As stewards of our Georgia hunting property, we recognize the importance of balanced ecosystem management. Last year, we faced a challenge: our forest had become overgrown. This overgrowth was not only hindering the property’s potential but also posing a risk to the wildlife we aim to protect. So, we embarked on a mission to restore the land’s natural beauty while preserving vital habitats for our turkey population.
We enlisted the help of a South Georgia company renowned for their forestry expertise. Working closely with us, they formulated a strategic plan that would protect critical areas and improve others. Specific zones were marked for total preservation, providing safe and nurturing environments for turkey poults – the future of our local turkey population. These untouched areas also offered shelter for other wildlife and helped maintain the area’s biodiversity.
To ensure the success of our turkey populations, it’s essential to understand what constitutes an ideal turkey habitat. Here are some key elements:
Food Sources: Turkeys are omnivores, feeding on a variety of plants and small insects. A mixture of grasslands and forested areas provides a diverse diet for them.
Water Availability: Turkeys require reliable water sources. Streams, ponds, or even consistent dew can meet their needs.
Roosting Trees: Mature trees, especially pines and oaks, serve as safe roosting spots for turkeys.
Nesting Cover: Dense ground cover or shrubs provide good nesting sites, protecting turkey poults from predators.
Escape Cover: Dense vegetation and wooded areas offer turkeys a quick escape from potential threats.
For the parts of the forest marked for cleanup, the company used specialized forestry clearing attachments. A small attachment on a Bobcat skid steer efficiently handled the lighter tasks. For more demanding jobs, they employed a Progrind Excavator Mulching head attached to an excavator. That thing was impressive!
The effectiveness and precision of this equipment were astounding – it cut through the overgrowth, leaving behind a clean, manageable landscape without causing unnecessary harm to the surrounding vegetation.
This year, we’re reaping the benefits of those efforts. The property has undergone a remarkable transformation. It’s not just about the improved appearance – although the land certainly looks fantastic – but also about the enhanced usability and sustainability of the property. Our hunters can navigate the land more comfortably, and the wildlife is thriving in the rejuvenated habitat.
Our experience reaffirms the importance of proactive land management in maintaining a successful hunting property. It’s about striking a balance – ensuring the land is usable and enjoyable for us, while also serving as a home for the wildlife we cherish. With careful planning and skilled execution, we’ve shown that it’s possible to have the best of both worlds. We look forward to seeing how our property continues to flourish in the years to come.
The kee kee run is a must have call for fall turkey hunting, but can be effective in the spring as well. In this video, Sadler Mcgraw, Matt Van Cise, Shane Hindershot and Scott Ellis perform their version of the kee kee run at the NWTF calling championship.
Take note of the common sequence of the kee kee run, which sounds like “pee pee pee yawk yawk.” The kee kee is often used with 3 kee kees followed by a couple yelps.
If you’ve ever bumped a group of young turkey during the fall, you’ve probably noticed the way they use the kee kee run to regroup.
First and foremost, I’d like to thank one of our dedicated forum members, Gary Meinke, for providing this target for everyone to use. Its folks like Gary that make Grand Slam Network a great place to hang out!
Hopefully before March has rolled around, you’ve pulled out your turkey calls and started practicing. Equally important to calling is making sure your turkey hunting shotgun has a good pattern and that you know it effective range for harvesting a turkey
This Turkey Target Download is scaled properly for you to print and pattern your shotgun. Other turkey targets include the actual head and feathers, which can be misleading because you are lead to believe your effective range is further than it actually is.
This Turkey Target Download includes the skeletal system of the turkey neck and head, so that you get a more accurate representation of the effectiveness of your gun at a particular range.
Here’s how you pattern your turkey hunting shotgun
Print several copies of the target and head to the range
Post the target is a safe direction and measure off 30 yards which is a nice starting distance.
Aim at the middle of the neck and shoot
After inspecting the target, you should have a reasonable number of shot in the skeleton.
Keep increasing the distance between you and the target until you discover your effective range.
There was a time when my brother and I called one of our public land hot spots “The Killing Hole.” The reason was simple – you could setup in this area most mornings and hear birds sounding off in all directions. Even on the quiet mornings, if you sat tight, birds were going to work through the area at some point. We had stumbled on this spot scouting the good ole fashioned way – covering as much ground as possible looking for signs that turkey were in the area. In about a three year transition, however, the dynamics of the killing hole changed. The hole went from a near guaranteed opportunity to work a bird, to a spot where birds were, but you were likely to get walked over by other hunters, and in its present day it feels like birds avoid the area after the first week of season. It didn’t take long before we knew we had better pick up some new hunting spots close to home in a hurry.
As you will read in this article, I was able to reverse engineer the hunting experiences we had in the killing hole by applying firsthand knowledge of the area’s terrain to what was shown in an aerial view on Google Earth. In doing so, Google Earth was used to quickly identify areas that should hold turkeys based on similar terrain, and boy did it pay off with a fine eastern to tote back to the truck!
The Killing Hole’s Terrain
The killing hole is nestled in the foothills of northwest Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest on public hunting land. Cuts in the mountains above produce gently flowing creeks that work their way into the flatlands. Loggers didn’t cut the timber in close proximity to the creeks, which created wooded buffers between roads, clear-cuts and the creeks. In the mornings, birds would be roosted in the trees near the creeks. Sometimes they pitched down into the clear cut and others they seemed to vanish into thin air. In the evenings, turkeys would work their way through the clear cuts, visit the creek for a drink of water before scratching around a bit and flying up into their roosting trees.
