Why You Are Not Tagging Turkeys

Why You Are Not Tagging Turkeys

Getting a Tom into gun range is hard enough on a good day, but there are times when we are our own worst enemy when it comes to closing the distance. 

When I first started turkey hunting, a seasoned older hunter told me, “When you kill a bird, learn to stop for a second and ask yourself why it worked out. And when you don’t, do the same thing, learn to ask yourself why it didn’t work.”

For some reason, I never forgot that simple coaching moment. 

Today, on the Rugged American Hunter, I’m going to cover three simple realities that often cause a hunter self-sabotage in trying to punch a tag. 



We hunted Mississippi this morning and it was beautiful. But it was cold and windy following this big creek bed system all through the hardwood bottoms for a long time and just never got on a bird. It is so windy outside, and it is so cold that I had to come inside the lodge. I'm just sitting here, leaned up against the old Honda. Still got some decoys in it from duck season, and I had to put on some duck hunting gear this morning. It was cold man.

I want to talk to you for just a minute about why you're not killing turkeys. I don't want that to sound pompous or overconfident. Listen, I've said a bunch of times on camera that my failures are my greatest educators. When I started turkey hunting at a young age many years ago—I don't know what made me do this—but if I didn't kill a turkey or if I couldn't call in a bird or something happened, I would stop and evaluate why. Even if I didn't know for sure, I tried to piece it together: What went wrong? I thought this would be a great segment to talk about why you're not killing turkeys because I do believe there are some common denominators.

I believe that the chief reason why most of us don't kill a turkey—more than maybe we should—is we're simply calling too much. I know this is probably going to hit some people wrong, and that's okay. There's a bunch of different opinions in the turkey hunting world, and there's a lot of room for that, and that's good too.

What I would tell you is never forget—this is something you just don't hear hardly anybody talking about anymore—one of the golden principles of turkey hunting: Hens go to the gobbler. You just don't hear a lot of guys talking about that fact. The hens go to the gobbler, and it doesn't make sense to him why the most vocal hen he's heard in a week or two is not closing the distance.

I'll tell you something about what you see on a lot of hunting shows—and there's nothing wrong with it—it's just that a lot of the calling is done when that bird is already in gun range. He's dead and just doesn't know it. There's no reason to call a turkey when he's 40 yards away unless he's just hung up. If that bird is walking to you, let him walk. More often than not, on the principle of the issue, guys just call too much. They simply overload that turkey. And he is wondering why is she not coming to me? And I'm going to sit right here until she does.

Another principle about why you're not killing turkeys is that a lot of guys just don't know the terrain. I really want to know how the terrain lays out when I hunt. Where are the hollows? Where are the creek beds? Where are the fences? What are the thickets? What are the places where I need to negotiate? And so many guys, I think, just don't ever put a lot of stock into learning the terrain. And that is paramount because, for instance, more often than not—not 100% of the time—but more often than not, a turkey doesn't want to come downhill to get to a hen.

Will he come downhill? Sure he will, but he doesn't like to. He wants to hold the high ground if he can help it. So get on his level. Things like, hey man, there's a big ditch between us. There's a big creek. Get on the other side of it. Or just know, when he's not going to come. He's 150 yards away. He's not walking through that thicket to get to me. I need to get around it. So just know your terrain and it'll make all the difference in the world.

Another critical reason that I believe a lot of guys don't kill the bird is what I'm just going to call vocal overload. They throw everything they've got at that turkey. Yelps, clucks. I've watched guys on a lot of different hunting shows and in the same sequence it's yap yap yap cluck cluck cluck. Yup yup yup yup. And then. Key key key key key key. It's just all these different calls and a turkey makes all those sounds, but usually not at once. Just be careful that you're not overloading his ears. If he answered you, I promise you that turkey knows right where you are within a few feet. I'm telling you more often than not, just figure out where you need to set up to kill him. Hey, if these thoughts helped you, maybe it'll help one of your hunting buddies.

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About the Author

Jason Cruise

Jason Cruise is a published author and the host of Mossberg’s Rugged American Hunter series.
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