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How To/Pro-Tips

Gobblers With Hens

Calling a gobbler away from a harem of hens is one of the toughest plays in turkey hunting. "You can't beat the real thing" holds true most of the time. Well, if you can't beat 'em, JOIN 'EM! Turkey hens live within a well-established pecking order year-round. Every hen knows her place. The dominant hen is every bit as jealous of her position as is the boss gobbler is of his territory. Challenging the boss hen can be your best bet on a henned-up gobbler. Loud, aggressive cackles, cutting and the fighting purr all serve notice to the boss hen that another "hen" is in the neighborhood. She won't like it. If she and her flock come looking for that upstart "hen," Mr. Boss Gobbler will follow along. However, the hens almost always arrive before the gobbler gets in range. To make this play work, you must have the gun up and ready. With sharp-eyed hens all around you, you must be absolutely immobile and completely camouflaged.

The Turkey Hunting Shotgun

Today's turkey hunter usually carries a very specialized shotgun. The words "portable" and "powerful" sum it up the best. A dedicated turkey gun should be lightweight for easy carrying. Most are equipped with slings. They tend to have short barrels so they can be easily maneuvered in heavy cover and blinds. Most have a dull finish and many of the newest models are finished in a non-glare camouflage pattern. This is extremely important if you have to move your gun a few inches to line up on an in-range gobbler. Most have rifle-type sights and many have low-power scopes mounted on them. The "power" part comes from big loads and tight chokes. The three-inch 12-gauge magnum is most popular and many hunters choose the 3 1/2-inch 12 and 10 gauge guns. Super-tight "turkey-full" chokes deliver 80% or tighter patterns at 40 yards. This is a very different gun from the shotguns intended for flying targets. It is a true turkey-hunting specialist.

Turkey Calling Basics

Many hunters are hung up on which type of turkey call to get and most have a number of different types. That's fine and offers some real hunting advantages if the hunter is reasonably proficient with all, or at least most, of them. It doesn't take contest-championship calling ability to successfully call wild turkeys. However, it does take reasonable proficiency in imitating turkey talk to consistently take gobblers. Practice makes perfect, or at least good enough. You should get an instructional tape with your call or watch a few of the many turkey hunting videos to get a good idea of what real turkeys and top callers sound like. Practice until you sound pretty much like them. It's best to practice out in the open and tape your own calling to see where your technique needs improvement. After you master one call type, move on to another. There are times when being able to switch to a different call is a very productive turkey hunting tactic.

Sight In For Gobblers

You shoot a turkey gun like a rifle, so you should sight it in like a rifle. In fact many turkey-hunting shotguns now have adjustable rifle-type sights or low-power scopes mounted on them. Start off at close range, say about 25 yards, so you can see your pattern target well. Shoot from a steady position and see how close you are to your aiming point. Adjustable sights and scopes are easy to adjust by moving the sight in the same direction you want the pattern to move. For traditional shotgun bead sights, you have to alter the stock to move the position of your shooting eye, which serves as the rear sight. Raise the comb to raise the pattern and lower the comb if the gun shoots high. Left and right pattern shifts require sanding down or building up the thickness of the comb. Once you have your turkey gun sighted in, shoot at some longer targets to see how far your effective pattern holds up.

Turkey Calling Style

A lot of people say "contest-style" calling isn't effective for real turkey hunting. However, if by "contest-style" calling," one means loud, raucous and aggressive cackling, cutting and yelping, there's very much a place for that in the turkey woods. There are two times this is especially true: early in the season when the gobblers aren't really fired up yet and when trying to crank up a gobbler at midday. This is when calling loudly and aggressively can get something going. However, with hard-hunted gobblers or when any gobbler gets close, soft, sweet and infrequent calling is a good idea. A gobbler doesn't have to be extremely call shy to hang up and wait for what he thinks is an extremely aggressive hen to meet him halfway. There's hardly any style of calling that won't work on gobblers sometimes and there is probably no style that will work all the time. The trick is knowing what style to use under what circumstances.

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