Riege: An expert opinion on turkey hunting

Published 9:23 pm Wednesday, April 11, 2012

By Bob and Ginny Riege

In the spring of 2010 I had the privilege to hunt with Josey White, a Mossy Oak Pro Staff person in Branson, Mo. I only had the opportunity to hunt with him the second to the last day of turkey season, but the knowledge I gained help me score with turkeys here in Minnesota and last year in Kentucky. We hope to repeat our success this year in Minnesota. So to prepare for this upcoming turkey hunt I revisited a recent interview with Josey White.

Here is that reprinted interview courtesy of Mossy Oak and Howard Communications:

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Q: Can you give me a few general tips on how I can be more successful this spring?

A: The best advice that I can give is to not give up at 8 a.m. just because you haven’t heard any turkeys gobble. My rule of thumb is that the best time to bag a big gobbler is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Also, don’t get stuck in a rut. Be willing to try different set ups and master several calls. Turkeys are like people in that every one has its own personality. Be flexible and take chances. Also you want to blend in with the type of terrain you are hunting. Here in Arkansas and most of the southeastern part of the country where I hunt, Mossy Oak Obsession is by far the most versatile and effective camo pattern I have ever seen. I love it!

Q: How much scouting should I do before the season?

A: I personally don’t start scouting and listening as early as a lot of guys. I usually start scouting about two weeks before opening day. I will try and locate as many turkeys as possible the first week, then the second week try and decide which turkeys seem to have the most reliable schedule. If I can find a gobbler that roosts in the same area all the time and gobbles consistently each morning, he is the one I will be after the first morning. Again, be flexible. You are probably not the only guy who has heard your hot gobbler. Have several places to try in the event someone beats you to your spot. The last thing you want to do is start trouble with another hunter, so be prepared.

Q: Is there a best call to use?

A: I think whatever type of call you can use the best is the best call to use, so no, I really think it depends on the individual. I personally am quite fond of diaphragm mouth calls. With practice you can imitate practically any sound a hen makes, plus you get the benefit of hands-free calling and the ability to carry many different calls due to their small size. However, I also carry at least one friction call, (slate, glass or aluminum) and a couple of different strikers so that I can imitate two different turkeys at once.

Q: Do I need to learn to use several different calls?

A: I think the more calls and the willingness to be flexible using them is a true key to success. So yes, I believe it is important to learn how to use several different calls.

Q: What do you do to take care of your calls?

A: Your calls are an investment, so you should do your best to take care of them. Diaphragms – I suggest soaking them in Diaphragms or some type of non-alcohol mouthwash overnight after each daily use to kill bacteria that will most definitely grow on your calls. I personally don’t try to use the same diaphragms for more than one season. I buy all new ones each season. Glass, slate and aluminum calls and strikers need to be sanded often and kept in a stable environment in order to keep them from warping or cracking. The same goes for box calls of all types.

Q: What is a common mistake that turkey hunters make?

A: I believe the three biggest mistakes all come from one source, lack of patience. First, as I mentioned before, don’t quit hunting because you haven’t heard any turkeys early. Often turkeys don’t start gobbling until mid morning or even later. Second, many hunters who have been calling all morning to a gobbler that has been gobbling like crazy and then all of a sudden just shuts up, think the gobbler is done so just leave to early. If I am calling to a turkey that is gobbling a lot, and all of a sudden he shuts up, I am getting ready for him to show up. More times than not, within two hours he will often show up. The third mistake coincides with the second. Often hunters that are hunting a gobbler who is gobbling like crazy will keep setting up closer and closer until they end up spooking the bird and possibly making him even harder to kill. More times than not, the gobbler (or his hens) will see you long before you see him. When I encounter this situation, I will cut like crazy with a mouth call and do a jake yelp with a friction call at the same time. Then I will shut up and wait.

Q: Do you use decoys? If so how?

A: Yes. Decoys are a great tool especially for fields, open timber, and for wary gobblers. Be careful on public land since the new decoys that are now on the market, especially Primos decoys, are very realistic looking. I love to set up on the edge of a field with a couple of hen decoys and a jake decoy and watch the show when that old gobbler shows up!

Q: What should I do if I go out and don’t hear any gobbling?

A:Hunt. Hunt. Hunt. You won’t kill a gobbler if you aren’t out there. Besides, just because they aren’t gobbling doesn’t mean they won’t come to you. Plus, sometimes you need to have a stale day so the other days seem that much better.

Q: If I can hunt all day, is there a best time to hunt?

A: I honestly believe that between the hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. are the best time to bag a trophy gobbler. Most hunters have given up, the woods are quieter, and most of the hens are setting by then. I would say 60-percent of the gobblers I have killed were within these hours.