The sound of that turkey's gobble was so loud and so close it almost blew my cap off. At least that's the way it felt.
I had been sitting with my back to a tree for nearly a half hour, hen decoy in front in a grassy swale. Occasionally, I'd yelp on either my box or the diaphragm call in my mouth and throw in the odd cluck once in a while. Nothing had responded.
Now, there was a tom within a few feet of me, and the only reason I knew he was there was that throaty gobble that had startled me so badly.
I was gulping air now, and my heart was pounding so hard I was afraid the turkey would hear it. Nothing to be alarmed about. It is my usual reaction to a turkey coming into my setup.
The big bird strode into view only a few feet to my left, head down and feathers packed closely to its body. I could see the beady eye focused on the faux hen, and I marveled at how small these big birds can look when they are not puffed up.
A few more steps and the tom's head came up and he fluffed out, tail spread hiding his face from me. I could hear the drumming noise they make as air fills their chest.
I took the opportunity to raise my gun and rest it on my knee, pointing at the puffed up tom.
With every feather on display, the tom walked out to the decoy and turned to face it and me. It's head was tucked down, but a loud cluck on my diaphragm caused him to raise his head for a look, and I filled my tag right there.
That's a scene that will be played out across Siouxland when turkey seasons open next month. And any turkey hunter worth his salt is getting ready right now.
I think the biggest draw of turkey hunting for me is calling the toms into shotgun range. Most of the time it is a great challenge. Other times it seems they want to commit suicide. You just never know.
It takes some learning to call well and to master all the different types of calls out there. It also takes practice, and now is the time to begin.
The whole idea of calling is to make the tom respond with a gobble. In nature, the hens go to the tom's gobble, but in hunting you have to make the tom come to you. And that is usually a difficult task.
In areas that have seen some hunting pressure, the tom may not respond with a gobble. He may move toward you, but not make a sound. When he sees the decoy, however, he will gobble just as the Iowa bird did that I described at the beginning of this story. I should add that there is another response to seeing the decoy, and that is the tom might turn and slink away.
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Toms can become decoy shy, and I've had several of them escape when they spotted the decoy. In fact, I rarely use a decoy any more when hunting public land, especially late in the season.
There are a lot of different kinds of turkey calls on the market right now. Let's look at some of them.
The easiest call to use is the push button call. All you do is push a button and the call responds with a hen's yelp. Put four or five yelps together in a timed cadence and you have a good chance of attracting a tom.
The box call is probably the next easiest to use. It is one of the most effective calls out there, and I usually have at least two in my turkey hunting vest. With a box call you simply pass the lid over one edge of the box to get a yelp. On most box calls one side is a hen yelp and the other side is a deeper pitched tom's yelp. You can also make clucks and purrs on the box, and even gobbles, so it is a very versatile call. Downside is it requires movement to make the call and another is it doesn't work if it gets wet.
Then there is the slate call. Slate calls are now made from a variety of materials besides slate. Among them are acrylics, glass and aluminum. You make the turkey sounds with a striker which you drag across the surface of the call. There are days when a tom will not gobble to any other call, but hit him with a slate and he'll respond.
The diaphragm call is a simple piece of latex spread across an aluminum frame in the shape of a horseshoe. There can be one layer or as many as four layers of latex stretched across the opening. The more layers there are, the more difficult it is to learn to make turkey sounds.
However, the diaphragm call is a must for a turkey hunter to learn. The big advantage is that this is the only call out there that does not require movement. And just because you do not see a turkey out there doesn't mean that one is not looking at you.
A lot of hunters are afraid to call because they fear making a calling mistake and spooking a tom. Well, there are calling mistakes you can make, but calling badly is not one of them. Some of the worst turkey calling I've heard has come from real, live turkeys. Sure, you want to get good at calling and make all the right sounds, but if a couple of yelps are off key, don't worry about it.
Probably the biggest calling mistake hunters make is simply calling too much. Do a series of yelps and if no tom answers, wait five minutes or so before making another.
If a gobbler does answer, answer him back. If he keeps gobbling, keep it up to get him going and then shut up and listen. If the gobbles keep getting louder he is coming in. Don't call again unless he hangs up. Then hit him with a series of yelps.
Once the tom is within view, stop calling. It's amazing how well tom turkeys can determine exactly where the calling is coming from. If you call with him in view, he will spot you.
With turkey season just around the corner, it's time to begin preparations for your hunt. Brushing up on your turkey calling techniques is just one thing you have to do to get ready.