Good conversationalists start by engaging others. They then sit back and listen, understanding that most people really want to talk about themselves. This is especially true of men. When the babble lags, a little prompt is all that is needed to get them started again. If you understand this concept, then talking with old Mr. Tom will be easy. Remember that listen and silent contain the same letters.
Calling in wild turkeys is one of the most difficult tasks in bird hunting. It demands both great patience and restraint. Oddly enough you do not have to be that remarkably accurate in duplicating the exact sound of the calls, but it is important that they be at the right time and at the right level. If you remember that you are trying to get the tom to come to you, most of the time you will be trying to sound like the soft purrs and yelps of the hens rather than the powerful gobble of the toms.
There are a number of excellent calls out there on the market. You will need at least two to make the right sounds. The first is a chalk box call. With this simple device you can make a wide variety of yelps and purrs that could resonate with an eager tom. Many of these calls come packaged with a CD that can help you when you practice. The second is a gobble call that makes the sound of an aroused tom. By far the box call is the most important.
At this time of year the birds have already concentrated quite a bit. The flocks of hens are being serviced by a dominant male. He will pay attention to these hens first. But as the day and season wears on, he can be enticed out to service a shy hen just out of his normal area. This is where the call comes into play.
The the six most important keys to success in hunting turkeys are: 1. Don't Move. 2. Don't Move. 3. Don't move. 4. Don't overcall. 5. Don't overcall. 6. Don't overcall.
You read my column on preseason scouting, so you already know where there are three or four flocks of birds working. In the evening before you go hunting, take your owl call with you and set up on a knoll near where you think a flock is located. At dusk or a bit after, just listen for a while. You may be surprised to hear turkeys talking to each other or the thumping of wings as they roost up for the night. In the absence of that, give a good hoot on the owl call. Wait a few minutes for a defiant gobble. If you don't hear anything try it once more. This may be all you need to do to relocate your roosting flock.
If you still don't get an answer to your call, move to your next possible spot. Keep moving through your scouted areas. If you get one answer, do not overcall. Simply note the roost and move on. Work to get at least a couple answers in an evening in case some other hunter beats you to your favorite spot the next day.
Try to get yourself into the area on opening morning at least an hour before shooting time. This will give you time to do a couple of things that will increase your odds of taking a tom. First, you want to beat the competition to the flock. If you don't, it will give you time to move on and set up for your second choice. Always have a back-up plan in mind. Do not compete with another hunter for the same birds. If he got there fair and square ahead of you, simply move on. Secondly, it will allow you to give an owl hoot early to try to get a more precise location of the roost. In this case, only hoot once, you do not want to overcall.
Once located, move quietly but quickly to a spot on a level with or above the flock, no closer than two hundred yards from them. If you try to move in too close, they will quietly drop out of the roost and beat a hasty retreat to get away from you. Set out three or four decoys, get settled into a hiding place that offers as much unobstructed view as possible while at the same time has enough background vegetation so you will just blend in with your surroundings. Then wait. He will come quietly. He will move slowly a few feet at a time or he will run quickly, but in either case he will be on high alert. If he sees any movement or hears any sound, he will be gone in a heart beat.
Remember that a mature tom will expect the hens to come to him. If he is on fire, you may be able to coax him out of his comfort zone. When you have located the flock, give him a light hen cackle to let him know that there is a possible mate he can't see that is hesitant to come to him. Do not overcall. Let him service the hens in his flock. Often it will be an hour or two before he is ready to explore other possibilities. Most turkeys are killed between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. for this very reason. Maybe a little purr after an hour or so is all you need.
The wild turkey can see a flea move on the squirrel that is chattering in the tree behind you. They have spectacular vision. When I say don't move, I mean keep your head and hands still. Sit quietly and let only your eyes roam. Even those should be concealed behind head netting.
"You are trying to force a tom out of his normal routine," says Stu Bristol, an expert turkey guide and author from Maine. "Under most circumstances you would never get him to do that, but when they are breeding, they will risk such behavior. Once he locates the sound of the hen, let him come on in. The decoys will help him focus, making him less wary."
You can get more hunting tips from Stu at stubristol.com.
Right now you should be devoting a couple mornings a week to finding birds. The big flocks will roam about a bit, but unless really driven off, they will stay pretty much in that area for the next couple of months. Just like when you were in school, spend an hour a day DOING YOUR HOMEWORK!