Turkey Hunting – How I Got Started
By: Monte Perron
In April of 1992 I had the good fortune of tagging along with a good friend on the opening day of spring turkey season. My friend, Richard Fox Jr., was an accomplished hunter and had been mentoring me as a deer hunter for years. Now he was going to get me started as a turkey hunter. I was more excited about what I knew I would learn than the possibility of getting my first bird. I was not disappointed, because I got my first wild turkey and the foundational skills to get me started.
I had some advantages on that first hunt that were not obvious to me at the time. The biggest advantage was that I completely trusted Richard. Knowing absolutely nothing about turkey hunting made it possible for me to be completely open minded and take in everything that he made available to me. I had never hunted turkeys. In fact, I had never even seen a turkey hunting video. I had no pre-conceived notions or expectations, accept for the expectation to learn how to do it in my own. I did not think that I would become proficient in one outing, but I did expect to learn how to get started. Over two decades and lots of turkey hunts later, I now realize the value of his empowerment. I am very grateful.
When the lights came on that crisp morning I was stunned by how many owls there were in the area. Many of them sounded a little sick and after a few minutes I realized they were other turkey hunters. You thought I was kidding about not knowing anything about turkey hunting, didn’t ya? We had not yet heard a turkey gobble, so I was not putting the two together – owl hoots and turkeys gobbling. Nevertheless, being both naïve and perceptive I knew there had to be a reason for the owl calling so I asked Richard what was up? He said “watch this”, and proceeded to mimic an owl with his natural voice. His owl did not sound sick, and at least 8 different turkeys gobbled out in response. Now I could put the two together, and I was empowered with the knowledge that owl calls can be used to locate gobblers at first light. More importantly, I was made aware that you could gain an advantage by provoking a turkey to gobble.
We used that advantage to cut the distance and set up on the first gobbling bird. After a while Richard began to mimic a hen turkey with yelping sounds that he made with the use of a mouth call. This is the one thing I had some familiarity with because I had bought a set of “starter” calls that came with an instructional audio tape. I used that tutorial to learn how to use those mouth calls. By the morning of the hunt I could make turkey sounds like my mentor. Of course, I left them in my pocket because I was learning from the master. I was too smart then, and I am still too smart to –“guide the guide.” At this stage of the hunt I had learned I needed to locate, set up, and call. Sounds a little simplistic, but I was looking for something I could build on and I was encouraged.
In reflection, I am glad that I had never seen a turkey hunting video. Why? Because our first hunt was unsuccessful. Of course, you hardly ever see an unsuccessful hunt on video. What would be the point? That being said, many novices have unrealistic expectations based on the utopian world seen on video. Once again, I make reference to the advantage my ignorance provided. I had no unrealistic expectations, just the anticipation of empowerment. At this stage of the hunt, I was enlightened with the knowledge that you may not succeed when a gobbler has hens that do not want to come your way. That became evident as I heard hens going toward the gobbler and continued to hear the gobbler as he traveled away from us. Hearing the hens in his proximity made it obvious that they were together. Richard confirmed what I suspected by telling me that the gobbler was “henned up.” I learned two things – turkeys do not come running just because you call to them, and hens can be a challenge.
I learned another thing from that unsuccessful hunt. At that point, it was apparent that my mentor was just getting started, so I learned not to give up when you don’t connect on the first bird. Richard was planning his next move well before that first bird showed his cards. He took me straight to a place where he knew turkeys regularly traveled. He described this place as a “funnel for the turkeys” and strategically placed me where I could take advantage of that natural travel route. Knowing that I could call a little, he instructed me to yelp occasionally and be patient. With that instruction he departed to find a place where he might connect. Less than an hour later a jake walked by out of shotgun range. I was able to coax him in with a couple of yelps from my new mouth call, and one shot from my Remington pump was the climax of my first successful wild turkey hunt. I had done it! Killed a turkey? Yep, and gotten empowered at the same time.
I have obviously built upon the start that my mentor and friend provided, but I was truly blessed to have access to Richard Fox, Jr. I have continued to seek his guidance and he remains willing to help. Thank you my friend.
“GET AFTER EM”