When Fighting Purrs Really Work

Georgia Opening Morning 2010

As I sat against a tree listening to the hens still on the limb 60 yards away, I strained to hear that first gobble. I was hearing lots of tree talk from the hens but so far not the gobbler music I was hoping for.  It was opening day of the 2010 Georgia season and I was hunting an 80 acre property bordered by the Etowah River in North Georgia. I had watched this flock of hens the evening before and knew where they were roosted.  I didn’t believe a gobbler was in the group but I hoped maybe one was nearby that I hadn’t seen.

Georgia gobbler that responded to fighting purrs
Georgia gobbler that responded to fighting purrs

The truth is, I had not heard a gobble on the property leading up to the start of the season and didn’t know for sure if any gobblers were even around. I knew that opening weekend would be my best chance on this tract if birds were there because another person would be hunting this same property later and someone hunted across the river. Although I had planned a few travel hunts,  I had not secured any other property in my home state so not only was this my only hunting option for opening weekend, but possibly for the season in Georgia.

After fifteen minutes of listening to the hens, I heard wings flapping and caught glimpses of birds coming down out of the trees. It appeared to be 10 or so hens most of which were landing on the end of the ridge I was on. I could see some of them but mostly just caught movement. Moments after the last bird landed I thought I heard a distant gobble. The hens were making such a fuss it was difficult to hear, but I finally heard gobbles again. It came from a long ways off but there was no mistaking the sound. I had already concluded that no gobblers were with the birds near me so I was anxious to get up and go after him. But, I didn’t want to spook the birds in front of me, so I stayed put until they dropped down over the edge and out of sight.

As soon as the last head disappeared I rolled left, crawled back a few yards, dropped over the ridge, and started “fast walking” to skirt the birds. Once I hit an old logging road and knew I had cleared the hens I took off at a run towards the river. A couple hundred yards later I worked my way up over a rise and stopped to listen. I was out of breath couldn’t hear anything over my own gasping at first but then heard the gobbles again. It was closer now and it sounded like more than one bird.

I hurried across the hill but as I topped it, I could see the river and realized the birds were on the other side and off my tract of land. My heart sank for a few seconds knowing I couldn’t get to them although I was glad to know there were at least gobblers around. I decided to work my way down the hill and then try and figure out what to do. They were 200 yards away from my hill top position but the hill I was on was steep with open hardwoods so I was worried they might spot my movement. I kept trees lined up between them and me as best I could and five minutes later I had worked my way down to the logging road that ran along my side of the river.

 Across the River

The river was 50 yards wide and I could see the birds 80 yards away from the far bank, out in an open field. There were 2 gobblers, a jake, and a few hens. The jake was pestering the gobblers and they kept chasing him off from the hens. He must not have known the hierarchy rules because he was a persistent rascal and would turn around and walk right back to them only to be chased again.

I watched them through binoculars and then yelped on a box call. They were hot and gobbled right back at me. I hit the call a couple more times getting the same response. One of the gobblers started moving towards me but the hens kept slowly easing forward maintaining the 80 yard buffer from the bank and he hooked back to them.  I continued to ease down the road trying to come up with an idea but not seeing a way to break the stalemate.  This went on for another  100 yards before I saw an opening from the river on my side and remembered seeing turkey tracks there indicating it might be a spot they flew across. It was a 30’ wide slot clear of trees and foliage and there was a clearing on the opposite bank as well. I moved down within 20 yards of it and let them work down their side a little further.

I knew yelping wasn’t going to be effective so I pulled out a slate call and began to aggressively do the fighting purrs call. This turkey calling tactic has worked well in the past in various scenarios and it seemed like my only shot at the moment. As soon as I started calling the birds went ballistic and the jake turned and starting walking towards the river. I continued working the striker hard and fast over the slate as the jake continued my way now 30 yards from the group. One of the gobblers broke and started following the jake and a few seconds later the second gobbler broke loose as well. My new buddy Jake kept coming with his gobbling entourage in tow. In fact, the gobblers seemed to speed up which caused my “Hope Meter” to start rising. Once the jake got within 15 yards of the bank he ran a few steps and lifted off heading straight for my opening only 20 yards away from me. God bless fighting purrs and stupid jakes!

