All posts by Bobby Parks

Meet Me at the Sheriffs Department

Several years ago I had a friend that joined our hunting club located in central Georgia along the Flint River. This property was loaded with wild hogs and he seemed as anxious to shoot one of them as he was to shoot a big deer. He had no idea where to get started so I told him where one of my secret spots was and that he would be welcome to hunt there. But:  I asked him to focus on killing a big buck and to hold off on the pig killing until after the rut was over. I specifically asked him not to shoot a hog in the place I was sending him because there was a good buck using the area and that I’d be hunting some there as well.

I explained that the best way in to this location would require him to park just off the main highway and I told him where the “bright eyes” markers were that led to the area he could use his portable stand. He had the luxury of adjusting his work schedule and could hunt during the week. Several days later he called me on my cell phone and said he had shot a big boar out of the stand but left him there because he couldn’t do anything with him by himself and he didn’t really want him anyway.  I couldn’t leave work and drive two and a half hours to our lease to help him and I was also a little disappointed that he hadn’t heeded my request about not shooting a hog out in a good buck area that early in the season.

Sometimes it pays to know the “right “people, so after I got off the phone and had time to think about it, I called my “Special delivery” friend (see “Special Delivery “ / Humor in the Field” ) who worked with a guy that was just incredible at doing impersonations. This guy really had “Hollywood “talent and could entertain you and sound like anyone he wanted to.  Together my buddy and I formulated a plan and recruited Mr. Hollywood to help carry it out.

The next afternoon my friend who had killed the hog called me and seemed upset and said, “Man I think I have a problem”. Being the good friend that I am I voiced concern and asked what happened?

He told me that he’d just gotten off the phone with the game warden that had tracked him down through his tag number and obtained his home and cell phone numbers. He continued to tell me that a couple of the timber cruisers that were marking trees along the waterways for future timber cutting had heard him shoot, found the dead pig, saw his truck parked on the highway, and just happened to get his tag number. They according to my friend had reported all of this to the game warden.

The warden had told him that based on the timber cruisers statements that he was a suspect of violating the “Cruelty to Animals” and “Game Waste Act” and that his hunting license had been electronically suspended until further notice. He stated that he was now in their computer data bank until this issue could be resolved. The warden also demanded that he appear at the county Sherriff’s office the following Saturday morning at 8:00 for questioning by the DNR officer and a sheriffs deputy. He was told to bring his hunting rifle which would be confiscated so they could conduct a forensic and ballistic analysis.

Of course being surprised that my friend was being put through the wringer and really impressed with how well “Mr. Hollywood” had done his job, I expressed my concern for him and acknowledged it did sound serious. I suggested that he might want to have an attorney present and mentioned how bad the timing was since the weather was going to be great that weekend and the rut was getting close.

I could tell that he had bought into our recruited Hollywood impersonators acting program and had bit hook, line, and sinker. I began to feel bad about it so I started letting him slowly know that he had been had. I know he wanted to be mad at me and he did have a few abusive words for me but he was so relieved he never got really angry.

I reminded him that next time someone shared their hunting spots with him and made special request regarding such, that he might want to keep those suggestions in mind so bad things wouldn’t happen. I’m pretty sure it sunk in this time.




Please Help Save the Bugs

Outdoor World Reports

OWR: Report: With all the concerns facing us today, the documented increases in wild turkey aggression and their alarming annihilation of the worm, slug, and bug populations in the U.S. are quickly rising to the top. A recent Zogby poll indicated it had moved into the top 10 concerns by environmentalist surpassing ozone deterioration and greenhouse fears.

A study conducted by the SBIC (Scientific Bug Institute of California) has shown that an estimated 2.1 billion insects a year are killed by turkeys in America. The SBIC study also indicated that if this phenomenon continues unchecked many species including crickets and the Southeastern Earthworm could become endangered if not extinct by 2020. Some slugs in the U.S. are already feared to be beyond recovery. A senior scientist, Motobota Snotlik, who was involved in the study, claims that this crisis could set in motion an irreversible impact on the natural food chain and upset the earth’s natural balance.

A documented incident in Florence South Carolina involved several gobblers ransacking a bait store in an effort to get to crickets and worms. The store owner was able to escape with only scratches and pecking injuries and was treated and released at Florence General Hospital. A customer was not so lucky and suffered serious injuries when he tried to escape the attack by running into the street and was struck by a Pinky Dinky ice cream truck. The victim was expected to make a full recovery and was listed in satisfactory condition. Authorities believe the music played by the Pinky Dinky truck may have assisted in dispersing the turkeys from the scene before emergency vehicles arrived.

Scientist are theorizing that the sound made by crickets can be heard at long distances by turkeys who are known to possess a keen sense of hearing, and that bait shops should consider playing Pinky Dinky background music  or install a sound barrier around their businesses in areas with known turkey populations. The music from the song “YMCA” is also thought to be effective in keeping turkeys away.

One scientist claims that turkeys are descendants of the prehistoric terradactyl and a normally dormant gene that created aggressiveness in terradactyls is part of all turkey subspecies’s genetic make up. He theorizes that changing climatic conditions due to Global Warming may have triggered a reactivation of these aggressive genes and tendencies. He voiced concerns that over the next 2 decades this aggressiveness could escalate and involve actual attacks on humans and cause an increase in size of the bird itself. He stated that a “Planet of the Apes “world take over type of scenario is not out of the question.

Although many measures are being considered to address this phenomenon, authorities claim that turkey hunters can help with this effort to save America’s bugs. They recommend that all hunters should practice and improve their calling skills and read and study ways too increase their killing abilities. Other suggestions included improving shooting patterns, using 3.5 “shells and adding assault weapon extensions for faster follow-up shots for group encounters. A local DNR officer suggested that hunters do the following: Ask your non-hunting friends to make donations to your hunting funds. Ask friends and family to assist in finding and gaining permission to hunt tracts of land that turkeys may be congregating in for a future attack. Persuade your employer to provide you with extra paid days off from work so that you can dedicate more time to this important effort.

Encourage everyone you know to donate to the Bobby Parks National Bug Savers / Hunting Fund to further assist him and his team of turkey trackers in leading this effort to save the bugs. The non profit organization, Neck Busters Inc. is also encouraging donations. Contributors will receive a “Save the Bugs” tee shirt and a cap with an “Earthworms Deserve to Live” emblem.

