The first step in any process is often the most critical part of eventual success.
If you are Mark or Terry Drury on a turkey hunt, that is especially true. For them a turkey hunt is a process that requires more than just showing up to the woods and turning a listening ear in hopes of hearing a gobble.
“We go in the night before, which is probably the key to our success, or one of the keys to our success is roosting turkeys,’’ Terry Drury said.
While that’s not always the first step for the team of brothers, it is a step that has proven to reap rewards for them in the past.
“Mark and I are really, really big advocates about roosting. There’s times of the year where they’ll roost pretty well and I think there’s times of the years where they don’t roost very well at all,” Terry said. “So much of it is weather related. When the weather is right and you have the proper temperature and the right humidity and barometric pressure, a lot of times you can get them to gobble on a limb.
“We love splitting up sometimes, one guy trying to get in there as close and as tight as possible while the other guy keeps them gobbling on the limb. We want to know what tree they’re sitting on, what limb they’re sitting on, and then if there’s anything in the way as far as interference.
“Because we have a camera most of the time, we want to make sure we can film it all, but we like to know that information and have that ready for the next day.”
The brothers say that knowledge is paramount before they ever set up: Just knowing which tree the bird is gives them information on how they are going to get there the next morning in the darkness.
Every bird is different, every situation is different, so the next step, starting the conversation with the bird the next morning, requires some analysis.
“Is this bird alone or does he have hens with him?” Mark Drury sad. “If he’s alone, I have a tendency to wait quite a bit before I call. I may let him know I'm there softly calling just before I feel like he’s going to fly down. But more often than not I’ll let his feet hit the ground and then start to work the turkey if he’s alone.
“However, if he has a lot of hens with him, I want to be the first hen on the ground and I want to be the most aggressive hen in the flock, so I start calling much earlier and much more aggressive when that turkey has hens with him. So there’s two different ways to start the conversation. It really depends on whether he’s got birds with him or doesn’t.
“If he’s got hens with him, their feet are going to hit the ground, they’re going to peck, they’re going to scratch, they’re going to feed for a little while, and then all of a sudden they’re going to go in another direction. When that happens, if you haven’t had any success working the gobbler, a lot of times we’ll appeal to that dominate hen that’s in the group and try and fire her up and get her aggravated, get her mad, try and play on that little bit of dominance in that pecking order. Often times, we’ll suck that group of hens in and he may be the last one, but he may follow.”
The average turkey hunter has spent much of his research time learning to call in the gobbler. Enticing hens is another process.
“I always like a mouth call because I think you can add more inflection and more emotion into a mouth call than you can any other call,’’ Terry Drury said. “But I’ve been doing it a long time and I'm fairly proficient at it. If you can’t do that, take a slate call with you. Take a box call with you and practice putting higher-pitched calls and then low-pitched calls.
“Hens don’t always sound the same every time they yelp. They have emotion and moods just like we do. Some days they’re very vocal. Some days they aren’t. It’s often weather related. But if you can add emotion to your calling and give that bird a variety of different sounds by becoming proficient at two or three different devices, you’re going to sound like a flock of turkeys and kill more birds.”
That emotion, though, is the thing that most often fires up a hen. She has her man, but there’s this sassy thing off to the side trying to entice him. When she answers, mimic her and do it with the emotion that you can relay through your calls.
It often works. Many times it doesn’t and the turkeys go their own way.
“It’s often going to be hard to get around on them,’’ Mark Drury said. “That’s when it is about knowing where they’re going to try and get to, where they’re going to be feeding at midmorning, then where they ultimately are going to end up by midday.
“More often than not we’re going to circle around them. We’ll stick with that bird if he’s responding. We know a lot of times that really, really quiet period is coming because he may have gobbled really well on the limb and all of a sudden he’s gobbled out. He’s going to be doing his business. He’s going to be spitting and drumming, and he’s going to be doing a little bit strutting, but he’s going to follow those hens wherever they go.
“So it’s a matter of trying to understand where they’re going to be two hours from now, three hours from now, four hours from now and then head 'em off, get in front of them.
“If you’re in their way and you're in the direction that they want to go it's so much easier to pull that group towards you than if you’re behind them. If you're trying to play catch-up it almost never works. Trying to turn them around is nearly impossible, so you always want to try and get in front of them.”
When that’s not possible there are other ways.
“Another good tactic that goes right along with what Terry is talking about is, what if you’re limited in ground and you don’t have a lot of opportunity to run and gun, or get in front of them?” Mark Drury said. “It’s very, very effective to just deer hunt them, or turkey hunt via deer hunting method.
“Pick a good spot, a good strut zone where you’ve seen birds strut in the past. Set up a blind. Put your flock of decoys out, two or three hens and a strutting gobbler. Sit there and wait them out. They’ll work those flocks or those decoys on days that they’re not even gobbling.”
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