Using Google Earth to Scout New Turkey Hunting Areas
After realizing the killing hole had become the hotspot for many other hunters, recovery efforts were needed in order to locate new spots that were likely to hold turkey. The quickest way for me to do this was to use Google Earth and scout virtually using my computer.
I launched Google Earth, and after a search and some scrolling, the screen was zero’d in on the killing hole. Zooming out a bit, the formation in the hills that created the small creeks down below in the flatland stood out, and after assessing the general area, similar terrain down the ridge a ways looked promising so I locked the coordinates into my GPS to use in the morning. With double the distance to walk (maybe 1.5 miles) to the new listening post in the morning, I left a little earlier than usual.
I apparently misjudged the time it would take to walk to the new post, as I arrived later than anticipated breathing heavily (I had be covering the 1.5 miles as fast as I could to beat daylight). I began the process of softening my steps and calming my breathing as the remaining distance to the listening post closed. Since the sky was starting to lighten up, I decided to draw my crow call and delivered two sharp blasts just short of the post for the sake of time. A surge of adrenaline rushed through my body as a tom exploded 80 yards to my left, which was just over the property line. Seconds later, a group of birds near the creek to my right answered. Talk about a mad scramble, the morning sky was turning to daylight, birds were sounding off, and because I didn’t know the area well, I wasn’t sure where to setup. Unfortunately, this particular morning the birds hit the ground and vanished. Patience is not a virtue of mine, so after the lull I eased around the area and took inventory. It looked promising with all the turkey tracks in the mud and scratching along the creek. I smiled to myself as I realized the virtual scouting experience might actually pan out.
Success 24 Hours Later
The next morning, the departure time was adjusted and I arrived to the post plenty early. Going in stealthy that morning, I eased in and sat down and waited. Time passed and the bob white quail started their morning routine. I should have heard a bird or two by now, so I pulled out a box call and yelped 3 times. A bird gobbled, but because of his distance, it was chalked it up to coincidence. It seemed as if he were miles away. Just to be sure, I checked him with two sharp cuts and four yelps, and he answered promptly. After 10 to 15 minutes of waiting the process was repeated. This time he had cut the distance in half, but was still a ways out – the hunt had every indication of being one of those quick morning hunts that you’re back at your truck with a bird while some of the other guys are pulling in late.
My back and legs were starting to cramp when he gobbled off to my left, still out of sight, but close. The setup wasn’t great but there wasn’t much to choose from in this particular area. Based on his distance, I only had a few seconds to ease my barrel to the left and hold tight. Moments later the fan eased up to the road about 30 yards to my left. When he hit the road, he raised his head up as if something was out of sorts, and with the fastfire on him, I eased the trigger and rolled him back on the clay road.
I rushed over to him as he was doing the death flop. My hand felt the business end of the spurs before my eyes saw them – at that time I knew I had a trophy on my hands.
Why you should use Google Earth to scout virtually
In turkey hunting on public land, there aren’t many shortcuts to harvesting a mature eastern turkey. It helps to know the land you’re hunting and how the birds use the area during the spring (which can be different than how they use it in the fall). There are tools, like Google Earth, that you can use to your advantage by scouting virtually and identifying areas to hunt without seeing the property beforehand.
Using Google Earth in the Field
If at all possible, install Google Earth on your home computer and do your scouting before the hunt. In doing so, you’ll be able to identify areas you may want to visit or even print maps to carry on the hunt (this is easy to do and works well). In some instances, printing maps in advance may not be possible and having Google Earth on your smart phone will pay huge dividends. In their Idaho hunt, Bobby and Wesley installed Google Earth on their smartphones because they were on an adventure hunt covering lots of ground in unfamiliar territory. Having Google Earth on their devices allowed them to see fields and other types of terrain [while on the hunt] that might hold birds that they would have otherwise missed.
When technology is not available
Cell phones and GPS batteries die and cell service is not available everywhere, which is why learning the terrain turkey use for a given area is important. In the big country out west, there is lots of ground to cover, and if you aren’t careful, you can spend days trying to locate birds. Take note of the terrain when you find birds. Outside of your typical agricultural planting and food plots, you will discover certain types of terrain hold birds for various reasons. By knowing the terrain attributes that hold birds, you can shave hours and even days off your scouting efforts.
In the end, technology doesn’t replace the need to understand turkey habitat and behavior, but leveraging technology with that knowledge of the wild turkey will produce killer results!
I have been asked many times what my favorite time of day to hunt turkeys is. I have thought long and hard about this and the best answer that I have been able to come up with is whenever I can go. Most would probably say that they prefer breaking daylight and setting up on a gobbler before fly down, and more often than not, that is my approach as well. I enjoy hearing the woods come alive at daybreak, but I know that I am no different than most, and because of work, family, and other obligations, my opportunities to hunt turkeys may come at other times of the day.
As far as times to get after turkeys goes, my advice would be to go whenever you can. If your schedule allows you to hunt mornings, then by all means go and break daylight with them. If you are doing family activities or anything else early in the morning and find some time to slip away during the middle of the day, try “running and gunning” an area that you know has turkeys by covering ground and trying to get a response. If your work schedule only allows for afternoon hunts, then get after them then. Later in the season here in Alabama, I have heard some of my best gobbling action late in the day. In my experiences with a turkey gobbling in the afternoon, if he is answering your call and appears to be interested, there is a good chance that you can seal the deal before fly up time. If that gobbler decides that he wants to come to you, then he knows that he has to get it done before he goes to roost, so definitely don’t pass up a chance to hunt turkeys in the evenings if that is your only time to go!