OWR: Writer Bobby Parks


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
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol Tom

 Discuss this article on the forum

Texas Super Stalk – Confessions of a Turkey Hunter

I’m sure everyone has confidence in their hunting and stalking abilities but I have to tell you based on a stalk I pulled off on a gobbler many years ago; I think it’s safe to say I’m in a league of my own when it comes to stealth and pulling off the improbable.

The scene was in San Angelo Texas and it was my third year hunting the same ranch. Two gobblers were included with the hunt with an option to take a 3rd and 4th for an extra bird fee. I got off to a quick start and took a bird on the first morning and another in the afternoon taking care of my first two tags. I didn’t want to quit hunting so I decided to pay the extra bird fee which at that point was $150.


The second morning I jumped in the rental car and drove to a detached property tract about 30 minutes away from the ranch and began my morning hunt. I parked and took off on what would be about a 30 minute walk to the power lines which is where I planned to kill my next bird. Yes in Texas turkeys roost on power poles as they provide the highest perch around. It’s quite a sight to see actually and at times they can be lined up like buzzards. If you’re doing afternoon scouting you learn to walk under the poles and look for droppings to determine which poles are being used and then it’s just a matter of backing up away far enough that you won’t mess up a roost area and start playing with the birds once they get down or when they’re headed back. I had done my homework and knew the routine. It paid off and I had my third Rio within a couple hours of fly down.

I gathered up the gobbler and began the long walk out. It was a hot day and after walking a while I decided I would lighten my load and ditch everything but my gun and drive back to pick up the bird. I tossed my vest and the bird on the side of the road and continued for a ways. A short time later I decided there was no reason to keep lugging my gun around so I laid it off to the side of the road as well and took off for the rental car. It was a haul but finally I made it to the car and the cooler with my water bottle.

As I was driving back I came around a curve and saw a gobbler in full strut 200-250 yards down a long straight away. He was in full strut and kept raising and lowering his fan and turning off to one side of the road and was putting on a big show. My binoculars were in my vest so I couldn’t get a good look at him or tell if he had other birds with him but I assumed he at least had hens. As I sat there watching him a little light bulb came on inside my head and I realized that my gun should be somewhere this side of him. The killer instinct resurfaced inside me and I decided if I could somehow pull off a stalk that involved first reaching my gun and then the bird……I’d pay the fourth bird fee. I knew it was a low percentage effort and I wasn’t even sure where I left my gun but it seemed like a good challenge to undertake so I decided to go for it.

I eased the door open and tried to make myself small, and then slid out of the car like a snake. I hadn’t crawled 10’ before I started taking hits from cactus or some unidentified objects but being the tough and determined predator I had become, I sucked it up and worked my way over to the brush and then took off running darting from cover to cover. I stayed away from the road for the first 100 yards and just plowed through whatever was in my way taking several mesquite and cactus hits for my trouble. I knew I was going to have to get the tweezers out when I got back to the ranch and maybe require surgery with all the hits I was taking but its amazing what you can take with adrenalin flowing throughout your body.

After I had gone what seemed like 150 yards I eased back out to the road and crawled over to peek around to find the bird and get my bearings. I caught a glimpse of movement and pulled back into the cover. To my relief the gobbler was still there strutting around and only 60-70 yards away. Now I began to worry whether my gun was on this side of him or beyond. I crouched down and duck walked staying back off the road trying to find the gun and just when I was starting to give up, I saw it laying just a few yards away.

I should point out that as good as lightweight loose leaf camouflage is for hiding, it’s not worth a crap when it comes to crawling on the ground in southwest Texas and I’m convinced it attracts prickly pear and thorns like a magnet. I started taking some serious hits right as I was getting to my gun but somehow managed to muffle my moans. I grabbed the Benelli and army crawled over to the edge of the road using a prickly pear bush as cover. My heart was racing as I was on edge of pulling off what was nothing less than a super stalk on this bird. As I tensely made my last couple of painful crawls and strained to peak down the road I caught a glimpse of a fan and movement.

We’ve all experienced what I would call “defining moments” as turkey hunters and as I lay there all stuck and bleeding with my gun raised and lined up on this gobbler, I knew I had just experienced one that would never be forgotten. The bird was right where I thought he’d be, just 25 yards away. In fact, he was right where I had left him lying after I had shot him the first time right beside my vest with the Texas wind lifting and lowering his fan.

I’m pretty sure that statistically speaking that percentages are in a hunters favor when stalking an already dead bird which is what this whole crazy episode had been about.

I realize this piece could easily be titled “Confessions of an Idiot” and if I had any sense at all I’d never acknowledge that this occurred. But here I am telling everyone that reads this all about it.

That said: its fun for me to look back and reflect on my earlier experiences as a turkey hunter. It’s obvious that I’ve had many less than glorious moments and this incident in Texas is just one of many.

I’m a wiser today compared to my earlier years in terms of how I go about things but I’m sure I could add a new paragraph each year.

The adventures, and learning experiences that we encounter through turkey hunting provides us all great memories and in my case many laughs and a fair amount of embarrassment. I’d like to think it’s not just me and I have to wonder how many of you shared similar experiences but you’re just smart enough not to admit it.

Bobby Parks
Grand Slam Network
Mossy Oak Pro Staff

Turkey Hunting – Travel Hunting Tips

Planning for a travel hunt this spring or fall? It pays to adopt the old Boy Scout slogan of “Be Prepared”.  Follow these travel hunting tips for a successful turkey hunting trip.  Even what’s considered routine vacation or business airline travel can sometimes be more interesting than it needs to be if you don’t know the updated rules, how to navigate through the security gates, or what security measures are in place. Traveling with guns and gear creates additional considerations that must be allowed for. Knowing how and what to pack and how to plan your flights will make a difference. And although there’s never a good time to have your luggage lost or miss a connecting flight, you definitely don’t want to experience this kind of problem when traveling for a hunt. Getting into camp on time with your gun and all the essentials is crucial. The key is to know the basics involved, what to watch for, and do everything you can from a planning and packing standpoint to avoid issues.

