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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fine tune your calling for turkey season

“Turkey Hunting Ain’t a Sport; It’s a Disease!”
-Ben Rogers Lee

The above quotation by the legendary turkey hunter and one of the first professional call makers, Ben Rogers Lee, realistically sums up the feeling that many of us who have become addicted to turkey hunting have. The sport really grows on you. There are few things that can compare to being in the woods as the first rays of light come over the eastern horizon and the forest resonates with the gobble of a big tom turkey about a hundred yards away.
There are a lot of factors that determine the difference between success and failure in turkey hunting and calling is only one of them. Nevertheless it is an important one. Spring turkey seasons opens on May 1, a mere two weeks away. Veteran turkey hunters have marked the calendars and are checking their gear.
Even though many of them are quite proficient at calling in turkeys, they will still be practicing their calls. The point is that we don’t practice to achieve perfection. We practice to achieve realism and have the confidence that we will make the proper calls easily when the time comes.
In the real world the gobblers will sound off and the receptive hens will come to the gobbler. But hunters have to change the equation and sound like an eager hen that refuses to come and finally gets the lovesick gobbler to come to the call. Often in the early season the hens are not quite ready to breed but the toms are fired up and will respond to effective calling. This is especially true with the less dominant or satellite toms.
The basic calls that a hunter will make during the spring season are the yelp, cutt, cluck, purr and occasionally the cackle. These can be made with a box call, slate and pencil or diaphragm (mouth) call. Each has its advantages. The box call is the easiest to use and has the greatest volume. Many hunters feel the slate and pencil call is most realistic. Diaphragm calls leave the hands free and can be made without movement even though they are initially harder to learn to use.
The yelp is the most common call and sounds roughly like a two syllable “yee-awk.” If you are using the slate and pencil you make a small “c” or fishhook shaped movement on the slate pot in the area between the perimeter and the center of the pot. There are different methods of holding the pencil but it should be done lightly and it will produce a sharp, realistic sound.
With a box call you need to practice to make a consistent call with the proper amount of pressure, speed and swing. Give the paddle a full swing across the edge of the box and don’t lift the paddle off the box. The motion should be easy and done consistently, although you will want to vary the calls when you are in the field.
Experts suggest making the “cutt” (a short, sharp call) by holding your hand around the call and using your thumb to hold the paddle against the rail. Then pop the paddle gently with the fingers of the other hand. To make a purr hold the call horizontally and edge the paddle gently across the side of the box, lifting it sharply at the end.
Although you want to make realistic calls, the more important thing is to know the cadence and know when to make the calls. For example while the tom is on the roost, you should make a few soft tree yelps to let him know where you are. But don’t overcall. Wait until he flies down before you start your regular yelps.
Start with a few (three or four) yelps or purrs and then gradually extend the sequence and volume. When the gobbler responds but fails to come towards your calls you might want to try a cackle or change the pace of your calling. If a gobbler does start to come in to your calls, make a few soft purrs and stop calling. He knows where the calls came from and will circle around trying to find the hen that he thinks made them.
Don’t be discouraged if your calls do not sound like the instructional video or tape of calls. My friend and mentor, the late Ward Coe used to say that some of the worst calls that he ever heard came from a real hen.
This is also a good time to check your shotgun and see where your gun shoots and how it patterns. If you are using a different gun or a different load you will want to know if your gun centers the pattern, or if it shoots high, etc. at the point of aim. This is necessary to put the greatest concentration of pellets in a small area around the head and neck area of the bird.
Different guns, brands of ammunition, and different loads shoot differently. Use a large piece of butcher paper with a 40 diameter inch circle and see how many pellets and where they are concentrated in the smaller circles at different shots. You want to have 60 pellets in a 15 inch circle to be effective at killing a turkey.
Number 5 shot is a good compromise with good density and penetration/energy at 50 yards. Many hunters like the newer Hevi Shot which gives both density and energy at 55 yards or more but it is expensive. At a cost of $35 or more for a box of five shells, practicing can get expensive in a hurry!
Practice your calls and your shooting and be ready when the season arrives.
Learn to Speak Fly Fishing: Despite its recent resurgence in popularity, a lot of people shy away from fly fishing because they’re afraid it will be too expensive or too difficult to learn. Let’s face it. If a total beginner walks into a fly shop and asks what’s needed to get started, the reply could scare anyone away:
“You’ll want a 9 foot 5 weight rod, a matching 5 weight disc drag reel, 50 yards of Dacron backing, a weight forward floating line, matched to rod, with a 9 to 12 foot tapered leader with a 4X tippet. Try working the edges of the stream with a black wooly bugger or you could dead drift a size 12 beaded prince nymph. If the fish are feeding on dries, you might want to try a size 14 Adams.”
Holy cow! There’s no denying that’s a whole lot of information to swallow for someone who is unfamiliar with the sport. Perhaps the lingo and the seemingly limitless amount of gear on the market is partially to blame for fly fishing’s notorious reputation.
In its upcoming class, titled, “Learn the Sport of Fly Fishing,” Madison County Trout Unlimited Chapter 680 seeks to de-mystify the sport so that beginners are better equipped to start fly fishing on their own. Participants will learn the basics, including the different kinds of fly rods available and how to choose the right one for this area. They will also learn about fly fishing flies and how to tie the essential fly fishing knots. Finally, the class will cover how to cast a fly rod and where to find fish in our local waters.
“Madison County and the surrounding area have so many opportunities for fly fishing,” said TU680 President Shaun LaVancher. “We want to make it easier for more men and women try it and hopefully get involved in Trout Unlimited.”
This four-week class will be held each Wednesday in May from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Fenner Conservation Club, five miles east of Cazenovia at 3479 Cody Rd., Cazenovia, NY 13035. The cost of the class is $60. All the gear needed for the class will be provided. As an added bonus, all participants will receive a one-year membership in Trout Unlimited and a copy of the book, Fly Fishing Tactics.
The class is limited to 12 students, so those interested are encouraged to register early. To sign up, call Shaun LaVancher at 315-436-9432 or visit
BPS Turkey Hunting Seminars: Bass pro Shops in Utica will hold Turkey Hunting Seminars on April 18 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  At 1:00 p.m. Lucas Diperna will host a seminar on “Spring Turkey Calling, Tips for Success. Learn how to select the right call and use it for a successful hunt. At 2:00 p.m. Mike Olsen will hold a seminar entitled “Selecting the Right Decoys. Mike will help you make the right choice in a turkey decoy and offer placement tips to bag a trophy turkey. Representatives from Hevi Shot will be available from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to answer any questions you might have about their product.


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