotgun, brought it up and around the tree I was behind in one motion, settled on the gobbler’s head, and ended the discussion once and for all.

Whoops and hollers followed, as the four of us ran to the gobbler, all anxious to see just what this grand bird had to show us. When things had finally settled down, I gently turned the bird over and fumbled through his breast feathers to sort out the assortment of “modified feathers” which adorned his chest. The first count was five beards, the second came up with seven, and the final tally, after I had settled down enough to actually think rationally and do a systematic inspection, was eight.

“Ocho barvas!! Ocho barvas!!” Pedro and Carlos exclaimed in unison, recounting the total in Spanish. Before us lay the granddaddy of all Gould’s gobblers. Looking down at his legs, we were equally delighted that he had good spurs, by Gould’s standards, on both legs, somewhat of a rarity in itself. All in all, he was, without a doubt, the bird of a lifetime…. and to think that the two of us had almost let him walk off TWICE!!

That evening, two hours before dark, we again returned to the rock dam in an attempt to fill Dennis’ second tag. As was the case the previous two afternoons, there were several gobblers in the area, and Dennis tagged his second gobbler, another exceptional bird, if only having ONE ten-inch beard, after a classic calling session that brought the bird, and another, in strutting and gobbling.

All told, the two of us had taken four outstanding Gould’s gobblers in two days, had an absolute blast, and had made a number of new friends from a different nation in the process. For two would-be strangers from opposite ends of the country, who had only met as a result of a mutual association with the National Wild Turkey Federation, the adventure did indeed turn out to be BIG!!

FOOTNOTE: After all was said and done, I was curious to see just how well Ocho Barvas would stand up against other Gould’s gobblers in the NWTF record book. After reviewing the record book and the scoring system, I was surprised to find that he is the new atypical record for Gould’s scoring 139.00 and besting the old record by somewhere in the vicinity of 23 points! He has eight beards with 52.5” of total beard length (longest 11 1/8”), has spurs measuring an average of ¾” each, and weighed an even 19 lbs.

If you go…

As turkey hunting increases in popularity across the country, more and more hunters are becoming interested in traveling to Mexico to hunt the fifth of the North American subspecies, the Gould’s, in an effort to complete their “royal slam”. Although we went to great lengths to try to avoid any pitfalls with our trip, we did encounter some stumbling blocks along the way. From my experience, it appears that the rules and regulations are subject to interpretation, depending on what port of entry is used to cross back and forth into Mexico. Hunters who plan hunting trips into Mexico should be aware of the following:

1) Make sure you have acquired a passport (a birth certificate and drivers license or I.D. will no longer be acceptable beginning in 2008), and make sure you get your passport properly stamped when entering and exiting Mexico. Not getting the proper stamps on your passport when you depart Mexico could result in complications if you were to try to re-enter at a later time. There will generally be a nominal fee associated with your entry into Mexico for your hunt.

2) If you take your own vehicle into Mexico, make sure you arrange for supplemental insurance on it for the time you will be down there (you can contact your insurance agent for information on this—the cost for five days of full coverage for my pick-up was about $75.00 American). You also must have the vehicle registration (current) with you and proof of insurance coverage on the vehicle. You will be issued a vehicle permit at the Mexican port of entry. (The cost for this permit for our five day stay was about $30.00). You must relinquish this permit when you leave the country.

3) If your vehicle has a lien holder, you should contact them and ask for a letter of permission to take the vehicle into Mexico. Although I was not asked to present this document, I have been told that it is best to have it available just in case, as you may be denied entry if you don’t have one and are asked to show it.

4) While in Mexico, you most likely will be able to pay for things with American dollars, and in many cases this will be preferred. Make sure you take small denominations with you to pay for incidentals like food, gas, and tolls and become familiar with the currency exchange rate between Mexican pesos and American dollars. Many vendors/stores will take American credit cards, as well, but don’t depend on paying for things with them.