Booking Flights

When airline travel is planned it usually involves a day of travel for each leg with a limited number of days for the hunt in between. Booking online is easy but it’s important that you follow a few basic practices.
Avoid connecting flights if possible but if you do have to connect make sure both legs are with the same airline. Changing planes increases the chance of lost baggage and changing actual airlines not only adds to the effect but can make for a more challenging recovery effort if they’re lost.

Try to have no less than an hour layover built in for connecting flights. Quick connects may sound good at first but if you experience any delays at all the stress begins and you increase the chances that you or your gear won’t be on the second leg. I prefer an hour at a minimum but an hour and a half is safer. Delays occur for all kinds of reasons including weather, waiting for a flight crew, mechanical issues, and even having to wait for a plane to back away from your arrival gate so yours can pull up. Even if you are running tight and can literally run to get on the next plane, your gun and gear can’t do the same.

Leave early. I always book early morning departures on the outward flight. I try to arrive in camp early enough that I can get to the hunting spot and do some scouting and get settled in. And this way if I do have delays I can still get in at a decent time even if I spend hours in an airport. I do just the opposite on the return leg to allow for a morning hunt if needed and accept that I’ll get home late.

Invest in Quality Luggage and Gun Case

Once you see how baggage is handled you’ll understand why you need to invest in good quality cases and luggage. Baggage gets thrown around, falls off conveyer belts, and goes through the equivalent of abuse. A good gun case is a must. For shotguns I prefer the shorter ones that allow you to break down your gun. The shorter case makes it easier to pack in a rented SUV and carry around at the airport. Double gun cases can save a bag fee if you’ve got a partner but again, invest in a good one because you’ll look like you’ve been doing this for years after just one trip as this stuff gets banged around.

Put an identification tag on all bags. Also mark your bags with something that makes it stand out. You can paint stencil GSN on your case or use a colored strap, duct tape, or anything that makes it easily recognizable when it hits the carrousel. Not only does this help you find it but it helps to keep others from mistakenly grabbing your bag. You’d be surprised at how many bags look alike.

Take photos of your baggage with your phone just in case they are lost. This will help when filing the claim at the office you hope you never have to visit.

If you have a gun case with separate locks…keep an extra set in your “carry on” just in case….Gun cases must be locked and they have to be TSA approved locks.

At smaller airports guns are dumped onto the regular baggage carousel so I advise making a beeline for it to make sure you’re the one that snags it. At larger airports it may be directed to a specialty type claim station and you present your baggage claim ticket. Ask an airport attendant as soon as you get off the plane if you don’t know the routine so you don’t waste time finding the location.

Pack Efficiently and with Weight in Mind

Aside from the gun case I travel with one carry on bag and a large piece of luggage. The checked bag can’t weight more than 50 lbs. unless you’re a frequent flyer or you’re some privileged member etc. It’s tricky to pack boots vest and all the gear you “might” need and stay below that. Tripods for video cameras make this even more challenging. Hunting in warmer areas like Texas and Oklahoma often don’t require the same clothing considerations that upper western states require due to colder temperatures. I’ve been snowed on more than once during May turkey hunts in the latter locations. The key is to just think it through in terms of gear so you stay at 50 lbs. or below. An option if you have a partner is to have him carry a second checked bag that you can both pack in and use the double gun case. This way you both pay for two checked bags but you get everything packed that you think you’ll need for the hunt.

I check my bag at home by weighing myself and then picking the bag up and weighing me holding it on bathroom scales. Just know that most airlines will charge you a premium if you go over. You should also know that based on previous field travel test I’ve performed that trying to fudge the scales by letting your bag hang over the edge while the attendant is weighing doesn’t work.

Packing the Vitals

Shotgun shells must be in the factory box. If not you’ll likely have to give them up. Believe me; I have donated several rounds of Hevi Shot to an airport because I left them in my vest. As far as actual packing goes, I arrange everything so that any thing that could get crunched is padded and protected from all sides. Vest is on the bottom, boots on the end, tripod in the middle with clothing packed all around. I use a small box that I put the shotgun shell box and other misc. gear in that keeps these items protected.

I carry a small backpack that I keep the video camera, regular camera, Ipad, and my best turkey calls in. Often this is placed in my carry on the flight out and removed and replaced with turkey capes on the way back. If you don’t use the backpack, pack GPS, cameras, and anything of real value…in your carry on both to protect from damage and risk of loss. You should also be aware that many connecting flights to smaller airports will not accommodate full size carry on in the overhead compartment and you’ll have to check it at the gate. It’s another reason I use the back pack.

At one point packing Therma cell cartridges was a problem. I’m not sure currently how that’s looked at.

Plan Ahead

Plan ahead when ever possible. Buying your license online saves time once you are on the ground. Research or call the state DNR so you’re sure what you’ll need to be legal. Look for deals on vehicle rentals as well as airfares online. SUVs don’t have to cost a fortune but they can if you wait until you’re off the plane.

I know some that prefer to ship some items ahead of time. If you’re planning to mount a bird go on line and know what you’ll need to have to pack and ship the bird or capes to your taxidermist.

Positive Experiences

In the 10 years I’ve traveled and numerous trips I’ve made, I’ve only had my gear lost twice and both were on the return trips. I have had two others with me that had their gear lost for the better part of a day but statistically the percentages are very good. My experience with airports especially smaller ones in regards to attendants and TSA has been good.

Air travel is the preferred way for me because I have limited time and can’t take the hours and effort to drive out west for 20-30 hours. And often when you factor in the real expense for driving, meals, and expenses, the savings may not be what you thought they’d be. Travel hunts planned properly do not have to be expensive or problematic. It comes down to air-fare, licenses, ground transportation, and food expense. It also involves planning and knowing the ropes.

By Bobby Parks
Grand Slam Network
Mossy Oak Pro Staff

The Shepherd of the Flock – The Best Turkey Hunt Ever

I have been truly fortunate to have hunted with some great friends and family members in which many wonderful memories have been created. My dad and I have had many good hunts with a couple that are branded in our minds. I’ve experienced great hunts with Jim and Ryan Bates, Zach Thwaite and had some that enter the “adventure” category with Wesley Phelps. That said; the best turkey hunt ever for me occurred several years ago out west on an afternoon turkey hunt with my wife Mary.

