Archive for March 2013 | Monthly archive page

During my past 35 years of turkey hunting in Missouri and numerous other states I have had my great days, good days and bad days in the turkey woods.  I have tried to always learn something from each time in the woods, great or bad, and what happened to make it a great hunt or a not so great hunt.  When I do turkey hunting seminars for Ozark Ridge Calls, I try to always stress that I learn something new each year of turkey hunting if not each hunt.  During these seminars I tell them over the years I have learned there are 2 KEY THINGS to becoming a more successful turkey hunter.

Key number one is learning the “language” of the wild turkey.  What I mean by that is turkeys have their own language just like ducks, deer and us; they don’t just walk around and randomly make noises it is all with a purpose, so you need to call with purpose.  There is the assembly call, lost call, tree calls, mating yelp of the hen, cutting, purrs, putts, clucks, gobbler yelps, fighting purrs, gobble and the list goes on.  So the more you know what you are saying to that ole’ gobbler the more likely you are to put your tag on him.

I recommend getting an instructional cd or dvd that explains what the calls are, what they mean and what each call should sound like and listening to it or watching it over and over.  For example the assembly call of a hen is a call the hen uses in the fall to tell her young birds to come to her and when used in the spring you are telling that gobbler basically to come to you, you are being that old bossy hen.  That may be just what he wants to hear and come marching in like he was told.

Also if you can get a cd that has actual recording of these calls from a wild turkey that is great, not only do you get to hear the calls as they are actually done by a wild hen but you get to hear the rhythm of those calls which is very important also.

Key number two is woodsmanship.  What I mean by that is knowing the lay of the land, where the birds want to be, use the terrain to your advantage, when to move and not move on the bird, and anything else you can do while hunting to put the odds in your favor to kill that longbeard.  I learned woodsmanship at very young age first by squirrel hunting with my dad and then turkey and deer hunting with him.  Really the only way to get better at this is to spend time in the woods, whether it is squirrel hunting, scouting/hunting for deer or turkey or just going for a stroll in the woods to become more familiar with the property you hunt.

That longbeard is on that property(s) day in and day out and he knows all the little ins and out of the land he is living on and so should you if you want to try and put the odds more in your favor of carrying him back to the truck.  That can be as simple as knowing where part of an old woven wire fence is still up on the ridge you have set up on and it is between you and that gobbling tom.  You know you need to at least get to that old fence so he doesn’t hang up behind it strutting and decide not come on down the ridge to you but wait for that hen to come to him.  If you are set up at the fence or at least in shotgun range of the old fence it won’t matter if he hangs up there or not.

Another example of good woodsmanship is knowing when to move on that bird using the terrain of the property you are hunting.  You know that bird is heading to a certain spot to strut and you need to get there before him without spooking him so you are able to use the “lay of the land” to get there.  Using the hills, hollows, cedar patches or whatever to get there undetected and be ready when you see that big fan pop over the rise.  If you are at the right place at the right time turkey hunting seems so much easier.

That is my two tips for today:  learn the language of the wild turkey and improve your woodsmanship.  Put that to use this spring and you’ll be digging in your pocket for a tag soon.


Kevin Hess

Ozark Ridge Calls Pro Staff


I do not read as much as I should these days, but one thing that always catches my eye are top 5 or 10 lists for hunting and fishing tips.  Just like hunting big whitetails where everything seems to only come together with a little luck, I tend to subscribe to the theory that luck is the crossroads of good skills and opportunity.  Doing the right thing at the right time is crucial to success in anything we do.  So here is my shot at a top 5 list for turkey hunting strategies.   These are not cheesy little tips that we all know, these are serious strategies that will work if you use them.  I’m not going to waste your attention by telling you how much experience I have or how many turkeys I’ve taken, but I will tell you that I genuinely care about sharing a little of my 30 years of turkey hunting and calling experience gained in both casual and professional settings on both public and private land.   I’ll add a few more top 5 or 10 lists and expand on these as the season approaches.  Some will grow in complexity a bit as we get closer to season.

