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  • Topic: Gary Clancy: Turkey hunting myths debunked

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    • March 29, 2013 7:36 AM EDT
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      Gary Clancy: Turkey hunting myths debunked

      When I started turkey hunting back in the '70s, I was told repeatedly that the hens go to the gobbler, not vice versa. That meant that when we hunters used a turkey call to imitate a hen yelping, clucking, cutting or purring, we were trying to convince the gobblers to go against their nature.

      So when we did manage to call one in, we thought we had really done something special.
      Don't get me wrong, anytime you call in a gobbler within range of your bow or shotgun, you have done something. Calling in a bird with the finely tuned senses of a tom turkey is always an accomplishment.

      But this thing about hens always going to the gobbler is simply not true. Sure, at the peak of breeding a big tom can gather up quite a harem just by gobbling aggressively from the roost in the morning. But prior to the peak and again after most of the hens have been bred, gobblers will respond readily to calling.

      Bottom line? Gobblers do go to hens.

      Another persistent myth is that when it comes to shotguns and ammunition for turkey hunting, bigger is always better, and when it comes to chokes for turkeys, only tight, tighter and tightest should even be considered.

      Yes, I bought into that for awhile. Killed more than a few gobblers with 12-gauge magnums stoked with 3½ inch ammo and a handful with 10-gauge shotguns as well. But I've also killed a fair number with 20-gauge shotguns — and not always with 3-inch loads.

      A 20-gauge is lighter to carry, much more fun to shoot and you can kill any gobbler within 40 yards stone cold dead with a plain old full-choke barrel. I think we scare a lot of women and children away from our sport by insisting they shoot the hard-kicking magnums. Some of these hunters will work their way up to the heavy artillery, others will stick with the less-punishing guns and loads. All should be welcome in the turkey woods.

      Then there is the myth that when the gobblers are "all henned-up," as turkey hunters in theSouth are fond of saying, that if you don't kill a gobbler first thing in the morning right off of the roost, you might just as well go trout fishing for the rest of the day.

      It's easy to see how this myth got started. When the hens are anxious to breed, they often roost with the gobbler or just a short distance away. When he starts gobbling on the roost in the morning, the hens that were roosted with him flop straight down to the ground to wait for him, and the ones roosted nearby come racing in. The gobbler simply flies down to begin a long day of breeding. He has no further need to gobble, so most of the time he does not. The woods go quiet and hunters give up. Cafes in small rural towns serve breakfast to a lot of camouflaged hunters by 9 a.m. when the hens are in breeding mode.

      So what's a hunter to do when his precious five days to hunt fall within the prime breeding period? You've got two choices. You can hound the dominant gobbler and his harem of hens, trying your best to get the boss hen mad enough to come looking for you. When she does, she will drag the rest of the girls and lover boy right along with her.

      The other option is to forget about the flock and go off looking for a gobbler with less stature who does not have the ladies in his pocket. These gobblers are out there, but sometimes you would never know it. They won't gobble much, if at all. When they do, it will be a quiet, subdued gobble. The best way for you to get their attention is to do some quiet, subdued yelping and then sit tight.

      These subordinate gobblers are not going to come rushing right in. They know where that can get them. But if you can sit tight for up to an hour, not using your call more than every 20 minutes. There is a good chance that one of these two-year-old gobblers will come tip-toeing in.

      And then there is the myth that the only way to take a turkey with bow is to set up a pop-up blind, put a few decoys out around the blind and sit back and wait for some turkeys to show up. This is without doubt the most consistently successful way of taking a turkey with archery gear, but it is not the only method. An increasing number of bowhunters, most of whom have taken several gobblers from pop-up blinds, are now hunting on foot and going to the turkeys. I guess instead of "running-and-gunning" you might call it "running-and-flinging." Whatever you want to call it, I can vouch for just how exciting this free-wheeling style of bowhunting turkeys can be, having taken a couple of gobblers outside of the blind myself.

      So don't believe everything you read and hear when it comes to turkey hunting, because what passes for gospel today, might just be the next big myth.
      This post was edited by Chris Avena at March 29, 2013 7:38 AM EDT

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