I had already taken two birds and although Mary had bought a license she wasn’t sure if she was really ready to shoot a turkey. We headed out early that afternoon and I decided to just take pictures but brought my dads gun which had a red dot sight on it just in case she decided to try and take a bird. Although she had shot my Benelli several times in practice we thought that the red dot sight might be helpful on her first bird. We found a good set up spot that involved a tree with unique features. Two feet up the trunk there was a formation that created a seat with forks running out that provided both comfort and concealment. Knowing we had a long afternoon ahead of us Mary sat in this tree saddle, put a book in a camoed face mask, and began to read. I sat down against the tree between her knees and let things quiet down for a while and then started calling. I had my birds so I wasn’t stressing to kill anything and only wanted pictures if I had the opportunity unless she decided to shoot a bird.

About a half hour later we heard a gobble so she put the book down and I started working what turned out to be two gobblers. It wasn’t long before they were 25 yards in front of us along with a couple hens. They strutted around putting on a show and I started taking pictures. A few minutes later a pheasant walked by us and started feeding with the gobblers which were in no hurry to leave. About this time Mary says,” If I had the gun right now I think I’d shoot one of those gobblers”.


I eased my head around and looked down and saw the gun lying on the ground to my left. I’m thinking there’s no way I can put the camera down, reach over and grab the gun, turn the red dot on, ease it up to her, and have any chance of getting a shot on one of the gobblers as close as they were. I whispered to her that the chances of us pulling this off were slim to none but I would try and work the gun up to her.

I kept watching all 4 turkey heads along with the pheasant as I slowly started trying to ease the camera down and reach for the gun. It must have taken a couple minutes just to put the camera down with me moving slowly, freezing when a head came up and continuing when I thought I could. The birds were busy feeding and strutting around so I started reaching around trying to find the gun which I began to think had crawled off when I finally located it. Surprised I’d made it this far I turned on the sight, and started slowly pulling the gun over and easing the stock up towards Mary. The gobblers kept strutting and turning their fans towards us and the hens were feeding along with the pheasant with their heads up and down. It took what seemed like forever before I had the gun that started out at 7 pounds now felt like it weighed 50 up to her. I whispered and let her know when to move and ease the gun up. She kept her cool and slowly worked the gun up to her shoulder, raised the barrel, and when one of the gobblers raised his head she squeezed off a shot.

She missed and as they ran off the Winchester 1300 with Winchester Supremes that had just about knocked Mary unconscious landed on my legs. She says I fussed at her but I believe I was just trying to help her understand that it’s not good to let go of a shotgun after you pull the trigger or anytime for that matter. She said she couldn’t help it and that it jumped out of her hands after it rattled her jaw and knocked her into the tree. This gun did tend to work the shooter over and I was impressed that she had taken it as she had.


We settled down and decided to stay put as it was still early and I knew we were in a good spot. After about 30-45 minutes I heard another gobble and started calling. Within 5 minutes we had three gobblers literally running in and before I could figure out what to do all three gobblers ran up to within 10 yards of us. I could hear Mary whispering to herself, “Oh crap, oh crap,” as it did appear we were about to get trampled.

She had her gun up and was looking through the red dot when I see two other bigger gobblers top the rise just 30 yards away. She could not see them and just as I was about to whisper for her to swing over onto the other birds she fired. All 5 gobblers took off running all unscathed. Now I’m feeling bad for Mary and I tell her not to worry about it as it’s very difficult for anyone to hit a bird that close. She had shot well practicing with my Benelli but now had lost all confidence in trying to shoot a bird and was feeling pain in her shoulder, neck, and jaw.

We both sat there taking in what had happened. While we were talking I looked up and saw 4 gobblers along with several hens 200 yards away moving along the bottom edge of a long hill coming towards us. I was surprised as I’d never at that point or since saw so many gobblers in that location. While they were coming towards us a few hens were coming across a field to our right on an intersecting course with the other group and within 60 yards of us. We watched and I held off calling because the gobblers were already heading in our direction although I knew they were going towards the roost and could turn up hill at any moment.

What happened next was a big part of what made this the most memorable hunt. The group with the gobblers started turning to go up the hill so I began to call. They would gobble and drifted closer but would not come in. The other hens met up with them and they all started going up the coulees. This was a large steep climb going up 200’ that no Eastern bird would walk up. They were using a mule deer trail and as the group of hens started up the trail we realized one hen had not made it through the fence and was yelping to the others that had left her. She was 90-100 yards back and the hens she was with were already going up the hill. Two of the hens realized that the stranded hen was having problems and turned around, walked back down the hill, and back out to the fence talking with her all the way. They finally helped her through the fence and all three headed back towards the hill. It was touching to see them go back after her and guide her back into the group.

About this time two of the gobblers who were well up the hill by now started fighting and I mean they were going at it. Why they waited until they got on such difficult terrain to tangle I’ll never know but it was like fighting on a cliff. Wings were flapping and the fighting purrs were easy to hear. After this went on for a minute or two they both literally rolled several yards down the hill. I started to think the fall might have killed one of them and that we might be able to just go over and pick one of them up but they both survived and stopped fighting and one gobbler ran up the hill giving up.

The gobbler that won the fight strutted several yards up the trail and then turned and walked out on a little overlooking mound that was a few feet above the trail that all the other birds were walking. He locked into strut and stood there motionless like a statue for at least 10 minutes and until every bird had walked under and by him. Mary said he looked like a Shepherd watching and herding his flock. He really did look majestic and proud of himself and it was an amazing thing to see. Of course I immediately started thinking we needed to come back and try and kill him tomorrow but Mary for some reason said we should leave him alone. I believe she appreciated the beauty of the scene and event.

We did leave them alone and did not come back the next day although I really wanted to. In my mind he was a giant and bigger than all the other gobblers we had seen but I think the occasion made him seem bigger. In all we saw 11 gobblers, had 7 gobblers in range, missed two birds, had a pheasant feeding with the turkeys, got lots of good photos, saw the hens drop back to help the non Einstein hen get through the fence, and the fight with what truly looked like a proud Shepherd overlooking his flock.

Second of the first two gobblers that came in and were missed

So as you can see now the hunt that stands out in my mind as the “best hunt ever’ didn’t even result in a dead turkey. It was an incredible and memorable hunting session though. For most of us it does come down to enjoying the outdoors, the wildlife, the encounters, and the memories created and shared. It doesn’t always require that a bird goes down. That afternoon with all the action packed into it made for the most memorable hunt ever for me and I’m sure for Mary. It would have been a shame to have seen all this alone.

