Turkey hunting hasn’t changed

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“The most dramatic part of any wild turkey experience is when you know the turkey is there and your anticipation is at a fever pitch.

“He may be gobbling on the roost, he may be in sight or out of sight on the ground, he may be hung up at 50 or 60 yards out and it’s up to you to make the right call or move”, the late Charlie Elliott wrote some 40 years ago.

Wild Turkeys

Ohio’s hunters are wildly nuts about chasing Ohio’s plentiful but elusive wild turkeys.

So with the annual spring hunt for these colorful forest and fringe-liking bombers just a couple of weeks away, it’s time to talk turkey as in what’s new and what’s old and what’s still the same.

Wondering just how much the chase for wild turkeys has changed over the last several decades, I decided to refer to a handbook on turkey hunting written by nationally known and highly respected wild turkey expert Charlie Elliott, a Pennsylvania hunter-writer who was at one time “The Man.”

Between Elliott and Kentucky’s Harold Knight of Knight and Hale fame, there just isn’t much more for a person to know about the sport than these two know.

“I’m of the humble opinion that one of the mistakes a novice hunter — or any hunter — can make is over-calling. My recommendation is to not overdo it. Better to call too little than too much.

“One of my respected mentors insists that you cannot do too much good calling. Good calling, perhaps that’s the key.”

Turkey calls

It was the early 1980s when I sought “real” information about a relatively new thing called spring gobbler season which was creating quite a stir here in the Buckeye state.

The ink was just drying on Elliott’s pocket-size handbook and at the time the source of calls and gadgets was pretty limited.

One of the best names, when it came to turkey hunting at the time, was the Penn’s Woods company located in a small rural town in western Pennsylvania.

Penn’s Woods’ calls were good calls and I wanted to hear about the sport from people who knew it well. I had hoped to run into Elliott.

While I did gather big bunches of turkey smarts from the Penn’s Woods people, the closest I got to Elliott was a copy of his freshly completed Field Guide To Wild Turkey Hunting.

I still enjoy leafing through the knowledge-packed guide and as often as I’ve turned the same pages it becomes clear that all that turkey knowledge penned nearly 50 years ago hasn’t changed one bit.

Don’t move

“When he stops gobbling, you can be sure on one or two results; he’s either gone off with a hen or is on his way to find you. Don’t move. Don’t call. Don’t do anything but make like a bush or the bark of a tree.

“The rock or root you didn’t feel when you sat down now digs into your behind. Your leg goes to sleep. Your neck and shoulders cramp. You suffer through the agony of waiting, but don’t move.

“About the time you are ready to relegate turkey hunting to the jay birds, you may hear a soft, inquiring cluck somewhere. Don’t turn your head. Don’t move.

“After more agonizing moments he’ll start walking around, looking for you, with notes that have always sound to me like Pop! Pop! Pop!

He’s circling and walks right in front you. Don’t twitch an eyelid until his eye goes out of sight behind a tree.”

What’s new?

Indeed, that was all good advice decades ago and still today. Wild turkeys are warier than all other woods creatures.

From the instant they emerge from an egg, turkeys are hunted and until they can fly up at least minimally, they are targeted by foxes, coyotes, hawks, owls, domestic and wild cats, and other predators.

No, they are not smart, they are careful. They see color and movement, and they hear everything. Turkeys are one of Ohio’s greatest hunting challenges.

So what’s new?

Decoys, camo patterns, weatherproof calls, pop-up ground blinds, shotguns design for turkey hunters, trail cameras, special shot shells, and pattern holding shotgun chokes.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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