5) Make sure the Mexican outfitter you deal with can provide you with all of the licenses, permits, and documents that you will need (and don’t assume that he knows about everything you are supposed to have—make sure you review the documentation needed and go over it with him). You must have a signed contract with the outfitter that outlines the details of the hunt and the ranch you are hunting. You also must have an official certificate with state seal (UMA hunting permit) from the Mexican state you are hunting that verifies you are hunting on a property that has filed for and met all of the hunt management criteria as required by the state. The outfitter should provide you with a numbered tag for each bird you kill (cintillo) and the tag number should be recorded on the contract. You must attach a validated, numbered tag to each bird you harvest. We were told by the field officers at U.S. Customs that it is a common problem to have hunters coming back from Mexico without all of the licensing and proper documentation that is needed.

6) Unless you have gone through all of the registration and licensing process to take your own guns for your hunt, make sure you do not have any firearms or ammunition with you when you enter Mexico. Having any kind of firearm or ammunition that is not properly licensed and registered will most likely bring a sudden and unpleasant end to your Mexican adventure and will probably result in you and your hunting party ending up in a Mexican jail. If you are relying on your Mexican outfitter to provide shotguns for your hunt, be certain that you and he have ironed-out all of those details.

7) At this time, you may bring the meat and of the turkeys you harvest back into the U.S. if you desire (We gave all of the meat from our birds to the ranch hands and our guides). Also, you may bring the capes of the birds and they should be packaged in a sealable container or bag (we put ours inside heavy duty trash bags and then put the bags in an ice chest. All capes are required to be sent to a certified taxidermist to go through a fumigation/delousing process before the bird can be mounted. You should obtain a list of the certified taxidermists from U.S. Customs (or your hunt booking agent, if you have one) prior to your trip, contact that taxidermist to confirm your intent to use his services for the process, and obtain the required form (Report of Entry/Shipment of Restricted Animal Products) for this. This document, which indicates where the birds will be sent to be processed, must be presented to U.S. Customs when you cross back into the United States.

8) Along with the above, a declaration form (Declaration of Importation of Wildlife) must be filled out and presented to Customs, as well. This document lists the numbers and the species that you are declaring to bring back across the border.

Also, regarding taking your own vehicle down for your hunt, you should be prepared for extremely rough travel on terrible roads through very rugged country. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is advised, preferably with high clearance, and don’t go down there without at least two spare tires, some “flat fix” cans, and a plug kit. And make sure your vehicle is in good running condition!

Finally, the people down in Mexico in general are very friendly, even though you may not be able to communicate fully with them. If you go down there with the proper attitude of respect for the Mexican culture and the people, you will undoubtedly have a wonderful experience and come back having made some very good friends.

By Jim Bates

New Mexico Turkey Hunting with Bobby, Grant and Jim

Good Decision Combinations Kill Turkeys

Successful turkey hunters are good decision makers and to an extent gamblers. In fact it’s the element of managing each and every decision and the totality of the combinations you make that ultimately affects the outcome of each hunt you undertake. At the end of the day, it is your overall ability as a hunter to plan, observe, process, and react to what is going on around you. Think for a minute just how many decisions are involved with every hunting session, how often you’re making them at different stages of the game, how many took nerve and were a gamble because they seemed risky, and how many you have to get right to kill a bird.

This decision making process begins before you even enter the turkey woods. For example: The “night before” pre hunt decisions begin with: What do you carry in your vest, where will you start in the morning, and what time do you need to get up and leave to not be late?

Merriams Wild Turkey

Merriams Wild Turkey

The early morning decisions begin with your final choice of an area to begin the hunt, where you’ll park to avoid any possible bird disruptions, how you‘ll approach an area, and where you’ll stop and listen.