I have heard many guys complaining about not going hunting because it was raining. If you have ever been riding around and looking at fields and pastures during and shortly after a spring shower, then you have certainly seen hens and gobblers pecking around in the fields. Earlier this month I was driving home after work and it was pouring down rain. Every pasture that I passed seemed to have turkeys feeding in them. I rushed home and threw on my rain suit and rubber boots only to have my wife ask me if I was crazy enough to try to go hunting in that weather. I knew of a lease of mine just a few miles down the road from my house with a couple of food plots that turkeys frequented regularly. Based on the amount of turkeys that I had already seen in the fields on nearby properties, I thought that there would be a good chance of finding a gobbler before dark that afternoon. As luck would have it, the second field that I glassed had a lone gobbler feeding in the pouring down rain. A stealthy approach on my part, concealed by a downpour of raindrops onto the forest floor, allowed for me to get extremely close to the field without making my presence known. A few soft yelps later, the gobbler was interested and came my way to investigate what he had heard. A short time after that, I was toting him back to my truck with a grin from ear to ear and paying no attention to the soaking rain. I do not recommend going out in a thunderstorm, and will be the first to admit that lightning strikes will send me running to the truck, but I do suggest that if your only time to get after turkeys is during or shortly after a rain, then leave your fancy custom calls in the truck, throw a few mouth calls and maybe a waterproof friction call in your pocket, and head to the woods!
Depending on time of the season, weather conditions, turkey behavior/breeding cycle, and countless other factors that I have not began to understand, gobbling turkeys can be extremely unpredictable. You may go out to the “perfect “spot, with the “perfect” weather on what you think is the “perfect” morning, and you may not hear a gobble. On the other hand, you may go out when it’s extremely cold and conditions appear to be terrible and hear turkeys gobbling in every direction. You may go to a place and hear nothing but silence at daylight, but if you come back to that place midday or late afternoon, the gobblers may be answering every call. You may even go at all these different times and not hear any gobbling. Instead you may hear spitting and drumming, hens “talking,” or turkeys scratching that may give away their whereabouts. You may set up as a last resort thinking that all attempts have ended in failure, only to have a curious tom walk in silently and undetected until he is right down the end of your gun barrel. Turkeys are definitely unpredictable animals, but if you put in your time doing preseason scouting and hunting at whatever time of day that your schedule allows, the odds are bound to be in your favor at one point in time or another!
By Terence Williamson
2 X Yellville National Friction Champion, 2013 World Championship 1st Runner Up – Two Man Team, 2 X 1st Runner Up – NWTF Grand National Calling Championships, 5 X Alabama State Champion, and Prostaff Member for Zink Calls & Avian X Decoys, Patternmaster, HeviShot Ammunition, Mossy Oak Brand Camouflage, Ol’ Tom Technical Turkey Gear
A friction call can be a very valuable tool to carry into the spring turkey woods. Unless it is raining, I never leave the truck without at least two slate calls and a handful of mouth calls. As we will discuss later in these friction call tips, there are even a few friction calls that I carry when it is raining. The main thing to take away from this segment will be learning how to properly care for and condition your call so that it will last for many more outings to come, rain or shine.
Care will be the first topic that we discuss, because if you do not properly care for your call, you won’t have it to use for very long. There are many items on the market today that can make caring for your calls a breeze. Several companies, such as Ol’ Tom Technical Turkey Gear, offer carrying cases that either attach to your vest or a belt loop to store box or slate calls, as well as strikers. These cases offer padded protection in case of falls or other bumps and spills not anticipated while hunting, and also keep your calls close at hand for quick use if needed. Some companies also sell plastic containers to store your slate or pot style calls. A measurement of your call diameters and a few minutes on the Tupperware aisle at the grocery store can leave you with some cheap storage to protect your calls from the elements. Not only will Tupperware containers keep your calls dry, but they also protect the surface from unwanted hits and bumps. I always keep a few gallon size plastic bags in my vest, too. You never know when you are going to get caught out in a rainstorm and these bags are useful for storing calls, licenses, camera, phone, etc. These days a custom friction call can sell for $100 or more and often times if they get wet, they can swell and cause the surface to come unglued. A simple sandwich bag can prevent this, but it’s always better to watch a weather forecast and try to prepare for these conditions. If I know that rain is forecasted, all of the custom wood calls are left at home and I go out with a plastic pot, Zink Thunder Ridge aluminum friction call. I take several different strikers that run when wet (carbon, plexiglass, aluminum) to use on this call, and because the surface is aluminum, it does not absorb moisture. As for a box call during the rain, some companies offer calls that claim to “run when wet” that have been dipped in a waterproof coating, and I keep one of these handy for such occasions. These calls are fairly inexpensive and I have found that some yelp extremely well when wet or bone dry. If I know rain is forecasted, I primarily call on a mouth call, but the added volume of friction calls can often be useful to cut through the rain to locate or work a gobbling bird.
