by Naomi K. Shapiro
There are two different methods Guide Phil Schweik uses to hunt wild turkey. In the normal scheme of things most hunters will "sit" -- either in a blind (Schweik personally suggests this -- you're comfortable, dry, warm and totally concealed), or leaning up against a tree. You get out your calls. You set up your decoys. And you're "good to go." You wait for the birds to come to you. But that doesn't always work. Sometimes you'll hear the turkeys in the distance, but you just can't get them interested in coming in. And in other times you might just be set up in the wrong spot.
Tah-tah. That's the time you must get up and "spot and stalk" -- in other words, since the birds aren't coming to you, YOU move in on the birds. Stop shaking your heads -- done right, it will work. It's not easy, but it can be done following a few simple rules:
First and foremost recognize that turkeys have acute eyesight, and can pick you up from a quarter-mile away. Once they spot you, they're gone, and you're off to the pizza parlor for dinner rather than succulent wild turkey.
If there's a big enough area to hunt (public, or, with-permission, private-land), hunters will often drive around in their pickups or SUV's until they spot the birds in an adjacent field. They find a place to park where the birds are feeding and then set up. What you don't want to do is walk along the wood edges as the birds will instantly pick you up. Get far enough into the woods and work your way through the woods and get in behind them. Even though you will not be able to actually see the birds, your scouting efforts will have told you where they are generally located. You literally use the classic military maneuver of outflanking the birds and come in behind them. The birds will always locate near wood and timber, so if there's danger, they can easily scoot from the fields to the safety of the woods.
Two ways of getting up near the birds. First -- CRAWL -- like many men and women did serving our nation in the military. You know --"elbows, belly, and low-knees" -- hunkered down low, working your way toward the birds and field edges from the woods. Don't you dare look up and try to see the birds while crawling. They'll darn well spot you! You'll know where they are from their clucking, purring and gobbling, and from your previous scouting. I know hunters who have gotten to within 20 yards of birds doing the "crawl."
Best suggestion is to get just within firing range -- 20 yards is great, but sometimes you can't get that close without spooking them. Then again, like in the military, you pop up, and say, "hi there", as you fire. Yup -- it's the classic predator stalk. And let me tell you, your adrenalin will pump like all get-out. It's very exciting, albeit very challenging.
The other method concerns the situation where the woods are just too open -- and there's no possible way to get close to the birds without them spotting you. So you simply set up IN THE WOODS, behind the birds, and call them.
You then pull them off the fields to you in the woods. It does work. Not always, mind you, but sure is worth the try.
(Phil Schweik of Hooksetters Guide Services contributed to this article).