One thing I've learned from hunting is to value the wisdom of other experienced hunters. When fellow hunters are willing to share their success stories, be sure to listen to their tips and techniques they've used to bring success to the field. We all love a good hunting story, and sometimes sitting around a campfire swapping these stories can provide that valuable piece of information to tuck away in your bag of tricks that may prove useful on your next hunt.
Evan Williams with www.RokSlide.com, who is a friend of mine was willing to share some of his stories with us. He has had several successful turkey hunts over the past couple of years. So, come listen in on our conversation as we "sit around the campfire"...
EMILY: How long have you been turkey hunting?
EVAN: I started turkey hunting fairly "late" when compared to most people, I think. Several factors most likely were the culprit for the late start, e.g., big game hunting at the forefront of my thoughts, competing in five high school sports and three activities outside of school. During spring break my junior year in high school, my younger brother, Austin, and I had a wild idea to give turkey hunting a try. We finally had the time... and LOVED being in the outdoors which made for a dreadfully perfect match! From that time on, turkey hunting has been an OBSESSION every Spring!!
EMILY: What is your experience with spot and stalk for turkey? Is it even possible?
EVAN: For me, "spot and stalk" hunting for turkeys usually means... spotting them in their strutting zones and then running around to intercept them as they traveled between feeding sources / roosting areas and strutting zones. However, this year has been different. Garrett Roe of Heads Up Decoys has a bow mounted decoy similar in fabric to that of other decoys, but much more mobile! It mounts to your stabilizer and when combined with a real fan, it will drive mature, dominant birds WILD!! I actually was charged this year on opening day of the Kansas Archery season! I shot out of self-defense.
(Emily's note: You may want to make sure you are the only hunter in the area when using this type of decoy! Wow!)
Spot and stalk by most western hunter's definition is very tricky with turkeys since they simply see so well. Last week in Kansas I was lying in a shelter belt of cedars crawling through to get within bow range of three mature birds feeding in a cut bean field. Suddenly, three more Toms came walking along the edge of the timber ten yards away. They took one look my direction (remember I am laying prone -- completely flat) and they were out of there! Turkeys see in color verses the vision of Ungulates (deer, antelope, elk, etc.).
I did harvest my fall turkey on a true spot and stalk.
EMILY: Is there a difference in calling styles for different breeds?
EVAN: I wouldn't say that there is a difference in calling styles for the different sub-species of turkeys (Eastern, Rio Grande, Merriams, Osceola, Goulds - North American sub-species all found in the US). However, each sub-species is a little different in their aggressiveness for lack of a better word. Most people would tell you that the Eastern sub-species is the most aggressive of them, followed by Rios, Merriams, Osceola, Goulds. I believe it depends more on the following:
- -- Time of Year
- -- Weather
- -- The particular bird
I have been able to hunt each of the Grand Slam Species (Eastern, Rio, Merriam, Osceola) and used the same calls, but took a different approach to my calling sequences and volumes depending on the situation. Turkey hunting is truly the closest thing that you can get to hunting Elk.
EMILY: What calls do you prefer for turkey, e.g., box, mouth reed or slate? Why?
EVAN: A lot of it depends on the situation. I use all three types of calls. I prefer to use a mouth call because the reeds make it easier for me to change between purrs, clucks, yelps, cuts, etc. This helps if you need to quickly change things up depending on how the bird is reacting. Another reason why the mouth call is my favorite is because of its versatility and compactness. Not to mention its HANDS-FREE use!! When I am getting ready to take that shot I need my hands ready to draw or already be at full draw, yelp at him, get him to pause for a second and allow my arrow to pass through.
For slate calls I prefer to use a crystal. I can always touch up the surface of a crystal and keep my volume and consistency. Box calls are great on those super windy days in Kansas. I like nothing better than to be on a ridge in Kansas between two wooded bottoms on a windy day and bust out a deep, high volume box call to get my sound out to find a bird in the bottoms.
EMILY: Do you think there is a best time of day for hunting turkey? Does weather have an impact, e.g., will turkey be out in rain / snow?
EVAN: I think that each time of day has its ups and downs. I have never had great success calling birds in right off the roost. I have done it, but with little consistency. Evenings I usually use more for glassing and finding birds going to roost which tells me where to start the next morning. My "sweeter" time of day has been between 10:00 AM - 3:30/4:00 PM. This is usually when hens have split off from the group to go lay on the nest, and those toms are cruising around looking for a lone hen still out there.
Weather definitely has an impact on Turkeys. I don't hear near as much vocalizations on super windy days, in the rain or in the snow. However, I love hunting birds on a heavy fog morning, spitting rain, or light snow flurries. Most people are going to be tucked away at home avoiding the weather. The birds are still out there. They are still going to have a routine and now is the time to capitalize on it while everyone else sits things out. Three years ago in Kansas.. on opening weekend for the Archery Season, we had four inches of snow on the ground and driving 40+ mph winds. I knew that a buddy's creek bottom just soaked up the birds in that type of weather and I dropped into it. In 50 minutes of calling, I had 16 different toms come into my set!! It was a great day.
EMILY: Blind or no blind? Advantages of one over the other?
EVAN: If you are looking for a more traditional style of hunt, e.g., calling, birds responding, calling, etc., then a blind is the best way to go. Set up where you want to be. Throw your decoys out in front of you (I never have one past 12 yards) and call. The trick is to BLACK OUT if you have a black interior blind. Make sure your gloves, Facemask, shirt long sleeve) and bow are all blacked out... Fool their eyes! A blind will allow you more movement with the birds in close but it will cause you to be (in most cases) less mobile.
If you are wanting a little more challenge, go without. It will also cut down on the weight you will be carrying around and increase your mobility. But now you have to worry about getting birds within bow range and drawing. These aren't whitetails or elk. We are talking about turkeys that have better vision than an antelope. The trick is to set up your decoys in the open 20-25 yards away where their attention will be focused a ways away from you. Also, you will want to wait to draw until the birds are facing away from you to make sure they can't catch your movement. This is how I killed my first archery bird - at 18 yards.
There is more Evan has to share and the remaining portion of this interview will be featured in an upcoming Bow America issue. Stay tuned for Evan's most memorable turkey hunts and advice for beginning turkey hunters.
Thanks, Evan for sharing your stories and advice with us!!