March 06, 2017
By John Geiger
Sure, the season is short and other hunters are out there looking to score, but keep in mind that plenty of times slow and low is the right turkey hunting call.
Michael Waddell is anything but passive. If you catch him quiet, he's probably in the woods.
Waddell says he's come to realize that gobblers are lit up looking for hens in the first weeks of the spring season, and they don't need encouragement to charge in.
"It's amazing," he said. "I'll have one night photo of a buck, and I'll sit for 10 hours waiting against all odds. But when we roost turkeys, we know exactly where they are. Yet we still move all the time, way too much."
Typically, Waddell is an aggressive turkey hunter. He'll use reaper decoys and fightin' purrs as he kicks at the ground and smashes decoys into the dirt to bring a gobbler running. But he knows that aggressive is not always the best tactic.
Besides early season, he also goes against his nature when he hunts alone.
"Alone, I take a passive approach," said Waddell. "I appreciate the time in the woods. Let the hunt come to me versus going to it."
Turkey Calls for 2017
This three-reed batwing cut is Jordan Summit's favorite for quiet calling. This call is considered a "pro style" and is one of the more difficult to master. But once you do, you can produce a range of calls with it, from yelps and purrs to cutts and clucks.
Waddell likes this latex call because the reeds are soft, but they are a little thicker. This 2 1/2-reed ghost cut takes a little more air to make it work well, but the sound is very distinctive. "Ghost or shipwreck cuts are my favorite for a soft, subtle hen yelp. You can check a turkey's temperature with one and not blow him out of the woods," Waddell said.
This Freak Nasty, in double batwing, is Flextone's top-selling mouth call. It's got a wide range, and that's probably the draw. It's a triple-reed that will give up deep tones when you soft cluck and purr.
Jordan Summit, one of the Strut Commanders, also rarely slows down. But he learned to chill during a hunt when he should have stayed put.
With his back against a wide tree, he watched a gobbler strut out of range. Summit knew there were jakes around and thought it best to stay put. But after a while, the urge to command was too much. He called, and the tom gobbled and was then attacked by five jakes.
"They stomped him," said Summit. "Looking back, we should have just waited till he got closer. Once he gobbled, that was it."
Summit also uses low-key tactics toward the end of the season, going with light yelping, especially on areas that have been hunted hard.
"A lot of people just stop hunting the last few weeks," said Summit. "But I find soft purring and clucking will get the job done."
BIRDS AND BEES
Last season, I got a lesson in passive tactics with champion caller Shane Simpson and Mike Burns in rolling hills where we roosted three gobblers the night before. The birds flew down but stayed about 100 yards away. They saw our decoys but followed hens over a knoll out of sight; I wanted to jump up and ambush them.
"Let's wait it out," said Burns.
"Let's not," I said. But Simpson sided with Burns.
We could see them pop their heads above the hill, as if making sure our decoys were still there.
Slowly, as they were bred, hens started moving away. Two hours later, the last hen walked away, and the gobblers turned our way. I was impressed.
"I had a feeling once they finished with the hens they'd come looking for more," said Simpson. "They saw our decoys and knew they weren't going anywhere. Staying put paid off."