Let’s say you’ve arrived at your listening spot. Do you owl hoot or just let things unfold naturally? You hear an early gobble before good light. Do you take off after him now or wait a little longer in case one is closer? Now you hear other birds gobbling and you’ve got to make a decision on which one to go after. One’s gobbling a lot and is further away while the other is gobbling less but is closer. Which one will you go to? You’ve decided go after the bird that’s gobbles the most so you take off full speed with hopes of getting set up on him before he flies down off the roost. About halfway to the bird you second guess yourself. Was this the right call? Was the bird gobbling his head off already with a bunch of hens? Was the bird that gobbled just a few times alone and a better choice? Too late now, your committed and almost to the other bird.

Do you owl hoot to keep up with his location as you get closer or just keep heading towards him and trust your estimated distance? How close will you try and get and what type of terrain factors are there to consider? Now you’ve gotten within 150 yards. Do you gamble and try to get just a little closer? Could there be hens in the trees this side of him that you’re about to bump? Where will you set up? Do you put out decoys or not?

He gobbles from the limb so you know the games still on. Do you want to call to let him know you’re there and what call are you going to use? You throw out a soft tree yelp and he cuts you off with his gobble. Do you call again or wait until he’s on the ground? Or, he ignores you so do you call a little louder? You just heard hens so do you now call more or hold back and see what they’re going to do on their own?

He fly’s down off the roost and is gobbling but not moving towards you. Do you play hard to get or get aggressive and fire him up? Maybe you should try and talk soft and sweet and coax the hens over and hope he’ll come with them? Maybe you should try and make the boss hen mad and accomplish the same thing? Now he appears to be slowly moving in your direction. Do you call again or stay quiet? Maybe you should scratch the leaves? Now he’s gotten quieter and if he does gobble there’s a delay between your call and his gobble. Has he cooled down? Maybe you should swap calls? Maybe just change strikers? Maybe you should just be patient and give things time to unfold?

Bobby Parks New Mexico Merriams

Bobby Parks New Mexico Merriams

Now it appears the hens are taking him away. Do you gamble and attempt to swing around and flank them? Will the terrain allow you to move and what do you know about the ground you’re on? Are there other birds around that you don’t know about? Maybe it’s time to try fighting purrs or a gobble shaker? Is to too late in the season for fighting purrs to work? How many times has gobbling helped you kill a bird?

Wait….something you’ve done has gotten his attention again and it looks like he’s coming in. Do you put your slate call down or wait until he’s a little closer? Do you raise your gun now or wait until he’s in tighter and walks behind a tree? Are you going to hyperventilate or will you settle down? Will you get busted?

The truth is this is just a sampling of the thoughts that go through our minds and the challenges we face on any given day in the turkey woods. And although this piece really is a statement of the obvious, if you stop and think about each and every decision and move you made on a particular encounter that resulted in a dead bird, and changed any one decision, certainly any two or three, and it’s likely that bird is still walking after you leave the scene. Being willing to gamble at times has paid off while at other times it hasn’t, but that’s why it’s called a gamble. Most successful turkey hunters put forth a beyond average effort to develop their woodsman- ship and calling skills and just as importantly they learn to become good mobile hunting decision managers that are willing to take chances.

The basic and general approaches involved with turkey hunting often seem simple, but when you think about all the decisions that play into it, you understand just how much you have to do right to consistently kill gobblers. The key is to think on the fly, be adaptable, persistent, patient, and not be afraid to gamble and get it wrong. There’s always another day and a chance to implement brand new combinations. The good news is you only have to get it right a few times a season to get your limits.

By Bobby Parks
The Grand Slam Network
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
O’l Tom Field Expert

The 2 gobblers that flew the river

Turkey Cost per Pound – By Bobby Parks

Recently I read a post on a forum that involved the cost per pound of a wild turkey compared to a store bought one. In this case a friend of one of our fellow turkey hunters could not begin to understand the rationale of putting so much effort and expense just to put a turkey on the table. Why would you incur such a cost when you could just walk in the store and buy one for $1.59 a pound? I’m sure in his and others minds we as turkey hunters must be crazy and while the latter may be true, I actually feel my $100 a pound bird is one of the best deals I get each year and is easily justified.

texas-turkey-hunt

First of all grocery shopping and hunting are not quite in the same category and don’t carry the same level of excitement or require the same gear. Hobbies which can include golf, boating, skiing, stamp collecting, needlepoint, fishing, hunting, or whatever it may be, comes with a price tag.

