Prepared hunter can outfox wary turkeys


Mar 11, 2001
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April 17, 2002

Charlie Farmer, The Springfield News-Leader

Prepared hunter can outfox wary turkeys

Mike Hubbard is excited about the upcoming spring turkey season that runs Monday through May 12.

The wildlife research biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation is confident that the southern Ozarks counties have a good share of turkeys. So too, mid-Missouri and northern counties.

Jerry Martin, who has has hunted turkeys in 30 states and Mexico and is one of the best experts out in the woods, says that Missouri is the most fun state to hunt.

“There’s lots of birds in Missouri,” said Martin, who has worked for Bass Pro Shops in Springfield since the first Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World was built. “You can hunt the Ozarks or northern part of the state and get quality hunting.”

While knowing this could be one of the best spring turkey seasons in years, seasoned hunters realize that boss gobblers with their harem of hens still will be wary despite the good hunting conditions.

Martin and Rob Keck, the vice president/CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation based in Edgefield, S.C., say that box calls, judicious use of decoys, patience, correct camouflage and silence are ways to outfox wary turkeys.

Martin is partial to friction (box calls) and slate calls for clucking and yelping.

He cautions novice hunters to call softly, especially when gobblers are with hens. The same with pressured birds. Too much hard calling can spook them.

Martin does use decoys during the breeding season at times.

“The decoys work best in fields and pastures,” he said. “But hunters have to get the decoy out before the turkey or turkeys see them. Lesser toms act shy around decoys.

“If you are hunting in deep woods without clearings, decoys are probably best left at home. There is also a danger factor setting out decoys in deep forest setting.”

For Martin, the box call is his ace in the hole.

Second in favor are slate calls, mouth or diaphragms. He does not use a gobble-tube much because of the danger factor: drawing in hunters who are convinced it’s a live gobbler.

Even on private land, precautions should be taken.

Martin cautions that if a tom has gobbled close by, call softly once or twice.

“Too much calling may spook the bird,” he said. “Be patient. Wait him out. It you have good cover, move on the bird at a different angle. That’s an effective tactic for fooling a lovesick gobbler.

“I never give up on a bird. Patience and position makes for a gobbler slung on my back.”

Keck, also an illustrator, columnist and lecturer, has hunted Missouri many times. It’s one of his favorite states. He is known as a stickler about hunting turkeys: for instance, soft camouflage from top to bottom.

“Turkeys can hear rigid jackets, pants, boots, shirts, rain gear and caps,” Keck said. “What you wear in the woods can help you or spook a bird.”

Sitting stone still is a must, even if the mosquitoes are eating you alive. Walking in the woods, you talk in whispers. When you sit down to hunt, silence is golden.

Keck likes to hoot like an owl with his voice rather than a commercial call. He is a master of turkey mouth diaphragms.

His second choice is slates.

Martin as been hunting wild turkeys for 35 years with shotgun, muzzle loader and bow and arrow. He was introduced to the sport by a Thayer High School friend in the late 1960s.

On his first hunt he called up a gobbler, and from that time on his passion was turkey hunting.

In the late ’70s he taught people who wanted to learn how to hunt turkeys. The turkey school fared well.

Martin was rewarded by the Missouri Department Of Conservation with the Grand Stamp Award and the Grand Slam Award when he successfully bagged the Eastern subspecies, the Florida subspecies (Osceola), the Rio Grande subspecies and the Merriam’s subspecies.

Keck, who was raised in Pennsylvania, where his dad taught him turkey hunting early in life, advises roosting birds late in the afternoon when they prepare to fly up to their roost limb, then early next morning getting close to that same tree and waiting for the birds to fly down.

“It’s a distinct edge,” he said.

“You will be where the birds are. And most time your odds of shooting are good.”


Well-known member
Jun 16, 2001
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Good post, spectr17!! I now believe in leaving the deeks at home when the foilage starts comming out and your in a woods setting, Jerry martin is right on with that point.

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