Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Turkey Hunting: A One-Man Game


I’m not a good turkey caller but can usually call birds in or move in such a way that I can get a shot or whoever is with me can shoot a nice gobbler.

Turkey hunting is considered a one-man game among serious turkey hunters, which includes most people who have hunted them more than once. On occasion I’ll take one or two people, but really don’t like taking more than one person at a time.

However, there is much to be said for hunting alone. You choose your spot, and if the birds head the opposite direction, the hunter gets moving while trying to get ahead of them without being seen. It’s seldom easy, and most ofter is a difficult thing to do.

It’s never easy, but it’s easier for one man than for two or three. Me and two others tend to get in each other’s way. We wind up making too much noise, and all too often, one of the hunter is a talkert.

He wants to idle away slow time by gabbing at me. I don’t want to talk, and don’t want to listen to stories of past hunts, what he expects from this hunt, or answer turkey-hunting questions. I want to hunt with someone who knows how to keep his yap closed, his eyes and ears open, and who doesn’t wiggle.

That can be a pretty tall order.

My idle time is spent trying hard to get the gent into a bird. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen, and other times, the gobbler waltz’s in to the call like a rope is tied to his neck. It doesn’t always happen that way, and in fact, it seldom works like we plan it. Often, the gobbler throws a winkle at me and we have to work out the new problem.

Hunting alone pleases me a great deal. I go where I want, make decisions when they become necessary to make, and I don’t have to worry about someone else and whether I’ll hurt their feelings.

One might say it’s selfish, but who cares? It’s my hunt, it’s my time, and if I choose to hunt alone, I can and will. It’s not a case of my being antisocial; it’s more a case of knowing that one turkey hunter is far more effective at his sport than two people. That is a known fact.

The odds often are much improved for the solitary hunter. The only reason I take another person out for wild turkeys is I enjoy watching them shoot their first gobbler.

I tell them right up front. To me, this turkey hunting is serious business. Don’t try to talk to me when I’m calling, listening, and don’t do anything but what I tell you to do. If I tell you to sit still, it means you are moving around. I don’t care if your back or butt hurts. Buy a better butt pad next time.

I tell people that I have bad vision, and count on them to help me spot an incoming or circling bird. No words need to be spoken. A nudge with an elbow gets my attention, and the movement of one finger gives me the direction to the bird. Often I will spot birds first, but it doesn’t always happen in a wooded situation.

My instructions to them are simple. Sit still, don’t move any part of your body, sit with your back to a tree, pull your knees up, rest the shotgun against your shoulder and across your knees, and listen to what I whisper to you. Don’t move your head when I whisper.

I tell them that as the birds approach us or my decoys that they cannot move, even if they have the mother of all charley horses. Sit still, don’t move anything, don’t make a sound and wait for the gobbler to move directly in front of the shotgun at 20 to 35 yards.

A barely audible putt is often made when the gobbler is in position for a clean shot without other birds behind him. The sound makes them stop, and their head goes up. Be ready, and shoot that gobbler at the junction of the head and neck. The hunters are warned to keep their cheek down on the shotgun stock, and don’t lift their head when they pull the trigger or the shot will go high.

There will be plenty of time to palaver and talk once we get out of the area. Often other turkey will be with the gobbler, including other gobblers. Shoot the bird, sit still and don’t move, and let the birds wander off on their own.

Doing it this way doesn’t alert birds to humans in their midst. A shot could be confused with thunder, which turkeys hear all the time. It’s the motion and noise of a moving hunter jumping out from the front of a tree that sends the birds into the next township.

Hunting alone removes all of these potential problems. It’s one man, going one-up with a good gobbler, and without undue consideration for anyone else. It’s making personal decisions, and living with the consequences, whether they right or wrong.

I’ve made any number of mistakes in my turkey hunting career, and if another hunter tells you they haven’t, forget that conversation. Mistakes made are lessons learned, and those who won’t admit to making a turkey-hunting mistake sometime in their past, apparently are much better hunters than me ... or a better liar.

The case has been made for hunting alone, and although I take hunters out every year, I haven’t figured out how to hunt error-free yet. Maybe I should hire me a guide and learn something more about this turkey hunting business.

But I won’t because I enjoy the quiet solitude. It’s what keeps me focused and willing to put up with too little sleep.

Posted by Dave Richey on 03/24 at 06:22 PM
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