Even among hunters, hunting has different meanings to different people and we have our own reasons, motivations, goals, and aspects that allow us to enjoy the sport. And, although I like almost all wild game, the meat aspect is not the reason I love to hunt, but more of a fringe benefit.

rio-grande-wild-turkey

For me it’s about spending time in the outdoors, creating lifetime memories with family and friends, and knowing what its like to see & hear the woods come to life in the mornings. It’s about hearing the coyotes sounding off, the sound of wood ducks whistling through the air, listening to screech owls that sound possessed, and wondering if the whippoorwills will shut down before the gobbling starts. Its hearing gobblers gobbling and hens tree talking on the limb and enjoying the challenges that turkey hunting or any hunting brings. It’s a chance to meet and make new friends, and creates lifetime bonds with what are for the most part, down to earth people that have an appreciation for the simple things in life and certainly the outdoors and conservation aspects involved. Hunting in many ways brings people from all different walks and backgrounds together in a way that not many other “hobbies” or events can.

It’s about having trouble controlling your breathing and shaking when you’ve got a walnut sized brain bird that puts your slightly larger one to the test and wins most of the bouts that makes you feel childish. It’s about watching this happen to others, especially those new to the sport experience the same. And, it’s about experiencing the excitement, adrenalin, and extreme satisfaction when it all comes together after much anticipation and failed efforts.

We as hunters and outdoorsman understand this….but those outside this circle may sometimes have difficulty comprehending…For many of us it’s not about the meat or the cost per pound. Putting meat on the table really is just a fringe benefit and the real value turkey hunting brings is priceless.

So with all due respect, technically my turkey meat may run about a $159.00 a pound for all I know, but I guarantee you when I’m sitting at the table or frying it up in camp with friends eating it and remembering the event in detail that brought him to the table…I’d have paid more.

By Bobby Parks
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol Tom Field Expert

Texas Rio

The Third Element Of Turkey Hunting

It seems that each year on various forums we partake in the discussion involving “Calling” or Woodsmanship” regarding which is most important. Many highlight the woodsmanship aspects while the really good callers make their points for calling. In the end most of the veteran turkey hunters realize that the better you are at both, the better you’ll be at killing turkeys. I also believe that there is a third element of turkey hunting that rarely seems to surface during these conversations or at best seems to get mixed in with the rest.

I’m talking about “Turkey Hunting Experience /Wisdom” that comes from pursuing turkeys specifically and the knowledge that comes with it. This third element is a stand alone aspect that has to be combined with the others and is in my view the glue that bonds the other two together.

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Think about it this way. Calling is something you practice and learn. It’s a specific skill involving instruments and various types of calls. Although some people seem to be more gifted when it comes to running calls, for most it takes practice to become better than average. Average calling will allow you to kill some turkeys but the better you are the more types of turkeys you can handle. And as important as it is to be able to call, it’s just as important to know when to call or when not to call and even what type of call to make. And, even if you’re a great caller, it doesn’t mean you’re a good turkey hunter.

Realizing “Woodsmanship” has varying definitions for many, in my opinion it’s a developed ability to operate and function in the woods in a manner that requires mostly unconscious efforts and becomes second nature for many. It’s a combination of learned skills that comes from experience and involves abilities to maneuver with a general in depth understanding of nature and wildlife. It’s a learned trait of minimizing the intrusion factor and being aware through sight, sound, and smells what’s going on around you. It’s an achieved comfort level while in that environment. But again, just because you’re a good woodsman does not mean that you’re a good hunter.

