Roosted Ain't Roasted: How to Take a Spring Tom Turkey's Temperature

Roosted Ain't Roasted: How to Take a Spring Tom Turkey's Temperature
“Primos Truth About Hunting” TV co-host Will Primos uses a tried-and-true tactic of taking a tom turkey's temperature before settling on a calling strategy. (Photo courtesy of Primos)

A cagy old longbearded gobbler can be tough to harvest; paying attention to how he responds to calls reveals a clue how to proceed and pull him into shotgun range

I'll never forget the first time I was able to talk with turkey-call-maker Will Primos.

Because in that long-ago interview, he said something that I'll never forget, a line that has in many ways become one of the trademark phrases of the Primos Hunting Calls empire.

A line that today gets repeated often in seminars, in the company's popular hunting DVDs and on the weekly Outdoor Channel television show, Primos Truth About Hunting.

In fact, it might be one of the most iconic sayings in the modern turkey hunting game.


What is that saying?


"Roosted ain't roasted!" said Will Primos with a big bearded smile.


After more than 20 years of chasing aggravating longbeards from one end of the country to the other, all I can say in response is this: Ain't that the truth?!?

Because no matter how easy the television cameras seem to make the art of spring turkey hunting – and the Primos cameras do a pretty good job of it – not every longbeard wants to be a TV rock star.

"No doubt, those that you call to and they come running are great," said Primos, who began to sell mouth diaphragm calls back in 1976 in Jackson, Miss.


"We call those kamikaze turkeys. They're certainly great for the ego."

But day in and day out, not every gobbler out there in the spring woods is going to be fired up, ready and willing to waltz right on in.

Which is why Primos recommends keeping a thermometer handy in your hunting vest.


Say what?

Ok, well maybe not. But the idea does illustrate one of his core turkey hunting principles that has remained true for many years.

"We'll take a gobbler's temperature," said Primos. "If he's hot and gobbling (his head off), we'll respond by calling a lot. But if he's quiet (and uncooperative), we'll back off and call more softly and sparingly."



"It's kind of like chess," he added. "Your playing partner makes a move, then you make a move. If your chess partner moves fast, then you move fast. If your partner moves slow, then you move slow."

In other words, as a hunter engages a longbeard in woodsy conversation, it's important to recognize the mood tthe bird is in and respond accordingly.

"He can be hot and heavy, he can be lukewarm or he can be ice (cold)," said Primos.

Once a hunter has an idea of what type of gobbler he is dealing with on a given day, then a proper calling strategy can be formulated.

"You want to figure out how vocal that bird is," said Will's cousin Jimmy, another mainstay in the Primos call making company.

"If he's real vocal (and gobbling aggressively), you want to go right back at him when he calls back to you."

To further illustrate this point, Will Primos points to a concept most fishermen will understand.

"He's like a bass," said Primos. "You want to keep him coming your way. If you quit reeling, you may lose him.

"This is not something that you'll want to do every time, but (on a hot gobbler), you want to keep the line tight when you've got that relationship established."

What about if the bird is a little more on the non-committal side of things?

"If he's lukewarm, you want to try a variety of things to see if you can excite him," said Primos.

On such a middle-of-the road turkey, keep the calling spicy enough to spark some interest in the old boy while not going overboard and overselling the romance.

Possible ideas include tossing in some soft wing flaps, maybe a kee-kee or two to simulate a young turkey or even (on private land where no one else is hunting and it is safe to do so) a throaty gobble to spark some jealous rage in the old boy.

What about a bird almost completely on the frosty side? Then you want to play a hen that is hard to get, if not outright impossible.

"You've got to act nonchalant," said Primos. "Make some soft purrs and scratching noises in the leaves, things like that."

One of my most memorable turkey hunts ever followed this particular scenario as I chased a wise, old longbeard that had given me the slip all season long.

On the final morning of that particular spring campaign, I decided to all but sit on my hands and call hardly any, if at all.

After a couple of soft yelps before morning fly-down, Mr. Johnny Gobbler responded in yawning and disinterested fashion, half-heartedly gobbling twice from the big roost tree he was perched in a few hundred yards away.

Once he hit the ground, it was total crickets.

But a half-hour later, my silence was more than he could stand and he let loose with a more interested gobble, alerting me to the fact that he had already cut the distance between us in half.

My response? A couple of soft purrs and a cluck or two and then nothing more from my end.

Finally, another 20 minutes later, the old boy with the paintbrush beard and limbhanger spurs couldn't stand it anymore and let loose with a thunderous double-gobble from only 75 yards away.

And when he did so, I could see his strutting form steadily advancing on my position as I smiled big behind my camouflaged facemask.

Knowing full well only a few seconds later I would finally be clicking my shotgun off safety.

Because this old tom's temperature might have started out ice cold that day, but it ended up as red-lined and rising, something that every gobbler hunter across America dreams about heading into spring.

Recommended for You

While misunderstood by some, fishing bottom bouncers can be a very productive technique for walleyes in early summer. Walleye

How to Fish Bottom Bouncers for Walleye

Mark Sak - May 23, 2019

While misunderstood by some, fishing bottom bouncers can be a very productive technique for...

 Several factors need to be evaluated before reaching a conclusion about what fly, lure or bait Trout & Salmon

How to Catch the Biggest Trout in the Stream

David Paul Williams

Several factors need to be evaluated before reaching a conclusion about what fly, lure or...

Brush-style bowfishing arrow rest and kits designed for simplicity and reliability. Bows

New TRUGLO Bowfishing EZ•Rest

May 23, 2019

Brush-style bowfishing arrow rest and kits designed for simplicity and reliability.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead gets new product details from Simms Fishing Product's John Frazier about the new waterproof 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

Mustad

Mustad's New Tungsten Weights

Long known as one of the world's premiere hook makers, Mustad's Reid McKinstry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that the company is now one of the leaders in making tungsten terminal tackle products for anglers.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish. Records

Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

G&F Online Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.

 A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest.

Although the art Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

A 7 pound giant taken on a jig during the pre-spawn transistion in the Midwest. Although...

 Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson - February 13, 2018

Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as "kid's fishing ponds," but...

See More Stories

More Hunting How-To

Early season is a fantastic time to tag a great deer. Here is where to focus your energy. Whitetail

Setups For Early Season Bowhunting Success

Jace Bauserman - September 16, 2019

Early season is a fantastic time to tag a great deer. Here is where to focus your energy.

Understand your quarry's behaviors from a biological perspective to maximize your chances during the rut. Whitetail

Reading the Rut for Whitetails

Brad Fitzpatrick - October 16, 2019

Understand your quarry's behaviors from a biological perspective to maximize your chances...

Deer hunters rave about rut hunting, but patterning big bucks while they're still hanging out with their buddies can be easier—and more effective. Whitetail

Patterning Bachelor Bucks

Jace Bauserman - September 17, 2019

Deer hunters rave about rut hunting, but patterning big bucks while they're still hanging out...

See More Hunting How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×