We learned later that the red dot sight had been bumped off and the misses were not her fought. And the hunt ended on a great note when she killed her first bird ever the next morning on a run and gun prairie hunt using my Benelli. That’s a story for another day.

Bobby Parks
Mossy Oak Pro Staff

Afternoon Turkey Hunting Tactics

I believe it’s safe to say that most turkey hunters live for the morning hunt. The gobbling at the break of day removes any question marks as to whether a gobbler is around. Excitement, enthusiasm, and adrenalin are at peak readings. The decision making process begins and an approach is applied to a given situation. This usually involves the typical form of closing in on the bird, setting, up, calling, and pointing your gun in the direction of the gobbling. You have an idea of where to be, where the bird is, and that its time to work the bird. Aggressive tactics such as trolling around trying to strike a bird and covering lots of ground often yields a positive outcome and puts you in a similar set up situation. Birds gobble and their location is known. It takes some of the guess work out of it.  Again, mornings generally provide faster and hotter action making it the preferred time to turkey hunt.

The problem with mornings is they fade away and turn into afternoon and afternoon turkey hunting doesn’t always provide the same scenarios. In fact gobbling, success of aggressive tactics, and even our energy levels, fades with it. The pace of the activity dial turns down for a few hours and then tweaks back up later in the day.

I started turkey hunting afternoons 20 years ago not because I wanted to but because I was two hours away from home hunting on the Flint River and had nothing else to do once the morning hunt was over. The others that hunted our lease at that time were out of the woods by mid morning at the latest but I decided it was better to spend the afternoon in the woods even if I were napping where at least there was a chance of killing a bird. I did not know how to go about it but learned. What I soon realized was that I averaged an afternoon bird almost every year and in some cases would not have gotten a limit without that

Afternoon Turkey Hunts can be Productive

Turkey can be taken at any time of the day as long as you’re in the field and vary your approaches. Self discipline and a larger dose of patience comes into play and just what the approach entails depends on the time of day, terrain features, hunting pressure, and to an extent what part of the country you’re in. For example out west in Montana we may stay on the move most of the day looking for Merriams. In Texas when hunting Rios it’s more of a blended style of hunting involving trolling and staying with a set up for longer periods of time along with sequential calling. It’s the same in New Mexico partly because it’s physically demanding but also because staying with a set up in the right location can be very productive, especially late in the day.

afternoon turkey hunt south Georgia
South Georgia mid afternoon turkey hunt on April 10, 2012

Generally speaking, afternoon turkey hunting tactics for Easterns requires a more passive and patient mindset especially during the mid afternoon. For me it’s required a toned down approach and picking good set up locations based on scouting and knowledge of the property.

Mid Afternoon Trolling

No two turkey hunters are the same and many prefer to stay aggressive. The slower paced “sit and wait” style of hunting doesn’t work for everyone. I’ll respect anyone’s approach but I’m willing to do whatever it takes on any given day when it comes to putting a turkey on the ground as long as it’s rewarding and works for me personally. My program is to always adjust to conditions at hand and plan an approach based on conclusions drawn on a particular day. If birds are vocal I’ll stay more aggressive. If they appear to have gone quiet I turn the dial down.

I have not had a lot of luck moving and calling during the middle of the day when hunting turkey in the Southeast and as a result I slow down and move less. In fact I’ve concluded that I do more damage and probably bump birds that I‘m not even aware of when doing this. I believe you can easily contribute to the “pressure factor” if you don’t recognize that a particular style of aggressive hunting is not working at certain times or on a given day. You can wear a good property out in a hurry if you don’t at least make an effort to put thought in the pressure you’re applying.

If I do troll it’s more of a slow motion advance. I will move from location to location stopping for short periods of time and cutting as hard and loud as I can to try and shock a bird into gobbling. I may cut on a glass call, wait a
couple minutes and then do the same thing on a box call. I will use a crow call at times as well as pay attention to real crows if they appear to be harassing something. I’ll then continue moving forward. I may spend 15-30 minutes in an area that I have reason to feel good about before continuing. This assumes you have a large enough tract to keep moving on. Smaller tracts may require that you set up for a long motionless afternoon.

Successful afternoon hunting requires good scouting.

Having the right set up in my view is as important as good calling and is one of the keys to bringing a gobbler into range any time of day. Knowing the right
ground to commit time to and what bird habits are on afternoon hunts are crucial for many reasons. First of all you’ve got to be confident in a spot to have the patience to hang with it. Also the gobbler is less likely to gobble and announce his location during the middle of the afternoon so being in the right location with proper concealment and minimal movement is a must. It comes down to previous scouting, bird encounters, and your ability to read the sign and land you’re on. Even how you approach the location comes into play.

When I set up on morning hunts or on gobbling birds in the woods, I may set up in thicker terrain or just over a rise with the idea of making the gobbler have
reason to keep looking for me. I’ll rarely set up in wide open places because my experience is a gobbler that can see a long ways will just stand and gobble and not come in. Many so called hang ups are due to bad set ups. I compromise visibility distance because I have an idea of which way he’ll come in from and my guns pointed in the right direction.

On afternoon hunts, especially if I’m in the woods and not a field I’ll try to find a happy medium. I want to see further because I’m expecting the bird to come in quiet and show up unannounced. I still want him to have reason to come looking but I want to have a better view as well.

Logging roads that have turkey sign such as drag marks, dusting bowls, droppings, or tracks all add up to define a potential kill zone.

afternoon turkey hunt Idaho
Late afternoon Idaho Merriam taken by Wesley Phelps on May 21, 2012

I’ll try and find the right tree, shade, and pile up anything that will help me blend in and hide movement. Trimming and stacking limbs, piling logs, and sometimes pulling a piece of camo netting from Abature Outpost I carry in my vest works well. When I hunted in the river swamp, palmettos were great to cut and stick in the ground around me. I brush in my back sides so if he shows up behind me I’m not busted before I have a clue he’s around. Psyching out butt pain from sitting so you don’t move is important. I wear a vest because it offers padding both underneath and behind me which allows me to sit motionless for longer periods at a time.

