To Understand a Turkey, Walk a Mile
in His Feet
By Babe Winkelman
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[June 28, 2014]
yelped, he gobbled. I purred, he fanned. But there was a
problem. He did it 80 yards away, and for a long, long time. No
matter what I tried, that hung-up Tom just wouldn't close the
distance. What to do, what to do?
Ever since I began hunting and fishing, I've tried to approach my
quarry by understanding what makes them tick. I've tried to get
inside their heads. Walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak. Or
should I say walk a mile in their hooves, paws, feet, fins. Oh wait,
that would be "swim a mile in their fins."
At any rate, what's important here is for hunters (and anglers) to
have a working knowledge of their prey and to use that (along with
our superior cunning) against them. What I've learned is that
there's a 3-part common denominator for all creatures which serves
as a foundation for outsmarting your adversary. The common
denominator is that all living creatures are driven by these simple
(1) To eat.
(2) To not get eaten.
(3) To breed.
Understanding this makes it easier to appreciate how all living
things relate to protective cover; how they develop predictable
travel patterns between sleeping areas and food sources; and how
their need to breed creates huge vulnerabilities in their desire to
"not get eaten."
So, back to this hung-up Tom. To get him to close the distance, I
had to do something. What I was doing wasn't working well enough. So
I instinctively studied the situation as it related to the 1,2,3
common denominator I just mentioned.
Was the Tom on a food source he simply didn't want to leave? Hmmmm,
my answer was no. He was spending most of his time strutting out
there at 80 yards. Occasionally he'd lay his feathers down to peck
at a seed or bug, then gobble and go back to strutting. And frankly,
the cover type between me and him was identical, so whatever he was
eating could be eaten closer to me. So I checked off #1.
Then I considered #2. Was there something about the set-up that had
this Tom on edge? He seemed to like my calling, because he gobbled
every time I called. It got him excited! I surmised that there was
nothing about my ambush position that made him nervous, because he
didn't act goofy at all. I was in a hunting blind and I knew he
hadn't seen me. So I checked #2 off the list as well.
Which left me with dwelling upon #3 - the need to breed. Obviously
this Tom was full of love, so why hang up? Then I heard it: "yelp,
yelp, yelp, yelp, yelp..." A real live hen was just beyond a slight
dip in the landscape below the Tom. I couldn't see her, and never
knew she was there. So I quickly understood that he was "playing the
field" to hens on either side of him. Smart bird... ups the odds of
getting some action!
[to top of second column]
Now, how could I compete with a living, breathing, sexy hen? I had
my calls and plastic decoy, sure. But that's no comparison to the
real thing! Then I asked myself: "What if I could convince Mr. Tom
that there's a second hen here? And that she's going away!"
So inside the blind I put a diaphragm call in my mouth that had a
wildly different sound than the box call I had been using. My plan
was to begin calling with the box, which he was accustomed to, and
then cut in over the top of that calling with the mouth call. He
would hear TWO birds! Then I would continue calling as Hen #2, only
I would gradually turn away from the Tom's direction each time I
called, and make it softer, so he'd think a hot hen was walking away
and giving him the cold shoulder. Maybe, just maybe, he'd get so
upset about being left at the alter that he'd come running.
I set my plan in motion. 30 seconds later it was lights-out for Mr.
Turkey hunting success takes a mix of skill and luck. It also
requires psychology. Even though they're very peculiar birds, if you
understand how their minds work at a primal level, you can put your
big brain to work outsmarting them. I hope that helps you next time
a turkey hangs up on you.
[By BABE WINKELMAN]
Babe Winkelman hosts "Good Fishing" and
"Outdoor Secrets," the most-watched fishing and hunting programs on
television. Tune in on NBC Sports Network, Destination America,
Velocity, Time Warner Sports Texas & New York, and many local
broadcast channels. Visit
Winkelman.com for airtimes and more information. Follow
Babe Winkelman on
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