Conditioning your friction call is one of the most important parts of getting the right sounds from your call at the right time during hunting situations. You do not want to have a gobbler to be hung up just over the ridge with you needing to condition the surface of your slate call for clucks and purrs. If he can hear you scratching in the leaves, he can hear you sanding that call. I always start out my day conditioning the surface of my calls and strikers before I ever leave the truck. Depending on the moisture in the air and the frequency of calling, I may need to do this quite often while hunting. To make this task easier, I keep a string with a couple of pieces of scotchbrite and a couple of pieces of sandpaper of different grits, tied to my friction call case. This simple creation keeps the conditioning pads close at hand for quick use so that I do not have to dig through my vest for a piece of sandpaper. Between hunting setups and as often as needed when trying to locate a gobbler, I sand the surface and striker tips to keep them as fresh as possible. Conditioning the striker and surface of a pot style call makes the two surfaces that are rubbing together more coarse or abrasive. As you call, the friction made between the objects produces the sound, hence the name “fricition call.” By keeping your calls conditioned, you are maintaining roughened surfaces that will produce the friction needed to make true turkey sounds. In addition to sandpaper and scotchbrite, some other useful items to put in your vest are conditioning stones and chalk. I have found that conditioning stones work much better to roughen the surface of a glass or crystal surface than using sandpaper alone. I often times roughen the surface with the stone first and then finish it off with a fine grit sandpaper. This really allows for the striker to “grab” to the surface to produce clucks, cutts, yelps, etc. Last but not least to keep in your vest for friction call conditioning would be sandpaper. A box call can be a great call to locate and work tight lipped gobblers, but if you do not have some chalk to condition the lid with periodically, you are not producing the best sounds achievable from your call.
These are just a few tips to help you care for and condition some of your friction calls. These tips may not work on all calls, and may not be the best for all situations. I am always trying to learn more tips and tactics to make hunting simpler and more successful. I hope that these tips will do that for you in some of your hunting affairs as well!
2 X Yellville National Friction Champion, 2013 World Championship 1st Runner Up – Two Man Team, 2 X 1st Runner Up – NWTF Grand National Calling Championships, 5 X Alabama State Champion, and Prostaff Member for Zink Calls & Avian X Decoys, Patternmaster, HeviShot Ammunition, Mossy Oak Brand Camouflage, Ol’ Tom Technical Turkey Gear
Spring gobbler fever has really taken hold across the country. As such, more and more of us are making plans each spring to travel to far-away places to hunt our favorite game bird. Those of us that have been doing that for a while have discovered one important fact: conditions change from location to location, turkeys do not necessarily behave the same way in all places, and hunting tactics must be modified, at times, to maximize one’s chances of success in any given locale.
New Mexico turkey hunting offers a physically challenging hunt with Merriams turkey that are exciting to hunt.
Over the years, we have hosted many hunters from different parts of the country at our cabin in the Lincoln National Forest in the mountains of southern New Mexico. In that same time span, I have traveled to other parts of the country to hunt with many of those same folks in their turkey woods.
One thing I have found to be crystal clear, in almost every place, there are preparations needed that are of importance and specific tactics that work better than others. Not only that, but often the preparation and tactics that are a key component for success in one location are things that are rarely effective, and rarely used, in others.
One great thing about these hunting forums is that we all get to chat with, and glean information from, really good turkey hunters from all over the country. Not only are the individuals that hang out here mostly great turkey callers, they also know what is important and what works best in the places they hunt. The difference between success and failure on an out-of-state turkey hunt is often a function of how much attention we pay to the advice given by those that hunt there all of the time.
Here in New Mexico, hunting our high-altitude Merriams gobblers, there are some key ingredients to success. One of the very first ingredients, especially for those coming from around sea-level, is being fit for hunting here. Of course, there is no way of adjusting for the altitude difference, unless you have a handy 8,000 foot tall mountain in the neighborhood that you can go scurry up on occasion. However, it is somewhat important that you get yourself prepared for walking and climbing around at that elevation by doing what you can to get “in shape”.
Another pre-hunt attitude adjustment that is helpful here is to get rid of the “small woods” mindset that often comes from being confined to hunting small tracts of private ground that seems to be the case in many parts of the country. Out here, we have literally hundreds of thousands of acres to hunt, almost all of it public land, and the turkeys are, basically, scattered in varying densities throughout.
We have large areas that have high concentrations of birds and we have significant areas that have few or no birds. The key component here on whether there are turkeys around is most often the reliable availability of surface water. The second important component is the presence of roost trees, or other structures that turkeys will feel comfortable with roosting in.
The point to be made about this is that the first consideration when hunting this country is to find where the birds are before starting to hunt them. That sounds easy enough, but often, those that come here do not understand that they have to “think big” in order to do that. To some, thinking big means covering a few hundred or thousand acres looking for signs of turkeys to hunt, because that is what they are used to doing where they come from. You have to throw that mindset out the window when you come west and hunt the vast amounts of public lands that exist in many places here.
Having maps of the areas you are going to hunt is critically important when hunting these large public land areas, as well. Most of our public-lands turkeys are found on either Forest Service lands, Bureau of Land Management lands, or a combination of both of those. The “fly in the ointment” is that there are almost always private land holdings scattered about these public areas. Both the Forest Service and BLM produce maps of the areas they manage and you can normally order the maps of the areas you intend to hunt from the websites of these agencies.
Having maps that show you road systems and land status (public/private) is essential here. Often, the private land holdings are those areas that were homesteaded or otherwise privatized generations ago when settlers were picking and choosing the best locations for farming and ranching. Many of these areas are still being farmed and as we all know, turkeys like to help themselves to the various crops that farmers are growing. Hence, you will often find concentrations of birds close to these private areas.