Field Hunting

Open areas such as pastures and fields are great places to find birds and can be especially good on rainy days. When approaching fields I use cover and terrain to slip up to view the field. I may not cut or call with a turkey call as I approach but will blast them with a crow call in an effort to shock one into sounding off. I’m not counting on this as a for sure way of knowing they’re there as gobblers sometime seem to have gone deaf for periods of time and don’t gobble at anything. But it is a way to attempt to find him without worrying about him starting towards me quietly while continuing to move towards the field. The last thing I won’t is to call and cause the bird to focus in my direction or start approaching me quietly or bump into him when I’m out of position. My preference is to sneak up close enough to glass the field with a plan of maneuvering around and setting up if I see birds.

If none are there but I know it’s a good spot and it’s just a matter of time, I’ll dig in by making a “make shift” blind, try to stay in shadows, and commit to a position for varying periods of time. If visibility and cover provides I like to back off a field 10-15 yards so that a bird has reason to search for me. It also helps with getting hens by un-spooked and if a gobbler approaches tight down the edge, I can move and get away with it compared to actually sitting right on the field.

If you’re using decoys set them up 10-15 yards out into the field (20-25 yards away from you) and often times if you snooze that’s where the gobbler will be when you wake up.

Anyone that’s hunted field birds knows how tough and stubborn they can be. You can spend hours just watching a bird that feeds and shows little interest. Once a gobblers in the field I call soft and very little unless he was responding to other calling I was doing which I would then continue. It depends on how he reacts. If he’s feeding and not interested I play it “safe” although I have had luck pulling birds across fields with fighting purrs as well.

I also start looking for a way to move around on him if he shows patterns of moving back and forth and hanging on one side of the field. If I see a way to move around and re position I’ll go for it. Just calling from a different location sometimes makes a difference. So even if I can’t make a big move, a short move of 20-50 yards towards him can make a difference. Just know that often on a field that is known to be used by birds you can bump others by trying this. It’s a judgment call and often based on hunches. Sometimes it’s due to impatience.

Calling Sequence

Generally, I’ll usually go through a calling sequence every 10-15 minutes starting soft and easy with clucks and soft yelps. I’ll then work up to more aggressive calls. Opinions vary on this and I agree that you’re probably safer
by keeping it soft and easy and calling every 15-20 minutes but it’s not always about being safe for me and I like to call. I want any bird within 250 yards to know I’m there. I’ve had good luck though the years by not being afraid to crank and let birds know some odd ball loudmouth hen is in the woods while all the other self respecting hens are just purring and minding their own business. The exception is if I really believe birds are imminent or close in which case I’ll control my tempo and exercise more patience.

I can remember many days where I sat for 2-3 hours going through 10-12 calling sequences, hearing nothing and thinking it’s just not going to happen today only to be startled by a gobbler cutting me off when I called. If this happens, he’s most likely coming in. On other hunts I’ve had gobblers gobble and announce their arrival 10-15 minutes after calling. He heard me and locked in on my position when I called earlier and is letting me know he is close to where he thought the hen should be. Consider this a lucky break but it happens often enough.

On the opposite side I have called from a spot for an hour or so, got up and walked off only to hear a bird gobble from the spot I just left 10 minutes later. Not a good feeling.

Once a bird is in sight it really does vary and it comes down to watching and reading the bird. Taking the gobbler’s temperature factors in to an extent but soft and easy once he’s in tight is the way to go if you have to call again at all. If he’s come because of your previous calling he may continue to wander into your lap. Just watch him and see what he’s going to do on his own. Even scratching on the leaves can coax him on over into range. Often a gobbler during the early to mid afternoon periods seem to have a “take it or leave it” attitude. This gets progressively better as the afternoon goes on and towards late afternoon to evening they can be as hot as in the mornings.

There are other options to consider as well. For example if I hear a bird sound off at longer distances while I’ve been in a set up for a while, I may jump and run towards him but often I give him a few minutes and call again to see if he will gobble again and to see if he was gobbling at me. If it sounds like he’s closed the distance I may stay or move forward depending on terrain and my hunch. He may very well come all the way in but if I can cut some distance off by charging forward and sitting down again and calling it can only help as long as you don’t get busted. It will appear to him as if the hen is coming towards him and may fire him up more.

If I happen to know there’s a distant obstacle such as a creek or fence in the direction he gobbled from then I’m going to make an aggressive move to get to that spot before he does.

Late Afternoons

My experience in afternoons, at least where I’ve hunted Easterns is almost no gobbling occurs until after 5:00. My attitude and enthusiasm picks up accordingly as the day wears on. I may have set up in a particular area for specific reasons for mid day hunts and re locate to put myself in a general roosting area or travel route for late day set ups. I want to be within hearing range of any known roosting locations but not pushing the limit to the point I change their habits if a bird bust me. That’s said; I am not beyond getting in tight on a roost if I’m traveling and I’m running out of time. It depends on how badly I won’t a bird. Many argue against this and I believe it depends on circumstances and properties.

For example in Texas there are places that many birds will roost night after night. To get in tight and cause a scene would change their habits and make them harder to hunt on following days or for future hunters. I avoid pushing too hard there. If there are such placesthat are known on your hunting properties to be consistently holding roosted birds it is a good idea to give them somewhat of a berth so that you’ll know where to get after them on morning hunts at least early in the season.

For public land birds, limited hunting opportunities, or if you are running out of time, I would push in tight on roost areas. Let me put it this way. Most hunters will get as close to a roosted bird in the morning in the dark as they can. So I’m not sure what the real difference in hunting tight in the evening is compared to mornings. You risk busting the bird either way or disturbing a possible pattern. If there’s an argument here I’d say its more in regards to an individual believe about bushwhacking but that’s not what I’m suggesting. I still call and try and pull a bird over. Most Eastern birds I’ve hunted roost in a general area and not in the same tree.
The bottom line is I want to set up where birds have reason to be at certain times of day. Being within ear shot of a roost area or knowing travel routes back to them make sense in terms of trying to kill a bird. This can be done without pushing them out of an area.

