Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90-percent mental, the other half is physical.” Much the same holds true for turkey hunting. No matter what your level of education or degree of turkey knowledge, a turkey hunter’s success or failure will ultimately depend on the conscious decisions he or she will make during the course of a hunt. And while we might not know how turkeys think, we have a pretty good idea what they think about. Arm yourself with a little logic, and the HuntStand app, to make the right moves this spring.
Smart turkey hunters glean an edge by learning all they can about the bird. There is an amazing amount of detailed research available for those who wish to study the regal birds in-depth. And then, for hunters in the know, there is also state-of-the-art equipment that delivers instant, practical, in-the-field hunting advantages.
The HuntStand app, for example, lets you log every roost, strut, or feed location on your chosen hunting tract. It also offers detailed satellite views of the terrain, allowing you to connect dots and find preferred travel routes. The app can also pinpoint your best bets for easy land access to help you avoid spooking resident birds.
In addition, the HuntStand app delivers current and forecasted weather conditions, the current moon phase, and projected feeding times. This helps plan a smart and productive hunt. With this helpful info, and much more, turkey hunting has indeed entered a new era of efficiency.
With all of this science and gear available, turkey gobblers should be extinct or severely endangered. That is, except for one small detail: turkeys are survivors! Their skills and instincts have been polished to perfection over hundreds of thousands of years of selective evolution, and they are totally focused on their continued survival. And while it’s true we humans who chase turkeys are vastly superior in intellect, information and equipment, we also are handicapped by one glaring weakness. We are humans and we think like humans! We have choices, options, and opinions that are often distorted and/or otherwise colored by human perceptions and emotions. This is why a consistently successful turkey hunter will try to get inside a turkey’s head. The difference is huge.
Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90-percent mental, the other half is physical.” Much the same holds true for turkey hunting.
Thinking like a turkey means you can’t consider turkeys on an “adversarial” level. Turkeys don’t consider you at all—until they see you. Your hunt is not “you against them;” you are simply hunting them. Turkeys are not matching wits with you or trying to “trick” you. Turkeys have no way of knowing you are imitating their calling. They have no idea that you even exist as anything more than a tall, ugly, two-legged predator. When they avoid you turkeys are merely being turkeys and thinking like turkeys—and you must keep reminding yourself of these facts. After you use your HuntStand App to assemble your scouting info, logical ambush locations, and weather conditions, take what you already know about turkeys, and use your head!
If you are thinking like a turkey, consider what you believe a turkey is thinking about at a given time and try to use that knowledge to your advantage. Sure, a gobbler might let down his guard a little when he is up to his eyeballs in testosterone, and a hen might put herself in harm’s way to protect her poults. But day-in and day-out, a turkey’s main agenda is survival. The late Lovett Williams had the best two-word description of wild turkey behavior I’ve heard. He said wild turkeys are “uncompromisingly cautious.” They are the square-root of paranoia.
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Turkey Hunting Scenarios to Know
With the above in mind, ask yourself what you would do in these typical situations if you were a turkey:
- If you were a turkey would you studiously avoid thick brushy places where visibility is low and danger might lie in wait? I think you would. If you’re thinking like a gobbler, you know where he won’t go, so you won’t look for him there, or try to call him through such a place.
- If you were a turkey and could hear a hen yelping—and you could pin-point the exact spot where the yelps were coming from but couldn’t see a hen—what would you do? Would you think that was a man calling and run away? I don’t think so. If you were a turkey you would be confused. You would hold your ground and wait for more information; that is, wait for the hen to show. You would then be a “hung-up” turkey. If you’re thinking like a turkey you’ll set up so the gobbler can’t see where the calling is coming from until he comes over a hill or around a curve to find you.
- If you were a turkey and a bobcat jumped out of the shadows and nearly made a meal out of you, your initial reaction would be to fly up in a tree. Then what? Would you stay in the tree all day quaking in fear after such a close call? I don’t think so. If you scare a turkey he is going to get in a place where he feels safe, usually high up a tree, and stay there until he forgets why he flew up there. If you’re thinking like a turkey, give him at least an hour. Turkeys scare easily but they get over it quickly. They are too busy being turkeys to sit in a tree and shake all day just because of a close call.
- If you were a turkey gobbler in the spring and you heard a hen yelping 400 yards away, would you run right to the spot to investigate? I don’t think so. You would gobble in response to the yelping and try to call the hen to you. She is supposed to come to you. When she doesn’t show up you would probably gobble again and wait. Maybe she didn’t hear the gobble. You might decide to get a little closer and gobble again, which usually means you are committed to investigating the yelping.
- If you were a turkey would you gobble at hen yelps but not investigate them because you knew they were artificial? I don’t think so. If you gobble at a call, it is because you believe a real hen is doing the talking. You have your turkey reasons for not coming to the call, which could include you being a subdominant gobbler trying to call the hen out of another gobbler’s territory, or some physical barrier that is keeping you from coming in. Whatever the reason you wouldn’t gobble at all if you didn’t think the hen talk was legit.
- If you were a big tom, gobbling and moving steadily toward the sound of hen yelps, is the reason you suddenly quit gobbling due to the fact that you don’t like the sound of the call, or because the caller made a mistake? I don’t think so. You have your turkey reasons for shutting up. It could be that you saw another hunter, a coyote or some kind of predator. Or, you saw a real hen that came to the gobbling.
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These problems and many more like them call for “command decisions” that you must make on any given hunt. How you make them will likely determine the outcome of your adventure. No one knows for sure what or how a turkey thinks, but we have a pretty good idea what they are thinking about. You can use what you know to anticipate their reactions and responses in specific situations. You won’t always win this game but if you’re smart you will be glad you got a chance to play. And you will definitely become a better player if you can think like a turkey.