Obviously, you cannot hunt private lands without permission and, quite often, it is difficult to obtain that permission. The good news for us turkey hunters out here is that our turkeys like to roost in tall pine trees, and usually those tall pine trees are found on the public Forest Service lands adjacent to these private holdings. And the other good news is that there are generally ways to get around the private holdings through public land routes. Land status maps will show you what those potential routes are, and therefore allow you to find ways to get to birds that you otherwise might think were off-limits to you. Once again land status maps are a critical tool.
Besides the land status, however, these maps can also provide you with a wealth of information on other stuff that is important to your hunt success. Often they will show topography, elevation, and locations of springs and water courses key elements out here.
And for those that are really serious about map use, you can go “all out” and order the detailed topo maps of the area you are hunting. In my opinion, these are of less importance than the agency maps with land status.
Finally, I won’t go into a detailed discussion about “personal affects” such as clothing or footwear. Suffice it to say that bringing clothing that can be layered on or off depending on the temperature and conditions is a good idea, and good hiking boots are advisable. Just so you know, snakes are not generally going to be a problem.
Finding Gobblers to Hunt…Roosting
So the obvious first question is,…”How do we go about finding those pockets of birds in those vast areas?” Well, fortunately, that is usually pretty easy to do. Our gobblers and are generally vocal and willing to gobble, not only in the morning on the roost like most gobblers everywhere, but also in the evening, right at dark, after they fly up to roost. Not only that, but they are very susceptible to shock gobbling tactics during those periods, and often even during the day.
Using roost shock-gobbling tactics is an essential element in finding birds to hunt here. And not only is it important, it is one of the elements that make hunting here so enjoyable. There is nothing quite like the feeling of going to bed knowing where one or maybe even several gobblers are spending the night. That is part of the hunting strategy we face,…deciding which gobbler out of many that might have been located is going to be “the one” for the next morning’s duel.
The next question I hear asked often is. ”What is the best locator call to use out there?” The key to a good locator call in this country is one that is loud. Crow calls work well here, and most of our local guys rely on those more than any other. However, all crow calls, or other locators for that matter, are not created equal. Getting good volume out of whatever kind of locator you choose is a must. If you are not able to really “rip it” with your locator, then find one that you can. It rarely matters what the call sounds like as long as it is loud.
When is your locator work going to be most effective? Like I said, it could work any time, but the times when it will work most effectively are during the low-light periods of dusk and dawn. In the evening, that period of time starting at sundown until about a half hour to forty-five minutes after (or when it gets to be fully-dark) is the best. And what we call “prime time” is that period from when the light is just starting to fade and for about twenty minutes thereafter. Occasionally you will get a gobble out of a tom after full-darkness, but that is much less reliable than the period mentioned. It should be pointed out that the “evening gobble” is not as sure a bet as the “morning gobble”. Even under the best of conditions, there will be gobblers out there that are less enthusiastic about gobbling in the evening than they are in the morning. It is not unusual to hear several birds gobbling in the morning in a location where you only heard a bird or two the night before.
The morning roosting period is similar to the evening, but reversed. Our birds will, at times, gobble well before the first hint of daylight. In fact, when we are leaving our cabin in the morning in the dark, and everybody is banging around in their vehicles and such, our cabin gobblers that roost nearby will often start gobbling at the noise we make (It’s a good way to start the morning’s hunt!). It is more likely, however, that your locator use will be more effective when the eastern horizon is starting to show a bit of glow.and then up until sunrise, and sometimes even beyond for a while.
The strategy for efficient roost locating does not end there, though. The area we hunt is largely public land, which means that there are other hunters vying for the attention of the same gobblers you are. So it is not just a matter of finding a gobbling bird to hunt,…it is also important to find the “right” bird to hunt. Gobblers that are along and close to the roads are likely to get a serious workout during the season from an assortment of hunters. You can pretty much bet your patootie that a mid-season gobbler here that has set up shop close to a road is going to be a tough customer to sell any kind of calling to. Not only that, but there is also the chance that you will have competition from other hunters for the easy-to-get-to birds.
The trick in your roosting strategy then, is not only to find gobbling birds, but to find as many as possible so you can pick a likely responsive candidate for your hunt. Covering as much country as possible during prime roosting time in the evening can be an important tool in your bag of tricks. This is, of course, assumes that you have not already found a bird that you have chosen to focus on. If you have found a gobbler then your evening strategy may change.
Here is your basic method of roosting birds in the evening. Take your map and assess the area you want to cover and the road system within that area. Plot out a route that you think will give you the maximum ability to cover as much country as possible, taking into consideration that you want to be able to hear birds as far away as possible, as well. There are nuances to this strategy that we will touch on later.
Having established your roosting route, plan on being at the starting point when the sun goes down. Remember, gobblers are generally not as likely to gobble at sundown as they are fifteen minutes later, so don’t get in a hurry at this point. If you rush the evening roost, you may well miss birds that will gobble in a bit.
First of all, make sure your method is sound. Check your locator volume by giving it a test run at this point. Of course, you always want to minimize extraneous noises. The vehicle is obviously turned off, and all members of your party are advised to keep the talking and shuffling about to a minimum. It is really easy to miss a faint gobble from a bird a mile away because someone decides they want to carry on a conversation or shuffle around in the dirt right when it happens.
