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Hunter sitting comfortably
Photo by John Higley

Make sure you’re comfortable before you start calling so you can stay put for the long haul.

Lessons learned

Once in a while we must remind ourselves of things that can hamper our attempts to call a wary tom into range. Sure, we’ve all learned a lesson or three about the finer points of positioning ourselves for a calling session, but I’ll bet that you, like me, do not cover all the bases every time you’re up to bat.

“Oh, come on,” someone once said to me at a sports show seminar. “You’re supposed to be an expert turkey hunter, and you still make silly mistakes?”

“Uh, yes, more than you’ll ever know,” I said, and I wasn’t kidding. In my mind, an expert is a person of experience who can’t prevent some things from going wrong but can tell you, with authority, why they did.

I enlisted the help of Preston Pittman of Pittman Game Calls and Matt Morrett, host of “Avian X” television and head of Zink Calls’ turkey division. Both guys are part turkey, and here are some lessons they’ve learned during years of trial and error.

“One of the things I’ve seen hunters do is panic and sit down any old place when they unexpectedly strike a gobbler that’s close,” said Pittman. “They aren’t comfortable, so they tend to move at the wrong time. Pretty soon the acorn they sat on becomes a huge rock or a broken branch in the wrong spot pokes them in the neck. It’s very annoying when you move just a little and spook a tom you didn’t know was almost in your lap. I’d like to say I’ve never been in that situation, but…”

If you don’t have time to set out a decoy properly, don’t use it at all.

“Hunters sometimes put out their decoys in a haphazard manner,” said Pittman. “You don’t want your decoy to fall over because the stake wasn’t in the ground deep enough, or have it tip back and appear to be looking at the sky as if there’s a hawk or eagle overhead. Poor decoy positioning is a real deal breaker to a skittish tom.”

When a tom goes quiet, and you know other turkeys in the area can hear you, waiting may be the best move of all.

“One thing I’ve been guilty of in the past is changing locations too quickly,” said Morrett. “Since we’ve been shooting video so much I’ve learned to be much more patient. With our cameras set up we don’t have the option of running and gunning every time a tom we’re working shuts up and seems to vaporize. When that happens, I sit tight for a while in case the tom we were calling to, or a subordinate tom that happened to hear us, comes in quietly.”

Gobbler moving in
Photo by John Higley


Even when you set up in a hurry, make sure you can aim your shotgun or draw your bow without interference.

“Sometimes you’ve got to set up in a hurry and that’s OK, but you’ve got to be aware of obstacles around your hiding spot,” Morrett said. “Some hanging branches or scattered brush is fine as long as you can see through or around it and have enough room and shooting lanes for your shotgun or bow.”

Beware of crawly things, mosquitoes and undesirable plants.

Pittman knows some critters can spoil a setup without half trying. There are places where he puts out a ThermaCELL to ward off mosquitoes, and he really doesn’t like to share space with biting ants or venomous snakes. Add noxious plants, such as poison oak, poison ivy and thorny vines to that list.

Make sure you can see.

“Visibility isn’t usually a problem in semi-open terrain, but in thick woods or brush it’s another story. It’s most frustrating to call up a tom you can’t see because you were in a hurry and you picked a poor place to sit. Of course, that’s never happened to me,” Morrett chuckled. — John Higley