Once the leading gobbler saw the jake take to the air, he lifted off still 30 yards out in the field headed across the river! I dropped the call and snatched my shotgun up and faced the opening down the logging road. The jake landed 20 yards away and ran a few steps after touch down with the first gobbler landing in his footsteps. The gobbler ran a few steps off to the right of the road and stopped at which point my gun went off and he dropped. I didn’t know what the other gobbler had done but that answer came a few seconds later when he touched down in their established landing path. At first I wasn’t going to shoot him because I normally just take one bird if more than one comes in. But, my mind was racing, and he just kept standing there. I decided this might be my only other chance if others hunted the property so I talked myself into taking him.

The event was surreal and I could not believe what had just transpired. As I watched one of the birds flopping I noticed there wasn’t a choke tube in my gun and realized I’d forgotten to put it back in after taking the modified out after my last dove shoot. That was a first and I guess it’s a good thing they were close because who knows what kind of pattern I was spraying out. I was elated and felt bad at the same time for taking the other bird and hoped that the threads inside my barrel weren’t messed up. But as I walked out carrying one bird in my vest and the other over my shoulder thinking about what just happened, I began to feel fine with it because I knew that they may be the only two Eastern birds I’d have  a chance at that season. And the unexpected adventure that brought them into range would be one I’d never forget.

Fighting Purrs Work

I have used fighting purrs with mixed results prior to that day and since. In this case it worked really well and the jakes response was the key. I don’t know if the gobblers would have come if not for him but my guess is they couldn’t stand to let him come over to see me and it cost them.  On most days I can’t get them over a ditch or across a fence so I would never have expected to coax birds across a river that wide. But once you see something like this happen, you realize anything’s possible.

Fighting purrs have helped me get birds to come into range when nothing else would with many hunts that stand out in my mind. I used it the first time successfully in Texas 11 years ago when I had three gobblers and several hens that started walking away from me. When I turned loose with fighting purrs all three gobblers turned and came 120 yards down a power line straight to me. In Jones County I had two gobblers and a group of hens at the far end of a pasture that wouldn’t budge for 30 minutes but as soon as I hit the fighting purrs, the entire group came running right to me.  My dad and I got a gobbler to come to us one morning on a hunt when nothing else we tried would separate him from his hens.  Wesley Phelps and I did the fighting purrs in New Mexico when there was no doubt the group was leaving us and it turned a couple of gobblers around bringing them in at which point Wesley greeted one with a load of Hevi Shot. In South Georgia I coaxed a gobbler with a 12” beard far enough in my direction from across a field to get him in range. The call has worked on other occasions as well. It’s even worked for short tugs to coax a gobbler over 20 yards when he would not otherwise move at all. But those 20 yards have made the difference more than once when it comes to getting the gobbler in range.

Fighting purrs is still more of a last resort call for me but an option I have confidence in. It absolutely can work and on those occasions that nothing else does, you have little to lose by trying it. For me it seems to work better earlier in the season than later. Mixing wing flaps into the mix as well or having two hunters perform the sequence together can be effective. But it is definitely something you can do by yourself successfully.

The 2 gobblers that flew the river
The 2 gobblers that flew the river

On that morning in 2010 on the Etowah River, when my chance of success seemed slim, it turned out to be a day when fighting purrs worked really well.

By Bobby Parks
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol Tom Field Staff

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Finding a Way

A Turkey Hunters Motto for Consistently Taking Turkeys

My turkey chasing days began in 1992 in a Flint River swamp in Georgia. Although I learned as much as I could by listening to cassettes, watching videos, and reading magazines, most of my lessons came through trial and error and time spent in the woods alone. Since I lived two and a half hours away from where I hunted, and had to spend the night, I chose to hunt until noon, eat lunch, and go back in for afternoon hunts. I believed it was a matter of putting your hours in and as long as I was in the woods there was a chance of killing a bird. Due to this committed effort and a good bird population, I was lucky enough to kill my share of gobblers.  In fact, aside from my first season I was somehow getting my limits every spring. Much had to do with luck and many were flukes, but somehow each season it came together and I kept taking birds.