The second thing to remember is that these birds are not responding because you sound like a genuine crow, or owl, or whatever. They are shock-gobbling because of the sudden loud sound they are hearing. So don’t do what some of these guys you see on TV do with their locators and go to squawking like a banshee on the darn thing. These birds will gobble as soon as they hear the very first note of your call, so hit the call a couple of quick, loud notes and then listen intently. If you extend your locator noise beyond that, you will miss distant gobbles because of it.
After listening for about fifteen seconds for responses to the first call, hit the locator again with a couple of loud blasts and listen again. Most of the gobblers that are going to respond to your locator will do so on the first series. On occasion, you will get a response to the second series that did not come on the first but that is the exception rather than the rule.
Once again, don’t get in a big rush until you start seeing the light starting to fade. When things start to get a little blurry, this is the time to put ‘er in high gear. You absolutely do not want to fiddle-fart around now! You want to get from place to place as fast as you can. In this country, it is best to drive at least a half-mile, and no more than a mile, between locator uses, and you want to hit as much country as you can in that window of about thirty minutes of prime time.
This country is made up of large canyons with secondary smaller canyons that run into those, and with even smaller canyons that run into those. Good places to stop and try your locators are at those junctures of main and secondary canyons. So when roosting, always stop and try at these canyon intersections.
So here we go. The lights are starting to fade a bit. We’ve tried the locator at our initial starting spot. If it got a response, we have mentally marked where the bird or birds are at. We jump in the vehicle and quickly “fly” on down the road to the next spot that looks likely. We pull over, turn off the engine, and pile out of the vehicle quickly.
Everyone is quiet, and if they are not, they are summarily admonished for not being so.
The assigned locator guy gives two loud bursts on the call. Everybody listens quietly for a response. If a bird is heard, there is no need for a second round. We mark any birds heard, make the appropriate mental notes about the location and whether there is a likely candidate for a morning hunt here, and jump back in the vehicle. And down the road we go again.
Next stop: same scenario and again and again until it is full darkness, and we are not getting any more responses. At any stop, if there is not a response on the first series, we have waited fifteen seconds and blown the call a second time. Anything after a second attempt is almost invariably a waste of precious roosting time.
Early in the season here, it is not unusual for a roosting run to produce fifteen, twenty, or even more gobblers responding to your calls. Later in the season, the birds will have been picked over some, and some will have wised up a bit,….but it is still not unusual, even at the end of our season, to be able to roost multiple birds each evening by doing this.
One important consideration in choosing an area to try to roost birds is the weather situation at the time. More specifically, that “situation” is whether or not it is windy. Wind is our biggest enemy in hunting here, and it has some serious consequences in terms of affecting roosting. Like I said, this country consists of large canyons and ridges, and the altitude varies from around 7,000 ft. up to almost 10,000 ft. When it is windy, the higher up you get, the windier it usually is. What that means for locating birds is that you have to tailor your roosting strategy, or at least the areas you choose to try to roost gobblers in, according to the wind conditions of the day. We have all learned that if the wind does not start dying down as it gets close to sunset, or if it blows all night long, that roosting is going to be tough. The general attitude is,…if the wind is up, don’t bother trying to roost birds on the high ridges, and don’t expect a lot of gobbling anywhere.
Regardless, this roosting process allows you to pick and choose the birds you want to hunt, and gives you options for hunting our public lands Merriams that you would not otherwise have.
I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical of the aluminum and other high frequency friction calling surfaces for a long time. High frequency turkey calls are calls that are able to produce the natural sounds of the wild turkey at a louder and much higher pitched level than a traditional call. About fifteen years ago, one call company that had previously been making my favorite friction call in the conventional glass, slate, and crystal surfaces began making calls with aluminum and even ceramic surfaces. I was very hesitant to try these calls for a while and thought that they were just another gimmick to try to sell more products. Seven or eight years ago, a good friend of mine that has been very successful both in the turkey woods and on the competition stage told me how well these calls were working to call in the tough Alabama Eastern gobblers that we had always hunted. After finally buying and running one myself, I no longer step into the woods on a Spring morning in pursuit of a gobbling tom or walk onto a stage for a calling competition without an aluminum friction call by my side.
Today you can purchase an assortment of calls of higher pitch or frequency than a traditional glass or slate call is able to produce. Many companies now make friction calls that combine a crystal or aluminum calling surface over a walnut or cherry pot. You can also find an assortment of box calls that combine cherry or cedar wood boxes with exotic wood lids that are very capable of reaching the higher notes that is often necessary to locate a wary tom. Personally, I keep a Zink Calls Thunder Ridge Series aluminum pot style call and an all cherry wood box call in my vest to achieve these sounds. The combination of striker and call can really intensify the sound that these calls can make when matched properly. I have found that purpleheart or hickory two piece strikers and laminated oak or birch flaretip one piece strikers can really reach a high pitch when paired with the right crystal or aluminum surface. To condition these surfaces, a scotch brite pad works best on an aluminum call and a conditioning stone is my preference for the crystal pot.
