By Josh Boyd
We, as hunters, tend to be fantastic storytellers. Every hunt, even if uneventful, has the makings of a great tale. When it comes to turkey hunting, we have also found that it is far easier to explain away the reason for an unfilled tag, as opposed to admitting that the cards just did not fall as we would have hoped.
This has led to the advent of numerous wives’ tales regarding turkey hunting, some of which come as a distorted extension of the truth, while others tend to be tall tales passed down from one generation to the next.
If you have turkey hunted for any length of time, you have likely overheard the telling of several such scenarios, and might even have done the telling yourself from time to time. After all, it’s pretty safe to say that we all have at one point in time or another.
You Cannot Call a Turkey Up/Down a Hill
This is one of the oldest ones in the book. While toms can indeed be finicky when being worked into range, the notion that a turkey cannot be called over a grade, whether uphill or downhill, is strictly false.
When truly evaluated, seldom do we ever hunt entirely flat ground. If this was a factual statement, turkeys would be virtually unkillable. Likewise, when toms are responding to calling, they are seeking out a hen. If longbeards were not capable of making their way to the sound of a hen, unless on a completely flat plain, we probably wouldn’t have many poults to show for it.
Only Expert Callers Take Turkeys
It only takes one season in the spring turkey woods to realize that this statement is of little truth. The reality is, every hen sounds differently from the next, just as the voices of no two people sound the same. In fact, the vocalizations of some hens leave a lot to be desired, sounding somewhat similar to a beagle with its tail caught in a screen door.
Even the most novice of callers can bring a turkey to their gun when the time is right. How well toms respond to calling, often has more to do with them being in the right mood, than it does how well you call.
Roosted Is Roasted
There have been many hunters who have danced the jig of victory after roosting a gobbler on the evening before a hunt, only to be left scratching their heads by mid-morning the following day. The thought that roosting a bird guarantees you a filled turkey
tag twelve hours later, directly contradicts the one absolute truth of turkey hunting; a turkey will seldom do what you expect them to.
Any number of circumstances can throw a kink into your plans to kill a tom directly following fly-down. The unanticipated arrival of a lonely hen in the opposite direction, an untimely guest appearance by a coyote, or a generally indecisive tom, all tend to put an end to our ambitions of tagging a turkey in time to make breakfast.
Turkeys Will Not Cross a Creek or Fence
Every year without fail, we inevitably hear talk of a hard-gobbling tom whose life was spared by an inconveniently located creek or fence line. The story always seems to be the same. The turkey in question was gobbling every breath with a full head of steam, until he reached the very obstacle that stopped him in his tracks. While it can be difficult to coax a tom into crossing a fence or flying a creek, it can and does happen every day.
If turkeys never crossed such obstacles, it would stand to reason that a turkey would never leave a given property, assuming it was fenced on all four sides, and we all know this to be far from the truth. More times than not, there is simply more to the scenario than meets the eye. Maybe the tom that stopped short was accompanied by a group of hens that led him away, or the wary old longbeard saw something about the scenario that left him uneasy.
You Need a 12 Gauge With 3 ½” Shells
Turkeys are indeed a hearty game animal that require a solid shot to take cleanly. However, a 12 gauge shotgun with a 3 ½” magnum shell is not the only way of getting this done. Many hunters every year unnecessarily take a beating at the hands of their shotgun, all in the name of what is perceived to be vastly superior performance.
On the contrary, the 20 gauge shotgun has found great favor in recent years among turkey hunters, and can cleanly kill a turkey at distances of 40+ yards. Additionally, many youth hunters have made great use out of .410 shotguns as of late, as new turkey-specific TSS loads have hit the market. Even if you still favor the use of a 12 gauge, a vast number of excellent shooting 3” loads have taken much of the advantage out of 3 ½” magnum load use.
Sorting Fact From Fiction
If you turkey hunt for enough years, you will likely hear every one of these wives’ tales, and many more, told time and time again. Remember, not all that is told is true, and sometimes one man’s perception is not another’s reality. Instead, rely on your own instincts to be your guide when afield, and let the turkeys themselves be your teacher.