Because of the flat and mostly open terrain that existed in the swamp, especially early in the season before it greened up, approaching and moving on birds was challenging. I’d be aggressive when I could but I often played it safe by limiting my charges towards a gobbler and setting up and staying with an area instead of moving. Part of the “playing it safe” part was due to the openness but some was due to a lack of confidence in just how to go about it and what I could get away with. And it worked often enough to keep me satisfied.

After hunting for a few years, I met and started sharing the woods with someone that had turkey hunted for much longer than I had. He was the first person I knew that could sound good on a mouth call and was a pure run and gun guy. When he put on his vest he turned into a Tasmanian devil turkey hunter and his game plan each and every day was one of pure aggression. He’d methodically move and cover lots of ground and on days birds gobbled, he would kill one or get close, but on days they didn’t, he became human and came back empty handed. We didn’t actually hunt together but shared the woods numerous times going our separate ways. But I listened to him when he talked about what he did especially on the “run and gun” stuff.  Even he admitted the swamp offered challenges compared to the hilly terrain he’d hunted previously when it came to flanking or moving on birds, but he killed his share with his style of hunting. Surprisingly, as aggressive as he was, he’d often be back at the truck by 9:30 a.m. or out eating breakfast, while I’d hunt until lunch. Prior to us hunting together, he didn’t hunt afternoons.

Grant Carmichael found a way to take a gobbler in NM while everyone else was eating lunch.
Grant Carmichael found a way to take a gobbler in NM while everyone else was eating lunch.

Three years after we met, he went to Texas with me and after I’d taken my third Rio Grande gobbler, he was still hunting hard for his second bird.  He seemed to be struggling and putting pressure on himself so to make him feel better and because I believed it was true, I commented that he was a better caller and hunter than me and that I just kept getting lucky, and must have been in better spots.

He turned around and said. “You can say what you want but no matter where we hunt or what the conditions are, you have an uncanny knack for finding a way to kill birds”.  Of course this was gratifying and made me feel good causing the rear snap to blow off my hat as my head swelled because these words coming from him meant something.

It made me stop and think about what I was doing and how I was killing birds. The truth was, I believed many of my birds came from the “Blind Squirrel Rule “because of the hours I put in, and often I really was lucky with a few fluke birds thrown in. But, when I stopped and thought about it, I realized I did put a lot of thought and effort into how I approached turkey hunting and was not set in my ways in terms of how to hunt them on any particular day. I wasn’t fixed in either camp when it came to “run and gun” or “deer hunting” them and was constantly racking my brain trying to figure out how to get a bird each time I was in the field.  If they gobbled I moved more. If they were quiet I slowed down and hung with a spot. More importantly, I didn’t give up easily and made myself hang with a hunt longer even when I was hungry and started thinking about how good lunch was going to be. Coming out for breakfast wasn’t even a consideration. I wanted and needed that next fix badly which drove me to hunt hard and to dig deep to figure out how to make it happen on each hunting session. I concluded that what I lacked in knowledge, I made up in with effort.

 A New Motto

His compliment helped my confidence and I decided to incorporate his “Finding a Way “comment as my new hunting motto. This would be a simple but driving clause that I’d insert into my turkey hunting psyche and repeat to myself on the days things were tough and I needed a push.

The reality is that at the end of the day, the pay off of actually killing a gobbler, or coming back empty handed, is the result and outcome of a combination of decisions that we make during our hunts.  How well we adapt to the hand we’re dealt on any given outing will be the determining factor. The “Decision Combination” aspect (See: “Good Decision Combinations Kill Turkeys) is a constant that applies to any hunting or fishing outing, but applying the “Find a Way” attitude in my view is a magnifier of the drive. The focused effort of being patient, persistent to the point of being relentless , and constantly trying to find a way that will pay off enough times during a season to result in birds over the shoulder that might not have happened otherwise is the pay off.