Most of my success with these high frequency calls comes from mid-morning to late afternoon. I start my morning off like most hunters, either waiting for a tom to gobble on his own or by blowing an owl hooter or other locator call to pin point his whereabouts. After that, I try to move in as close as possible without spooking the bird and setup in an attempt to trick him into coming my way. If my morning battle with the gobblers does not end successfully, I begin covering ground and using the high frequency friction calls. I prefer to walk the logging roads or ridges, which more often than not in my hunting grounds of West Alabama are covered in plantation pines or are cutovers from some phase of the logging process. During these walks, I frequently stop to yelp in areas where I have either planted food plots, seen turkeys, found sign while scouting, or in areas that will carry the sound of my calling as far as possible. I start out by clucking on the Zink Calls Thunder Ridge Aluminum pot call and I begin calling fairly soft and quiet. I do this because I have always been told that you can always call louder to try to make a gobbler hear you, but you can never get a chance to call softer to a gobbler that you cut and cackled to and scared off that was just over the next ridge. If my initial soft clucks and yelps don’t coax him into a gobble, I will get more aggressive with my clucks and yelps on the aluminum pot while gradually getting louder and putting more emotion into the calling. The clucks and yelps often transition into excited yelping or a series of cuts that often shocks a gobbler into letting you know his position. I have stood on the same ridge and done two or three renditions of this five to ten minutes apart before finally getting a gobble. This whole process often starts out mid morning and goes well into the afternoon if I have a large enough tract of land to cover or if I know turkeys are in the area. These sounds are not limited to the aluminum pot call, and I will often mix it up and make the same calls on a cherry box shortly after running the aluminum call. This sound simulates several hens communicating back and forth which can often coerce a gobble from a tight lipped tom. Once I do get an answer, I do not back off with the intensity of my calling until I know the gobbler is headed my way, and even then, I probably push the limits with the aggressiveness of my calling. I love to hear them gobble, which I know you can make them do too much at times, but this is why I call harder and louder to toms in this situation. More often than not, if you have a mid-morning to late afternoon bird answering you, then his gobbles are just as aggressive as your calling and if your cards are played right, you often get a chance to close the deal! I use a modified version of this tactic for late afternoon toms. If I do not have a gobbler pinpointed, then I will go to an area where I know birds were during the morning or where they frequent in the afternoons. I will often set up a lone hen looker decoy prior to starting my series of calls, and my decoy of preference is from the Avian X line of turkey decoys. I will start off calling softly just like it was breaking daylight. I will switch from soft yelps to clucks and purrs, all the while, scratching in the leaves trying to sound like feeding turkeys. This soft calling that starts out on a Zink Calls two reed mouth call, eventually turns into the loud and aggressive calling on the high frequency aluminum pot or cherry box calls if have not gotten a response during the first half hour of my setup. Just like midday hunting, if I get a response from a gobbler, I keep pouring the calling to him trying to keep him excited enough to come my way in time to bag the bird before he flies up onto the limb.
The situations, setups, and calling styles mentioned are definitely not ideal for every situation, or every hunter for that matter, but I have found that they have worked for me over the last few years from Florida to Tennessee to Texas, and everywhere in between. High frequency turkey calls definitely bring a new element to calling and hunting situations, and they add one more weapon to your arsenal of tactics that you can try on tight lipped gobblers. If you are like me, you are willing to try anything that it takes in an attempt to tricking a gobbler to commit to your setup, and I hope that by reading this, you have either added one more tool to your tool belt or at least been mildly entertained. If you are going to try this tactic and are not yet equipped with the right gear, then I would definitely give the high frequency friction calls manufactured by Zink Calls and the lifelike and portable Avian X Decoys a try this turkey season.
2006 & 2011 National Friction Champion
Prostaff & Elite Calling Team member for Zink Calls, Avian X Decoys, Mossy Oak, Ol’ Tom Technical Turkey Gear, and HeviShot Ammunition
Don’t get me wrong, I hunt private and public land during turkey season. Each has their pros and cons, but in this article, I intend on highlighting a few of the benefits of public land turkey hunting.
Hunting leases can be expensive and owning your own property is even more expensive. In Georgia, there are over 100 WMA hunting areas, which cover over 1 million acres of public turkey hunting opportunities. For the cost of a big game license and a WMA stamp, turkey hunters have access to public hunting areas within a 1 hour drive.
As mentioned above, Georgia has over 1 million acres of public hunting land. Residents should have public land to hunt within an hour drive. For me personally, I have at least 7 different areas [within an hour drive] that offer great turkey hunting opportunities.
Enjoy Hunting with Friends and Family
Many hunting clubs don’t allow visitors, and for the ones that do, [some] club members aren’t too happy when you bring in a group of visitors. Public hunting land provides an opportunity for experienced hunters to introduce new hunters to the sport and to bring along family and friends as they like.
Wide open spaces!
Private hunting leases can cost hunters $7/acre or more. So $700 would allow you to lease 100 acres. The WMAs I hunt, which are all near my home, are all over 10,000 acres. Even while sharing the area with other hunters, 10,000 acres is a lot of ground to cover and move on turkeys.
Many public hunting lands are loaded with turkeys
There is a perception that public land hunting isn’t as good as private land. While some areas get more pressure than others, I remember telling my brother, “I’m not sure we could have paid for a better hunt,” as we carried out two long beards after a morning hunt full of vocal birds. The key to having a successful public land turkey hunt is to scout, scout, and then scout some more. Be sure to cover lots of ground late fall and early spring to learn where the birds are. Look for scratching, dirt roads with tracks after a good rain, and listen for birds in the evening as they fly up to roost. Learn the area and then move on to learn more areas. When hunting public land, you’ll always need a good plan B if someone else is in that spot before you get there.