For What its worth

Last year I killed all three of my Georgia Easterns and at least one of my two New Mexico birds in the afternoon. Grant killed a mid afternoon NM Merriams at 1:00 while a large group of us were sitting around eating lunch. Wesley killed the Idaho gobbler late in the day and may have killed others in the afternoon, I can’t remember. Jim Bates who has a technique I’ll describe as a “really long morning hunt”. The past two years he has hunted with us in Georgia and Alabama and he goes in before light and we don’t see him again until dark. He knows that you can’t kill em in camp and he always finds a way to put himself in a position to be successful all day long.
Afternoons can be long, hot, buggy, and boring. But they can provide opportunities.

Varied Approaches

It should be noted that the afternoon approaches I’ve discussed here work on morning hunts as well if birds are “quiet”.

I realize no two turkey hunters are alike, we all have our own style, and we all swear by what has worked in the past. Some of us are more fortunate than others when it comes to having the time to hunt and good turkey woods to hunt in. My time is somewhat limited but I have been pretty lucky when it comes to places to hunt.

For me it has been all about being open minded, flexible, and adopting blended tactics. As much as I want to hunt gobbling birds aggressively, I’ve learned to adjust and incorporate approaches that yielded results under many different circumstances in many different parts of the country when birds are quiet or during afternoons. I’m a turkey hunter that respects wildlife, enjoys the woods, and the camaraderie. But I do like to kill turkeys. I will run to a gobbling morning bird but I am willing to sit still for hours in a spot if I believe that’s what it takes on those quiet days or long afternoons.

The key is to learn how to identify through scouting the right locations to commit to, have the confidence and patience to stay with the plan, and be satisfied with a varied style of hunting.

Bobby Parks
Grand Slam Network
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol Tom Field Expert

How to Skin, Prepare, and Display a Turkey Cape Mount

Caping out a turkey and preparing it for display is simple to do and takes very little time. It makes a great display and there’s virtually no cost or kits to order, no plaques to make and no taxidermist bill to pay.

Once you’ve done one it takes no more than 10 minutes to cape a turkey out in the field and prepare it for transport. It takes about the same amount of time to prepare, stretch, and tack it down on a board, and borax the bird once the season is over and you pull it out of the freezer.

This “How to Cape a Turkey” write up along with the video that GSN has provided will make it easier for those who want to cape their birds.

Caping your turkey in the field

  1. Handle the bird carefully once you’ve harvested him. Be careful not to damage feathers or the fan when carrying him back to camp. The better shape he’s in – the better cape you’ll have.
  2. For easier caping clip the wings off.
  3. Hang the bird by his head and neck. This can be done from limbs or even the side rail of your truck. (Note: This entire process is easier if there’s someone to hold the bird still while you cape. I’ve done numerous ones alone but not trying to cape a pinwheel helps.)
  4. You will notice a distinguishable parting of feathers starting at the neck and extending down the side of the bird all the way to his fan. It’s similar to a human hair / part line. The key is to follow this line when cutting the cape off the bird. This is narrow on the neck and gets progressively wider as you get closer to the wing.

    Make your first cut on the back of the bird’s neck where the feathers meet the hairless skin near the head and begin to follow the part line down the bird. Cut a few inches on each side to get started. Be careful to not pull feathers loose and as soon as the skin is exposed grip this instead to the outer part of the cape. This avoids pulling feathers loose that could affect the look of the finished cape. Once you get away from the head, slip your fingers tips in behind the skin and pull while you cut and follow the line. If in doubt where the line is go wider towards the clipped wing bone area. I usually make this cut all the way down to the bird’s leg and then do the same on the opposite side.

  5. After the side cuts are complete, grip the cape from the inside and begin to pull and trim the cape away from the bird. Often the skin will separate similar to skinning a deer but be careful to not over do it. As you approach the mid back region the skin is very thin and you have to be careful not to cut thru the skin. You’ll understand this better once you’ve done one. Don’t worry if you have a couple “cut throughs” as it will likely not show up from the outside of the cape. After clearing the mid back the cape will pull loose for a couple inches and then you’ll have to trim again.
  6. Once you trim the cape down to the fan area, finish the cuts on each side near the legs so that the entire cape is below the section at the fan. You’ll be able to grip the same place that you would normally just cut the fan loose and cut it free. The fan and cape should be in one piece and the caping is now complete.
  7. To prepare for transport simply place a paper towel or toilet paper along the area against the exposed skin and fold it over. Place it in a bag and its ready for the freezer. If traveling its good to have an oversized “carry on” bag that you can pack the cape in. I have packed as many as 6 capes in a piece of luggage. If you’re on a travel hunt and a freezer isn’t available, spread the cape and borax it until its time to pack up and travel. (A word of advice here is that if you do borax the bird, try and finish the caping process sooner rather than later once you are home. I have had birds began to cure out while still in the freezer making it difficult to prepare and stretch compared to a bird that was not boraxed.)

The field aspect is now completed and once back home simply place it in the freezer until the season is over and you have time to finish the process.

Turkey capes can be made into arrangements to maximize space

Preparing the Cape for Curing at Home

Tools Needed: Small snips or shears, knife, scissors, hammer, 4 d nails, 6 d nails, board or plywood strips, borax (Mule Team 20 20 can be found in most grocery stores)

  1. Remove the bird from the freezer and allow to thaw. I lay mine out in the truck bed or driveway and within a couple hours they will unfold and I can begin the finishing process.
  2. Flip the cape with feathers down and grasp group of feathers behind the main fan quills. Cut away with scissors. Press down on fan and hold knife flat and trim away meat where the main quills come together. Cut all meat away until all you see is the yellow near the quill tips. This is easy once you’ve done one and it can be done in one cut with experience. Cut both sides away and you’ll feel a small section of bone that protrudes up off quills. Use your snips and clip this away. Again press flat to quills and be careful where you cut.
  3. Often when you cape you’ll have a couple secondary skin and feather sections that need to be cut away. Theses can be left but I prefer to get rid of them for the shape I like. By carefully holding them above the main cape you can clip these off with scissors. Now check the cape itself and careful cut away any meat that may be on the cape from the original field caping. Now the cape is ready to be stretched and prepared for curing.
  4. Lay the cape on a board, strip of plywood, or sheet of plywood. (Its possible that heavy cardboard can be used as well but I like the stiffness wood provides.) Drive a 6 d nail through the middle of the fan where the quills come together (same area you cut the meat away and clipped the bone). Grasp the top of the neck section of the cape and pull tight and drive another 6 d nail to keep it in place.
  5. Drive 3 sets of 4 d nails to open and stretch the cape itself beginning near the fan and working your way to the neck area. You won’t stretch to the point of putting pressure on the cape but just firmly open it up and tack it down. 3 sets spread out should be adequate to help the cape take the proper shape. (Note: Don’t over drive nails. Tack just enough to hold so that they’re easy to remove later)
  6. Open the fan up so that’s it’s in alignment with the cape and adjust the fan to run straight across. It will permanently take the shape you give it so if it’s not all the way open or open too much that’s what you’ll end up with. Again, sight it so the base is straight across and tack a 4 d nail near the center quill area to hold in place. Adjust the feathers so that no openings between feathers are visible. Tack enough nails between feathers to be sure the spread will stay intact. I average using 6 nails to be safe.
  7. Pour borax to cover all exposed areas of the cape. Pour generously on the fan. Take the beard from the bird and “plug” it into the poured borax and it will cure along with the cape and it keeps the right beard with the right cape.
    Caping a turkey for display
    Caping a turkey for display