Know the Terrain and use it:  What would seem universally understood by all hunters is still worth mentioning, even when you don’t know the property that your hunting very well, it is important to have a general understanding of the terrain.  You want to attempt to be up-ridge or above your target bird.  The only exception would be in relatively flat areas, a pin-down situation with a bird that gets too close or surprises you, or with the bird in a well patterned roost to field situation.  Flat featureless topography can be tough, but give me a few hills, hollers, and better yet, a dry creek bed about 6 feet one inch deep and I will be a serious contender for positioning myself for success.  More on specific tips on how to move discussed below and in future blogs, but at a minimum take a walk now through your turkey woods or check the GPS or topo maps at a minimum before you get in the woods.  Positioning is second only to effective calling and sometimes more important on 3 year old and older turf dragging long beards. When to move and when not to move:  If there is one thing I have been more frustrated with in guide and novice friend trips in the past is the complete lack of understanding of the perception of the slightest movement that the brain of a turkey can process as danger.  The turkey is not a smart animal, but their little head is the most tightly compacted bundle of instincts known to man.  The phrase “if turkeys could smell us like deer, we’d never see one” is simply a fact.  Don’t move.  Adopt a Hunger Games level game attitude when you are in your hunting or calling position, and if that spot doesn’t work, make like a tree and stay there motionless for another 15 minutes, then get up and move if you need to.  This becomes more important in situation where the bird has shut up.  If he has answered your call and shuts up, he is either coming, going or strutting around his girl.  I tend to lean toward the – he’s coming mindset until he sounds off again. Try to stay put and DON’T MOVE until you hear him gobble again, then make a move decision. Calling is communicating – know what you are saying:    One of the biggest challenges to turkey hunting is learning how to make the basic sounds made by the hen turkey.   I’ve seen a lot of good turkey callers who knew how to call at turkeys, but knew little about communicating.  Most callers over do the cutting, cackling and all the hyped excited hen stuff and forget that there are some basic communications that all turkeys have known since the nest.  We will talk about mating yelps, cuts, putts purrs and the 10 other calls we don’t have space for right now, but know this now:  Every gobbler in the woods knows one call above all others and without exception; the one call that means COME TO ME, NOW.  This same call has perhaps saved the bird’s life from daily predator threats and other dangers as simple as loosing track of mom and siblings.  The ASSEMBLY CALL is the call the hen uses to gather the flock from birth.  It is also the call she uses to call her mate.  If you effectively use it at the right time, they will come. Assembly Call Call enough but not too much:   As the stick hit me square on top of the head from behind as I showed off my future Grand National calling skills for my father at 12 years old, I realized as I turned around that dad wasn’t happy with me.  Learning later after nearly blowing the reeds out of the Ozark Ridge Pro V on the first setup.  Dad said you froze him in the tree – you called too much, froze him in the tree, and the hen roosted behind us flew down, made her way around us and the gobbler flew down only after he saw the real hen.  Lesson learned, and it has served me well since.  I will expand on this later, but two to three soft tree yelps and a putt or two when the bird is topside and answering strongly – then you need to shut up.  I don’t care if he gobbles 29 more times in the tree.  Don’t fall in the answer every gobble or two trap, especially if he is in the tree.  He’s got no better vantage point than his tree and he is content to stay right there if you talk too much. Hunt a little longer:   As a kid in my public hunting land days, I loved my 7:45 nap in the timber.  Sometimes after starting up birds for other hunters that spooked them; or worse yet those guys that move in on your setup thinking they are between a hen and a hot gobbler effectively cutting you off and usually spooking or shooting the bird headed your way.  My alarm clock was their trucks starting and heading to the coffee shop to tell stories about their big hunt.  Turkeys are like roosters in the morning.  They gobble because they are glad to see the sun rise and warm them up.  Morning light also means safety after a long night listening to things that want to eat them crawl through the leaves all night.  What makes a bird gobble at 6:00 a.m. is not what makes a turkey gobble at 8 or 9.  This may sound arrogant, but let’s call it experienced confidence- I will kill most birds that answer my call after 8 a.m.  By 8 or 8:30 he has had breakfast, he’s strutted around, he’s warmed up and if he answers me, it’s not just because that giant light bulb is coming over the horizon.  He’s answering me because I have communicated something that means come to me and he is communicating back that he understands.  As I said earlier, he’s coming until you know that he’s going, DON’T MOVE, and get ready.

Good luck this season my friends; more next week.

Ozark Ridge Calls