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Getting the Jump on Toms

          Turkey hunting is hard enough. Too often hunters make it a lot harder by making simple mistakes. I attribute this to the mesmerizing focus of old Tom’s. They have an innate ability to cause us to make some real bad decisions. In order to get the jump on them, we have to out think them, which I am not so certain many of us are capable of even on our best days. Ole Tom is one wary, wily, and witty creature. Causing even the most educated and astute among us to wonder aloud at times.

Getting the jump on him often requires us to know more about him than he knows about himself. And as is the demise of many a good fellow, it is because of the ladies that he falls. Learning as much as we can about hens, their behavior, feeding patterns, nesting areas and the like, we give ourselves the remote opportunity of seeing, and killing a mature gobbler.

An older gentleman of the upstate of South Carolina has shared some of his wisdom with me over the few years that I have known him. Charles Hudson of Travelers Rest, SC has spent decades pursuing the wild turkey all across the nation. Now well into his 80’s Charles isn’t able to travel as far, but his pursuit is just as passionate and dedicated. The month of April is spent plodding along the hills and hollers of his native upstate of South Carolina in search of mature gobblers. Mr. Hudson readily admits that while his vision is not as good as it used to be, he will not kill a turkey that isn’t at least three years old, and prefers them in the four or five year bracket. “If their spurs are’t 1.5 inches, I ain’t interested.” Hudson says. It’s the old Tom that intrigues him. And the way he kills them is by studying the hens. Hudson says “I watch and listen to the hens, I listen how they talk to one another, how they respond to Ole Tom, how they cluck, purr, and just gab like women folk do, and I try and sound like them.”

One of the most interesting facets of Hudson’s repertoire is that he only hunts with a .410 shotgun, preferring to call the turkeys into ten to fifteen yards and his method of calling. On a hunt recently where I was invited to watch and learn, Hudson using one of his custom trumpet calls, was barely audible at fifteen feet! Yet the gobbler he was speaking to at over one hundred yards was answering every sound he made. This brought calling softly to a completely different level. “Old birds don’t like to be hollered at….” Hudson said. And a few minutes later he stood over his bird complete with its tree hanger spurs.

When I inquired about his methods, Hudson just said, he had been hunting this particular bird for a few days, but this is the first time he used a call. The rest of the time he came in here and listened. “by listening to the hens, I know what I am supposed to sound like, what he is used to hearing, and I do what I can to mimic the girls he is used to hearing.” Hudson believes that to kill truly old gobblers, we cannot throw anything at them that isn’t as realistic as possible. We have to sound like a hen that isn’t interested in anything he has going on and that will give him the incentive to come looking. Hudson described it like this, “When turkeys act like turkeys, the gobblers know that the hen is supposed to come to him when he gobbles. If she doesn’t come, he is liable to think either she isn’t ready to breed, or something is wrong with the situation, so he doesn’t come looking. He has watched too many of his buddies go looking for the lost girl and never come back so he stays away. If she doesn’t come to him, he moves on.”

Getting the jump on turkeys, old mature turkeys is normally a matter of simply learning more about the hens and what they are saying in your area. If you can listen more, learn from the ladies, the odds for success increase.