I love the smell of Ponderosa Pine, wood smoke, and canvas. Backwoods camping adds a whole other element to turkey hunting. Living in the outdoors for several days helps me become more in tune with the woods. I can forget about the “real world” and just concentrate on my turkey hunting and enjoying the entire experience. The ability to just walk out the door and go hunting is more than a convenience; it is an engagement with in nature.…
When I first started traveling for my turkey hunting I slept in the back of my pickup truck fitted with a topper. Then I towed a camper trailer for several years. Now I finally have settled on a canvas wall tent as my main camp lodge. I’ve been hunting with one for 7 years now. The wall tent is roomy enough to easily stand up in and it has a woodstove for a source of heat. That heat is what makes the difference between just staying in a tent and having a comfortable abode. I can fit my whole camping outfit in my truck without having to tow a trailer. Not having to tow anything improves gas mileage and also allows me to get into areas I might not be able to get to otherwise. Over the years there have been a number of hunting areas I could not have reached due to muddy and snowy roads, had I been towing a trailer. Another advantage I like about a tent is when the weather gets hot a well ventilated tent set up in the shade can be cooler than a camper.
Backwoods camping in the area I hunt is an advantage because there is no driving time. Some motels can be a half hour or even an hour drive from a hunting area. This saves time at both ends of the day, not to mention money. During turkey season the more sleep I can get, the better. I also don’t have to fight sloppy difficult to navigate roads if the weather happens to be bad or turn bad while I’m out hunting. I might not have to “quit early” in order to “get out”.
I have refined my tent camping over the years and thought there may be some ideas that could be useful should you decide to try a tent camp for turkey hunting. My wall tent is 10’x12’ and has a frame made from conduit. The canvas is waterproof, mildew resistant and has a fire retardant on it. This type of canvas can be stored wet for a few days, but does need to be dried out before long term storage. There is no other maintenance involved other than storing the tent in a dry place. I keep my tent canvas in a large plastic container to prevent mice or other pests from accessing it. I also have a waterproof tarp specially fitted from the manufacturer to go over the tent. The tarp helps shed a hard rain or snow and also insulates the tent during cold weather. There is no floor in my tent; the woodstove quickly dries out any wet ground. If I happen to expect snow on the ground when I arrive, I bring a scoop shovel to clear the area where the tent will be set up.
The woodstove is sized to the tent. Having a stove too large can easily overheat your living space, and too small of a stove may not provide enough heat if the weather turns cold and windy. Most of the wood I use to burn I bring with me, but in some areas you may be able to cut or collect your wood right there. Just be sure it is legal beforehand. Kindling is also brought along to ease the starting or restarting of a fire. Wood ash must be dealt with so I have a small ash shovel and I use a metal bucket to hold the ashes until they are cooled enough for disposal. The ash bucket also carries the tent stakes during transport. A spark arrester on top of the stovepipe is needed to keep sparks from flying out and landing on the ground, nearby trees or the roof of the tent. The woodstove is also used to do a lot of cooking.
I have a couple of Roll-A-Cots® for beds. They get you off the ground for a good nights rest, are light, and pack up fairly small. A pad for the cot will help insulate you from cool air underneath and provide additional padding for comfort. My tent is designed for two hunters, but three hunters can be accommodated. I made a cloth and conduit shelf to go across the back of the tent to keep clothes and other clutter out of the way and off the ground. The shelf is supported by the tent frame and folds up for transport.
I built food and kitchen boxes to organize the food and cooking utensils. Most of the items in these boxes are never unpacked. I use the items directly from the storage boxes. To get ready for a trip I just have to resupply some food. A hinged board that stores inside one box goes across the top and locks the two boxes together to make a handy countertop. For transport, the boxes each have a lid and they can be hauled in a horizontal position without disturbing things inside (Fig. 5). Most of the food in the grub box is kept in sealed plastic containers to keep any critters from helping themselves. I also built a box that holds all the woodstove parts (stovepipe, fire grate, etc), except the stove body itself. This box then converts into a table for use inside the tent.
Below are the grub and kitchen boxes with lids on and ready to transport. The woodstove is on top of the stove parts box/table. A water jug with a spigot is a handy source of running water. I usually carry two of these 7-gallon water containers with me. A Coleman® lantern is used to supply the light at night. The lantern is hung form the center support in the tent and I always have an extra set of mantles on hand. A two burner Coleman® stove is used for cooking if the weather is too hot to have a fire going. A single burner stove can replace the bigger two burner if I don’t expect to do much cooking on it.
Camp slippers are very convenient. Mine are just a pair of rubber overshoes with some felt boot liners in them. The liners are cut short so they don’t stick up to far. It’s always nice to get out of the hunting boots, and these slippers are warm, comfy, and easy to get on and off. The rubber allows you to walk around outside if the ground is wet or there is some snow. An axe is always a handy item around camp. The scoop shovel is brought along to clear the ground of snow where the tent will be set up if that is necessary.
I use an Igloo® 5-day cooler to store any perishable food. Most of my hunts are about five days and there is usually still some ice left in the cooler on the fifth day, even in hot weather. Since I would rather hunt than cook, I make up three or four days worth of sandwiches already wrapped in cellophane. These are nice to just throw in your vest in the early morning, or have ready to eat when you get back to camp after a hunt. I also freeze some home-cooked dinners (e.g. lasagna, turkey and stuffing) in a vacuum -seal bag and drop them into boiling water to heat them up before unsealing.. The sealed bag dinners really cut down on dirty dishes since I can place the bag in a bowl or pan and cut the top open and eat directly from the open bag.
If you think you might want to consider backwoods camping for turkeys, and happen by a wall tent in your travels…well come on in! It’s warm inside and there is a fresh pot of coffee on the woodstove.