“Only four misses this morning,” was the text I received from a turkey-guide buddy one April morning. “But we killed a bird,” was the follow-up.
After dark I spoke with him on the phone, and he ended up with seven misses and two filled tags for his three clients. That season he had clients kill 51 birds with 52 misses. The season prior he had 68 clients put birds on the ground, with a total of 28 misses.
Why so many misses? I believe it comes down to today's specialized turkey shotguns and loads.
Identifying Turkey Turnoffs - Where You're Least Likely to Find a Spring Gobbler
You can improve your odds of bagging a long-bearded spring tom by concentrating on the best habitat areas. But another way to up your odds of killing a bird is to identify the WORST locations—types of habitat gobblers rarely venture into during spring. Then don’t waste your time hunting those spots.
For many years, the 3-inch, 12-gauge ruled the roost with turkey hunters, but with the introduction of the 3 1/2-inch shell, the 12-gauge upped the ante with a whopping 2 3/8-ounce payload of shot. However, these behemoth shells come at a price — in both cost and punishing recoil.
Nothing is more satisfying than shooting a turkey in the face with a load of 5s. It’s just such a wonderful experience, and it is made even more special with the right gun.
It wasn’t that long ago when dedicated-turkey shotguns hit the market and the category has blown up in lockstep with the rise in turkey populations and our desire to hunt them.
These days, it’s a sad gobbler chaser who doesn’t possess a camouflage shotgun chambered for 3.5-inch magnums and choked just right in order to place a ridiculous amount of pellets in a paper plate at 40 yards.
When I first started turkey hunting more than three decades ago, I had two mouth diaphragm calls. I shot the first two birds I called in on opening day.
The same happened the next spring season.
During season three, a number of birds responded to my calls, but I couldn't pull them within range. Then I bought another diaphragm call and a box call. A couple weeks later, I got a slate call.
Late in the season I finally filled my single tag, and it took all my calls to convince the finicky tom to come in.
Many turkey hunters don't believe they need a scope to make an accurate shot at a bird only 30 or 40 yards away. That's especially true for long-time shotgunners skilled at hunting ducks, pheasants, doves, rabbits and quail.
But the typical sight on a shotgun isn't very good for the precise aiming needed in turkey hunting. Many shotguns have only a front bead sight, with no rear sight, and that can make for difficult shooting using an ultra-full-choke turkey gun.
The magnitude of the first call when turkey hunting cannot be understated.
If it is made from the wrong place, a hunter's location easily could be discovered. If it is made at the wrong time, a gobbler, or his hens, could become suspicious and, instead of leaving the roost toward the hunter, they could fly out the other way.
Calling to birds on the roost is an easy conversation to get sucked into.
Thunder chicken, hammerhead, boss tom and Mr. Waddles, are just some of the slang terms turkey hunters give to old, mature gobblers. One thing turkey hunters don’t lack is an imagination and the ability to have fun.
Mossback is another term you’ll hear, referring to an old tom that’s alluded hunters for years, living in deep, dark forests so wet, the bird has moss growing on its back.
Geography, as much as ingenuity, plays a role in what slang terms are assigned to a turkey.