Turkey Hunting: Mountain Men

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It is amazing how you can draw parallels between things found “in the real world” and those that occur in the turkey woods.  For instance, did you know that like a military strategist, wild turkeys understand the importance of controlling the high ground?  Forts are not built in valleys, and in “the hill country” wild turkeys are more likely to be found on the bench of a ridge than in a creek bottom.  It does not take someone with a degree from West Point to understand that the army that controls the high ground controls the countryside.  The turkey that positions himself on a hilltop commands a huge advantage.  Or does he?

Larry Shockey of Willow Springs, Missouri is no stranger to hunting turkeys who call the hills home.  An eight-time World Champion Two-Man Caller and three-time Grand National Two-Man Caller, he cut his teeth hunting the steep terrain of the Mark Twain National Forest in south central Missouri, meaning he learned how to hunt turkeys in this scenario out of necessity.

“I think the main advantage you have when you hunt in the hills is the ability to use the terrain to get tight with a group of turkeys,” says Shockey, a 38 year veteran of the spring woods. “If a turkey is out gobbling on a ‘bench’ in a ridge, you can slip around the side of the hill and get very close to him before setting up.  If I can ease into 120 yards of where he is gobbling, then crawl another thirty to forty yards, that turkey has a very small margin of error.  It is very difficult to do this in the flat terrain I have hunted in Alabama and Mississippi.”

“I never go directly to a turkey,” explains Shockey.  “I am going to skirt the hillside to try to find the best place to come over the top and set up.  Turkeys do the same thing, so it is very natural to a turkey to hear something he cannot see skirting around the edge of a ridge.  If you mix in some soft calling or scratching in the leaves while doing this, it will make that turkey even more comfortable.”

Shockey also feels that many times turkeys that are gobbling out on a shelf of a ridge are by themselves.  “If a turkey is down low in a bottom, many times he has hens with him.  Based on my experience, that gobbler on the top of a hill is typically there because he’s broadcasting for hens in the same way a hunter gets on the highest hill when he is locating,” explains Shockey.  “Bringing him down off the hill by his feet can be challenging, but very rewarding.”

Bill Zearing, President of Cody Turkey Calls in Halifax, Pennsylvania, grew up hunting the Appalachian Mountains in the central part of his homestate and knows the challenges that hill country turkeys can pose. 

“When I first began hunting turkeys 46 years ago, we only had a fall season, so I had to learn to hunt the big woods via woodsmanship.  It taught me how to use the terrain and set up on benches where turkeys would frequent.  One thing I learned when I did start spring turkey hunting is that there are more turkeys gobbling at you that you cannot hear because of the terrain.  After I figured this out I started being more patient and thus successful.”

Zearing said a hunt that him and his son Travis had a few years ago proved this.  “We were watching a group of longbeards gobbling at our calls from over a mile and a quarter away through the binoculars.  They came off the mountain and headed our way, and we ended up killing one of them.  So that proved to me that if you hunt a little slower in the mountains, many times you will be more successful.”
Author:
Wild Turkey Report Staff
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