posted by Ron on April 15, 2010
It is probably the oldest debate in spring turkey hunting. How loud should you call? How often? How aggressively?  

Written By:  Mark Strand, Guest Poster


Ray Eye calls from behind a tree, concealed by Cabela's camo.

It is probably the oldest debate in spring turkey hunting. How loud should you call? How often? How aggressively?

The classic old-school notion is that you should yelp three times on a box call and then put it down, far enough away that you won’t be able to reach it for about a half-hour. That approach works, certainly, as the beard and spur collections of numerous old-schoolers will attest.

But there is another school, started by people who would have worn loud colors at Wimbledon even before it was half accepted, that argues you will have more consistent success and you’ll find out whether anything’s going to happen sooner by being the most receptive and bossy hen in the harem.

Ray Eye, who has been making audio tapes and videos and writing books about turkey hunting for many years, grew up in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks. He’s been a turkey fanatic since he was too young to lift a shotgun, and get this, his father and even grandfather were among the original aggressive callers.

Here’s a quick Q&A with Ray that will outline a calling mindset that I have personally come to believe in wholeheartedly.

Q: This topic gets debated constantly, with even seasoned hunters disagreeing on it. How loud, and often, should you call to a tom turkey as you work him? Some say that you can call too much to a gobbler and get him gobbling so hard that it actually causes him to hang up? Do you think the “hen” can sound too eager?

Ray Eye: Try to eliminate hang-ups before they happen, by setting up in a spot the bird is willing to come to. And in my calling, I want him excited. I want to get him all worked up. I want him in a frenzy, because he makes mistakes when he’s in a frenzy. He comes to you. He wants to get with that hen.

Just listen to the turkeys. You know which hen the tom goes to? The one that’s doing all the yelpin’ and cuttin’.

Q: And yet, some people will say that, as long as that tom is coming to you, when he’s getting closer with each gobble, that you should stop calling, or at least don’t call as much.

Ray Eye: You can (stop calling) and let ’em look for you if you want. It’s a judgement call. But I call all the time. I was asked one time when I stop calling, and I said “when I pull the trigger.”

Q: Do you think there’s any difference in which calling approach would work best, depending on how many real hens are in the area when you’re trying to work a tom? Some people admit that they call more, and louder, when they’re competing directly with a real hen.

Ray Eye: Oh, absolutely. Always call a lot when you’re competing with another hen. You have to be a hen, too, and you have to be the one that tom is going to choose to go to.

Q: So, is it possible that the strategy of easing up on the calling might work better, or be more likely to work, if there aren’t any real hens around?

Ray Eye: It’s possible. But every situation I’m in, I call a lot and I call aggressive and I keep ’em going. The reason I do that is because the real hens do it. A hen that really wants to get with a gobbler doesn’t stop calling and let him look for her. And yeah, she can come to him, but a gobbler will come to her, too.

Q: Have you ever seen a tom actually shy away from a loud, aggressive hen?

Ray Eye: No, why would he? He’s a turkey. In the spring, he wants to get with those hens.

Q: You’re telling us to call loud, and aggressively. But what if we’re just not that good on our calls?

Ray Eye: Anybody can sound like a turkey if they quit thinking it’s so hard to do.

Q: In the real world of the average hunter is there a huge difference in talent and experience level between callers.

Ray Eye: I can take a little kid or an old lady out of the crowd at my seminars, people who have never had a call in their hands before, and have them sounding like a turkey in five minutes. It’s not hard. You just have to learn to listen to the turkeys.

The average hunter gets it in his mind that it’s so hard to sound like a turkey on a call, and it’s not. It’s just the rhythm, and you can learn how to make it in a few minutes. Listen to the good quality tapes and CDs we have nowadays, and learn what real turkeys sound like when they yelp and cut. In the spring, those are about all you need to do.

Learn to yelp and cut, either on a box call or slate call. And then do it out in the woods with emotion. Sound like you’re ready to get with that old tom, and be insistent about it. You’ll kill turkeys doing that, I guarantee you.

posted by Ron on April 14, 2010

The Tom Gaskins Turkey Call has been around for a long time. “For more than 50 years, Tom Gaskins’ invention has remained one of the most unique and effective turkey calls ever made. This call is made from a single piece of wood without any glued parts. Compact enough to fit in a shirt pocket, these calls are hand-tuned to produce perfect hen sounds.”(Cabelas)

My personal experiences with this call began over 40 years ago while hunting with my Dad. It was the only call my Dad used and he was a very successful turkey hunter.

The call is a hollow tube type call and uses a wooden striker to make the sounds. The call is easy to use. Rub chalk on the call lip and striker before you start and re-chalk about every 6 or 7 calls. After having some experience using the call, you’ll be able to tell when it needs re-chalking. Always use a soft type of chalk.

Hold the call, with the cork end at the top, loosely between your thumb and fingers of your left hand. This hold will give the call a raspy note, which is what you want for Spring gobblers. Take the striker in your right hand and stroke it across the lip of the call from left to right in a rocking motion. This makes the yelp. Use short quick strokes to make clucks. With a little practice, you’ll be making some really nice turkey talk with the Tom Gaskins Turkey Call. This is not a loud call, but very effective, especially on Spring Gobblers. I’ve found that gobblers will respond to this call when they ignore other calls.

If you store the chaulk and striker inside the call, it will make lots of rattling noise, so you’ll need to cut a small piece of cloth to put inside of the call to eliminate the noise. This works great.

posted by Ron on April 12, 2010

It’s about 9:30 am on April 12, 2010, and I want to share with you the events of a successful Spring Gobbler hunt that took place this morning in the foothills of North Mountain near Whitacre, VA.

