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The Roving Sportsman… Clucks, Purrs, Putts and Gobbles!

Several years ago, while spring gobbler hunting in Alabama, I met a prolific turkey caller who had been a highly successful spring turkey hunter for over 20 years in both his native state of Alabama and several neighboring states. He shared with me an interesting theory, and, based on his successes, I decided to try it out for myself.

It seems that every time this old timer would enter the turkey woods in search of a gobbler, he would carry multiple calls. If fact, he would always have at least two box calls, 4 slate calls and a half dozen or so mouth calls. Some days, he would even take along an extra box call or two and a favorite wingbone call. It certainly seemed like overkill, but here was his theory:

“No two turkeys sound exactly alike, especially to other turkeys, and turkeys often make the strangest sounds!”

In his first few seasons of turkey hunting, he realized that not only do individual birds sound different, but that individual birds often react differently to the same calls. On several occasions, birds did not respond to the pitch or tone of a particular call, but by changing to another call, birds would respond. Thus, he learned to carry multiple types of calls and to have several of each type in his vest when he headed to the turkey woods.

As to the sounds they make, they frequently don’t follow “the rules.” Meaning that gobblers don’t just gobble in the springtime when they are lovesick, but can be heard gobbling in the fall as well. And while the “kee-kee-run” of a lost jake is most often heard in the fall as young birds try to get together, they will sometimes make that same call in the springtime.

The takeaway from this theory is that there is no “rulebook” that turkeys follow, and perhaps the best approach is to offer different tones or pitches from the calls you use and to change up the calls you normally make and offer something different in your presentations. One of the most used calls that a lot of spring gobbler hunters include to locate and to lure in a gobbler is a series of a half dozen or so “yelps.” Change things up by offering a soft “purr” or series of “purrs” from time to time instead. Another really effective, but infrequently used sound that will attract attention is to not use any of your calls, but instead merely scratch in the dry leaves with a stick. Make three stokes, wait a moment, then make three strokes again, simulating a bird scratching in the leaves for various foods. Mix things up a bit by making different sounds with your various calls you are carrying and intermittently add the scratching technique to include an authentic sound that turkeys often make in the woods.

With the opening of the Pennsylvania spring gobbler season just weeks away (the Youth Day is Saturday, April 24 and the statewide opener is Saturday, May 1), now is the time to think about the calling routine you will use this coming season and devote some time now to practicing the various sounds that turkeys make, and use several different types of calls to do so. The more practicing you do before the season, the greater your chances of attracting the attention of a nearby gobbler and luring him into range.

One caution – don’t go wandering around the woods where you plan to hunt as you practice making various turkey sounds. It is very tempting to try to locate gobblers before the season by going out and making calls in hopes of hearing a bird respond. The problem is that once he responds, he very well may start coming your way and, if he spots you, you have just been “busted” and you have just educated that bird to be very wary of the calls that you make once the season is open. Be patient and practice your calling at home – not in the woods where you plan to hunt!

Practice, practice, then practice some more. And don’t be afraid to throw in some sounds that you might normally hear in the fall. If you make an “off-key” sound, don’t worry about it. As you spend more time in the woods, you will no doubt hear some very strange sounds that just might turn out to be that of a hen turkey.

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