Ask The Turkey Tracker

Posted on May 7, 2013



May Column


(Editors note, As a spin off from our regular Ask The Deer Tracker column, each May we will run the column with turkeys being the topic. As always, send your questions to:



Q. – How often do you call and what are your favorite calls to use?

                                                                                              B.D. – Williamsport, MD


A.  Not nearly as much as I used to. Turkeys have impeccable hearing along with the ability to pinpoint exactly where the call resonated from. Why do I call much less frequently than I once did? Because I thought about how annoying it is when someone repeatedly calls me on the phone – some telemarketer that I want to ignore. It doesn’t matter what they are trying to sell, I’m not buying. I figure the best way to get rid of them, even those persistent ones, is to ignore them and eventually they’d stop calling. If a tom is interested, he’ll come, maybe not as quickly as I’d like, but come he will. However, if I have a gobbler that is responding every time I call, then I will ramp my calling up to continue to entice him. Every gobbler is different and based upon how he responds will dictate how much or little ultimately I will call. As far as my preferred calls go, my favorite is a diaphragm as it allows my hands to be free and requires no movement on my part. I also like a box call, especially first thing in the morning. The other call I use at times in conjunction with yelping is a gobble call which has been affective for me on several turkeys.

Q. – Can you distinguish the difference between gobbles from a mature tom and those of jakes?

                                                                                                   P.H. – Dover, NH


A.     Yes and no, at times due to the tone it is quite evident that it is a jake, but at other times it’s nearly impossible.      Where the bird is located in relation to me and the type of vegetation separating us has an effect on tonality. When the birds are on the roost during the predawn crescendo, a good deal of the gobbling that is heard typically comes from jakes. The reason for this is that they are severely restricted to hanging around the edges with not much chance of getting any breeding activity. He calls with the hope that perhaps he might get lucky. Secondly, jakes are wary to come to the hen call due to fear; a real fear that some tom will come along and remind them of the pecking order. Of course, when you have four-to-five jakes that travel together, they as a group will gang up on an old gobbler and keep him on the run.


In the proverbial words of Tom Kelly, “Some of them, like a great many men you may have met, have a tendency to open their mouths too much. And, as with younger men, the younger turkeys sin principally in this respect.”

Q. – Given the fact that you began your turkey hunting career late, what has been the secret to your success?

                                                                                                     H.L. – Windham, ME


A.- First, knowing of my disadvantage, I willingly went under the wing of an accomplished turkey hunter and made every attempt to learn as much as humanly possible from him. Not only was I keenly observant,  but I asked numerous questions. I shot my first turkey under his watchful eye, and my first in Maine as a result of his calling. Following that schooling I figured it was sink or swim and if I was ever going to be  somewhat proficient at it, needed to give it a try alone. Along the way there were many miserable failure before success was found. I counted those letdowns as valuable lessons not to be repeated.


 On top of that, the single best instruction that I have received was from the turkey itself. For the past five years I have spent nearly two months prior to turkey season photographing this great bird. In so doing, I have learned more about turkeys behaviorally then I could have in any other way. Having a ringside seat to birds that have yet to be hunted has provided me valuable insight, sounds and images of turkeys doing what turkeys do. I can tell you, even after all that time spent around these birds, I still have far more questions than I have answers. It has always been my belief that the more you know about the wildlife that you are hunting the better your success will eventually be.

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