There were three of us hunting this morning;  my son, Curry, his buddy and former Sherando Warrior teammate, Hunter Taylor, and me. Curry and Hunter decided they would hunt one side of the property where they had roosted two birds the night before. Curry is trying to help Hunter get his first Spring Gobbler ever.

I decided to hunt the other side of the property where Curry had previously heard a Gobbler on opening day. He had told me the Gobbler would gobble his head off at a crow call, but hadn’t responded to a turkey call. He also told me that the  bird had lots of hens which I knew would make for a difficult situation.

At daybreak I positioned myself between the top of an oak ridge that had been timbered a couple of years ago and a mature apple orchard. Curry had harvested a nice bird on this same ridge last year and there always seems to be a gobbler at this location most years. I patiently waited for a gobble, but heard nothing.

I moved down the ridge a little further and listened some more….still …nothing. Normally I would have given an owl hoot to try and stir something up, but my owl hooter was somehow misplaced and can’t be found. Curry gave me another to use, but it just doesn’t sound right. If the truth be known, I think Curry has mine!

The apple blossoms are out in full bloom which is really unusual. Everything seems to be about a month ahead, which explains why the Gobblers are with the hens.  I concluded that the gobbler may not be gobbling because he doesn’t have to … he already has plenty of  ladies!  So I decided to just sit down and call.

I hadn’t called more than two or three times when I heard something in the leaves and looked up to see three hens coming right to me. They came to within ten yards and never saw me. They finally moved by me to my right. I waited, hoping to see a gobbler in the woods behind them, but one never materialized.

About 30 minutes or so went by and I began to call again. I was using a  Tom Gaskins call, which I inherited from my Dad many years ago. This is a hollow tube type call that uses a wooden striker. Most people say it doesn’t really sound as authentic as some of the newer designs of today. I would have to agree, but for Spring Gobblers, I’ve found nothing that works better. Gobblers will respond to this call when they won’t to other calls. You can still buy the Tom Gaskins Turkey Call at Cabelas.

When I called this time, a gobbler answered me out to my left and it sounded to me that he was at my elevation.  So I started giving it to him pretty hard, trying my best to sound like the sexiest and horniest hen on the mountain. He gobbled again and was closer… he was coming!

I called some more, laid down the call and got ready. This time he didn’t answer and I knew he was looking for me. I strained hard , trying to see him… trying to hear him in the leaves, but nothing. Ten minutes had gone by and I was getting impatient. I had to call again. So I picked up my call and gave a couple of yelps.

The gobbler gobbled…. right behind me to my left…he was in my lap, not more than 15 yards away. I turned ever so slowly to find him and that’s when all hell broke loose. The hens saw me and went in all directions. I could then see the red headed gobbler behind them and he saw me at exactly the same time and took flight. My first shot missed cleanly and, as I chambered the second round, flashes went through my mind of serious ribbing from Curry and Hunter for letting the big bird get away. The second shot was true, however, and I watched the gobbler tumble to the forest floor. The gobbler weighed in at 18 lbs. , had a ten inch beard and 3/4 inch spurs. It was a fun morning!

posted by Ron on April 1, 2010

Scouting for spring gobblers will increase the hunter’s chance for success to harvest one of these beautiful birds. Start scouting a week or two before season. Early morning is the best time to scout. Listen for turkeys to gobbler right at daylight. Before season, gobblers may only gobble a couple of times on the roost before flying down, especially if the temperatures are below 35 degrees F.

Generally, if you can locate a gobbler during this time of year, you can pretty much count on that bird to stay in the vicinity for the duration of the season if not disturbed too much. This puts the hunter at a huge advantage, because locating the birds is half the battle.

The best places to listen for gobblers is in areas of mature timber, especially oak stands that are located near a stream, wet weather springs, or other water source. These are the areas where the hens will nest. Turkeys require a water source near their nesting sites so as to facilitate turning the eggs in the nest during the incubation period.

Many times, when scouting for spring gobblers, the hunter can entice a gobbler to gobble by making a sharp startling sound, such as an owl hoot, crow call or even slamming a car door. Locating gobblers before season in this way will definitely increase the hunter’s odds for success when opening day arrives.

Another great scouting technique is to drive country roads on warm spring afternoons. Gobblers and turkeys in general will take to open fields during this time of day and will allow you to uncover areas of good turkey habitat. Follow that up with talking to local folks about getting permission to hunt near these fields.

posted by Ron on March 20, 2010

A simple shed trap for collecting deer sheds can be built using a few bungy cords and a little ingenuity. The best time to place shed traps is in mid to late February prior to when  bucks start losing their antlers.

Look for areas where deer frequent this time of year, preferably between bedding and feeding areas. Look for a blowdown or pile of large limbs to begin building your trap. Stretch the bungy cords from limb to limb, so as to make the buck enter his head between the cords to get to the bait. I like to use shelled corn for bait.

The buck’s antlers will get entangled in the bungy cords causing the antlers to fall off. However, the cords don’t provide enough resistance to cause damage to the deer or frighten him away. Try it…it’s worked for me.

Ron from

posted by Ron on March 19, 2010

Just wanted to let you know that my son Curry found a nice shed yesterday. It was an eight point. So get out there and start hunting.

posted by Ron on March 18, 2010

Remember it is not lawful to remove sheds from the National Park. So take some great pictures and leave the sheds for the mice and other rodents.

posted by Ron on March 18, 2010

Time is now to begin hunting for those sheds.