Woodsmanship and calling are both building blocks and a requirement that specific quarry skills must be added to. For example: If you deer hunt you learn about deer habits, environment, food requirements, and hunting tactics. This applies to any type of hunting such as elk, moose, bear, or waterfowl. The more you learn about the quarry, the better results you experience.

The Turkey Experience /Wisdom aspect is the “Third Element” of gained specific knowledge that can only come from experience and exposure to hunting turkeys. And although some may learn quicker than others, it takes years and the learning aspect never really ends. When this element is reasonably perfected and can be added to the woodsmanship and calling aspects, it totals to create the true turkey slayers that can kill birds consistently in any part of the country under most conditions. It’s comparable to having a good running, passing and special team’s capability in that it allows for a truly balanced attack. Lacking in any of these aspects will limit success.

Some may argue that this third element is “Woodsmanship” but in my mind it’s a separate category. Turkey hunting veterans that gain this knowledge and experience and combine it with well developed Woodsmanship and calling skills have expanded capabilities that go well beyond average. This group exhibits an ability to process everything that’s happening around them in a way that combines hunches, instinct, and what appears as a gifted talent. These individuals often don’t know what they’ll do until they do it but reactions to varying scenarios and appropriate tactics and solutions just seem to float to the top of their heads often enough that they stand out as hunters. Identifying and picking good set up locations is mostly second nature. Turkey hunting and the pursuit really does become instinctive and they combine the three elements as though it’s all coming through an IV that has an automatic regulator. Utilizing Woodsmanship and their calling abilities in a way that complement each other and extending just the right dose of each based on what their third element sense tells them is an unconscious effort. Just the right combination of aggressiveness and patience is utilized and balanced with persistence always at the core. Putting in the time and always believing it’s just a matter of finding a way and that there’s an answer to every situation is a given. There’s a healthy balance of confidence and humbleness at work at all times. Hunches and instincts are trusted and a willingness and relentlessness to constantly probe, search, and try to read a particular bird or situation is ongoing.

The drive comes from a combination of a love for the outdoors, the sound of a gobble, the sight of a strutting gobbler, and the challenge and satisfaction that comes from being successful. It’s the desire to repeat the adrenalin rush that comes at the moment of truth after endless amounts of anticipation and efforts that finally pays off. It’s a desire to work through the scenario and get the right combination that puts a bird over your shoulder or someone else’s. It’s a personal challenge between you, the bird, and the elements.

Being willing to gamble and sense when a right or wrong direction is taken occurs automatically. Defeat is never taken well but is not wasted in that it is imputed as a lesson learned that furthers the third element data bank.

And no matter how many they kill most always walk away feeling lucky knowing that it could have easily gone the other way and that the bird could still be walking. And when you win, you won the fight, but when you get beat, you’re not defeated; it was only one of many rounds.

Bobby Parks
The GrandSlamNetwork.com
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol’ Tom Field Expert

Friction Calling Basics with Sadler McGraw

Turkey Calling tips with Sadler McGraw

Turkey Calling tips with Sadler McGraw

Friction Calling Basics

While in Nashville at the NWTF convention, the Grand Slam Network met up with Sadler McGraw to run through some turkey calling tips on a pot call. Hopefully the video will help you improve your turkey calling in the woods this spring! In the video, Sadler goes over his hand placement, cutting, and yelping on a pot call.

Turkey Hunting in Montana

Kee-Kee with Jimbo Lindsey

I always enjoy speaking with Jimbo when he attends contests and events. He’s an all round nice dude and flat knows how to run a pot call. In this video, Jimbo from Woodhaven Custom Calls shows us how to kee kee on a pot call. You’ll notice how he grips the striker tight to create the high pitched kee kee run. The kee kee run is typically used in the fall by young turkey, but you can also hear them kee kee in the spring – especially when they’re trying to located one another after being split up.