For example: My thought process used to be that once I approached the end of deer or turkey season in the past, I would really push hard on that last weekend trying to make something happen knowing I was running out of time. A sense of desperation crept in causing me to try something different and really fast forward my thinking to be successful or the clock would run out on me. It’s the same way on travel hunts when you hit that last day and you still need a bird. The difference now is; I think and operate to a large degree like this all the time. I’m trying to push and find a way right now, today, to come up with a way to put myself or someone else in front of a bird. When you read things like “Texas Stampede” or “Chasing Montana Merriams” you get a sampling of outside the box efforts that are a result of the “find a way” thought process.

In reality we are always trying to “find a way” but for me this means digging deeper and avoiding giving up easily. It’s being stubborn when it comes to throwing in the towel. And as with many things in life it comes down to how bad you want it and how hard you’ll push to get it.

It’s aggressive thinking although sometimes the selected approach may seem passive, but there’s always a built in sense of urgency.

For the most part I’m sure my approaches to turkey hunting are the same as most others in that I start out taking the traditional approaches to typical situations. Like any turkey hunter I am always paying attention to any turkey sign I see and compiling it with any other historical information associated with a particular spot. If I hear birds I go after them. If it’s new territory and I don’t hear them, I keep moving until I find birds or such good sign that I believe setting up and calling may be worthwhile. If its familiar ground that normally has birds, I may troll for a while trying to strike up a willing bird or I may decide that they’re just quiet and may implement a non aggressive fall back plan to deal with silent birds and go to the “area plan”.   

Aggressive patience was the key to finding a way for this Alabama gobbler in 2012
Aggressive patience was the key to finding a way for this Alabama gobbler in 2012

Learning from Others

As mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I was killing turkeys and getting my limits with what I had learned on my own.  But my aggressive “run and gun” approach game was improved from being around and listening to my friend who had years of experience doing it. This was especially useful  once  I started hunting areas outside the swamp with terrain that was more condusive to moving and flanking.

But he also benefitted in that he learned to slow down when birds were quiet, hunt an area, and to hunt later in the day and afternoons. It rounded us both out in a way that allowed us handle and kill more turkeys, and we killed them under a wider range of conditions and not just on days they gobbled.

A few of us found a way in South Georgia
A few of us found a way in South Georgia

We all have our own styles and preferences but any time you can spend with another hunter who has been successful, you’ll gain a new insight and learn new tricks to add to your existing arsenal and ways to kill turkeys. The key in my view is to vary your approach not be one dimensional. If you’ve got unlimited time to hunt, then you may have the luxury of hunting in a particular style and way that becomes a numbers game in that you’ll hunt enough days in which your approach will eventually cross with the conditions that allow it to work. In other words if you’re a run and gun guy and stay with it, even though you may be bumping birds left and right on quiet days, you’ll eventually get your birds on the gobbling days and it’s hard to argue with success. It goes the same for just setting up and hunting areas.  If you set anywhere long enough you’ll probably have a chance to kill a turkey. But, if you have a limited number of days to hunt, the more adaptable you can become, the better your chances will be if you can find the right way to attack that specific day.

Find a Way Mentality

There are many turkey hunters here at GSN that I believe think and operate this way. Several have impressive seasons year after year consistently taking their gobbler limits and helping others get birds as well. They appear gifted which they are, but I suspect if you look deeper you’ll find they’re turkey hunting mind is mounted on a one ton frame and they’re fueled with drive that causes them to constantly rotate thoughts and options through their minds, trying to find a way to take that next gobbler.

To operate under the “Find a Waymentality requires stronger than average drive that includes, determination and persistence topped off with managed patience. It requires being relentless and putting your hours in. It means thinking outside the box when other approaches aren’t working. Adopting the motto may mean that you have to go over one more ridge, hunt one more hour, try one more flanking movement, or check out one more field before you leave to go home. It requires self discipline and pushing yourself harder and longer. It means you’ve really got to want it and be willing to put in that “driven mentality” effort and hunt smart to get it. But each time you bring a bird out over your shoulder that you know came from pushing yourself beyond what you may have done in the past or many other hunters are willing to do, you’ll know you worked hard and “Found the Way” on that particular day.

Bobby Parks
Grand Slam Network.com
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol Tom

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