    Photo shows capes tacked down and curing

    Store the cape in a safe area from children, pets, and weather. Let cure for 5 weeks and then simply remove by pulling nails with pliers. I dump most of the borax into a container and then carry outside and walk into the wind and tap with a bristle brush and lightly scape and brush the excess borax off. Be careful not to breathe it in and wearing a dust mask is advisable. I tap the cape from behind as well to clear as much as possible.

  8. To mount the cape is easy. Lay feathers up, grasp the fan and determine approximate center of fan where quills meet. Drive a 6 or 8 d nail through the cape until the nail comes out the skin side. Hold the cape on the wall and tap the nail until it’s mounted on the wall. Avoid studs as just the drywall penetration will hold..

This is all it takes to skin and prepare a cape for mounting. Although several steps are involved from a time standpoint it only takes 20 minutes a cape for the combined aspects once you’ve done a couple.
Hopefully this piece along with the 2 videos will be helpful for those that would like to cape their birds.

Mounting a turkey cape
Photo shows a mix of Easterns, Merriams, and a Rio

Bobby Parks
Grand Slam Network
Ol Tom Field Expert
Mossy Oak Pro Staff

Confessions of Turkey Hunter – My Second Bird

To say I was fired up on Opening Day of 1993 would be an understatement. Although I had somehow killed a bird on the very first morning of my first season the year prior it was a fluke and I knew it. Aside from that one encounter, it had been an uneventful season. But this was a new season and I had done my homework and I was ready to hit the field with a new and improved game plan.

I dropped down off the hillside and entered the Flint River Swamp with high hopes and although I didn’t hear anything at first light I knew there were birds around. I worked my way down the logging road hitting my owl hooter every 50 steps or so and then turned into the woods about 50 yards before I got to a clear cut. I had not taken 20 steps when a bird that couldn’t have been more than 60 yards away gobbled on his own. I immediately panicked not really sure what to do so I just dropped down in front of a tree facing towards the gobbler and pulled out my Lynch Fool proof box call.

I felt cold water soak into my pants and realized not only was I sitting in the swamp but I was pretty much surrounded by ankle deep water with dry mounds protruding at random spots. Knowing I could not move I accepted that I was just going to be wet and tried my best to do a soft yelp without squeaking as I had never called under such pressure. The second I made a sound with the Lynch box the gobbler cut me off. My heart and mind were racing now because although I had already killed a bird it had happened in a very non traditional way and this was the first time a bird had gobbled at me that I knew was close enough to come in. I eased the call into my lap with the paddle fully open hoping it wouldn’t make any noise and raised my Winchester 1300 onto my knee.

I was already struggling to keep my composure when he popped into view only 30 yards away at which point I started to hyperventilate. I could not get my breathing straight or keep my gun still and my barrel moved like I was waving a flag every time I breathed. I thought for sure he would see this but somehow he didn’t. To make matters worse he was headed in a direction that would take him to my right and even if I could turn which I couldn’t, I had a big palmetto bush right next to me. About the time I concluded I was totally screwed he made a hard right and started coming across out in front of me. My insides were going through what felt like nuclear fusion and honestly I felt like I was going to explode but somehow kept myself in check. Finally he moved around and was 20 yards out and turned away with his fan towards me. I swung my gun around and got lined up. When he turned he seemed to notice something and pulled his head up and when he did I fired and he went down.

I came up on my feet like a gymnast at the Olympics and ran over to him. I was lucky because he had fallen onto one of the few protruding mounds which kept him from getting wet. I just stood there shaking in muck and ankle deep water looking at him still not believing what had just happened.

He laid perfectly still right up to the moment I touched him at which point he miraculously came back alive and went berserk. I had no idea this was coming and not knowing what to do I latched onto his neck with one hand and held on to my gun with the other and tried to choke him to death. He immediately started flogging me and I could tell the choke thing wasn’t getting me anywhere but I was afraid to let him go thinking he would fly off. I was frantically trying to figure out what to do when his flapping wings knocked my hat off and my facemask slid down over my eyes. Realizing I was now blind and in the process of being flogged to death, and not wanting to drop my gun in the water, I tried to fling him and snap his neck like a pheasant. That didn’t work as I realized he was a lot heavier than a pheasant and I jammed my index finger in the process. Out of desperation I slammed him as hard as I could into the mud and water and then started trying to stomp on his head. After stomping around blindly like a kid in a mud-hole, my boot finally connected with his head and I sat down on him. I’m not sure if he drowned or choked to death but I stayed on top of him for a couple minutes after he stopped moving just in case it was a trick.


When it was over I had mud in my barrel, looked like I had been swimming in a mud hole, and the bird looked like he had been dragged behind a boat. I remember seriously considering shooting him again just for the hell of it.

Although I was glad to have killed my second bird and glad to survive the ordeal, I realized I still had a lot to learn. It goes without saying that this was not a hunt I would have wanted on video. I felt foolish but was thrilled to have had my first encounter where a gobbler gobbled and strutted and reacted to my calling. As bad as he looked afterwards, this event had completely hooked me on turkey hunting in a way that no type of hunting ever has. Almost 20 years later, many of my hunts run together, but I remember this hunt like it was yesterday. Traumatic experiences will do that for you.

By Bobby Parks
Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Ol’ Tom Field Expert