Turkey hunting sometimes demands the patience of Job

Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat

Watch one of the myriad of spring turkey hunting television programs or YouTube videos out there and it would seem that spring turkey hunting is a fast paced adventure.

You know, the hunter gets out of the truck, owl hoots a couple of times, moves a couple of hundred yards away from the roost, calls a bird in to shotgun range, and downs it with a single well-placed load of copper plated No. 5s.

Followed by a hasty retreat back to the lodge for breakfast just after the sun has breached the horizon.

But sometimes the best laid plans of mice, men, and spring turkey hunters don’t turn out that way.

When that happens, a hunter has got to earn his baked longbeard in the oven, trying to outsmart a battle-tested bird that wins more times than not.

Sometimes, a hunter gets a turkey by playing by the rules. And sometimes, a spring turkey chaser has got to throw the rule book away and revert to old-school turkey hunting tactics, the kind that this legendary springtime affair has been built upon for generations.

Instead of running and gunning, it can still pay to sit down for a spell and exercise some extreme patience.

The patience of Job, if you will.

“If you’ve done your scouting and you know there are birds in the area sit and call and be patient,” notes Kevin Faver, a turkey hunting expert who opined on the spring malady a few years ago.

“No matter what you hear about turkeys, there are very few easy hunts,” he added in the Mossy Oak Pro Staff news release. “So when you go, be patient.”

Why be patient? Because heavily pressured gobblers — from either hunters, predators, or both — will often make their moves quietly and slowly, scarcely uttering a peep as they case the woods for any sign of would-be trouble.

With a silent tom approaching like that, the hunter often never knows the longbeard is there until the bird is spooked by said hunter moving a body part or getting up to relocate.

Another trick to going old school for spring turkeys is to hunt much deeper into the morning.

Because for all of the magazine talk and filmed hunts of turkey hunting celebrities on TV, it often seems that this spring pastime is a quick and easy affair that is all but over once a tom hits the ground below the roost tree.

Most days, nothing could be further from the truth as a longbeard gathers his harem and proceeds away from a hunter’s softly pleading calls, not towards them.

But give the tom time to court his lady friends and they will eventually leave him high and dry as they head for a nest or other parts of the woods.

When that happens mid to late morning, it can suddenly be game on when most hunters are heading for the truck.

“If you don’t kill that bird from the roost then give him an hour or two to hang with hens,” says Faver. “That 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.(time-period) can be magical.”

A final word of advice to spring turkey hunters is to throw longbeards a change-up or two instead of a steady diet of the same hunting pitch.

“I think too many hunters go by the book,” said Faver. “Sometimes you have to think outside the box.”

Especially when a tom is henned up.

“If you sit on a bird that you know has hens more than likely he’s not coming to you,” said Faver. “You have to figure out a way to either call the hens to you or make a move to get in front of the birds.”

Of course, making a move on a bird should only be done when such a move is safe to attempt. Be especially careful of doing so on public land, making safety — not the tagging of a bird — the one and only consideration of the day.

If all of this seems a little unorthodox as compared to what a hunter sees on television programs, well, that’s kind of the point.

Because despite what TV and filmed hunts might attempt to show, there is very little about spring turkey hunting that is by the book.

“Always keep in mind no two hunts are alike,” said Faver.

Amen to that. And somewhere, old Job — if he cares anything about turkey hunting — is nodding his head with a wry smile.