Wanting to be part of the hunt until the end


Doug Herman of Nebraska had a life-time hunting buddy — and we all know how we treasure them — who fell ill one day and was rushed to the hospital.

“I just want to get out of here and hunt with you one more time,” his friend said. But he didn’t get out of there and so that last hunt didn’t materialize.

That, as much as anything, bothered Herman until one day he got a bright idea. While reloading shotgun shells, he decided to include some of his friend’s ashes in the shells. He did it and so one day, when he shot the first shot at a bird, his friend had at last gone on one more hunt with him.

This is a true story, and I thought what a good idea that was, so I’m planning to tell my son to do that with my ashes. Or at least with some of them. But there is a fly in the ointment here: since his hunting accident while turkey hunting, he has never gone turkey hunting again. And for my ashes to be aimed at a lesser bird than the magnificent wild turkey would not be welcome news. Oh well, we already had another plan so he will probably just have to go with that one.

Check out Ken

Every year at the Jaffa Outdoor show, I make it a point to go to Ken Hammel’s seminar. He has new material every year, new tips and new calls that I want to hear and see.

Hammel owns Mountain Hollow Turkey Calls and is a native of Altoona. His parents still live near Altoona but Hammel lives in Northern New York. He has been in the business for 35 years and has hunted 30 states.

Hammel has some instructions for hunters about how to treat mouth calls, which I doubt most hunters do. We get our calls out from wherever we put them when the last spring season was over, and then find the reeds stuck together and wrinkled and not usable. Hammel told us that at the end of every day he hunts he rinses them in cold water, then gives them a bath in mouthwash to kill bacteria, then rinses of the mouthwash and then puts them in the freezer while wet. You just have to train yourself to get them out of the freezer each day before you head to the woods.

Hammel says to put them in the freezer not in the refrigerator because the air in the fridg dries the reeds out and affects the sound.

“Another thing you should have in your turkey vest is a square of sandpaper,” Hammel said. ” Most of us know that the surface of a slate or glass calls needs roughed up every now and then to produce the tones but we often neglect to rough up the tip of the striker and that too will affect the quality of the sound you make. So roll that striker tip around on the sandpaper a few times each morning too.

“As for box calls, different woods make different sounds, Hammel said. Test them carefully before you purchase one to be sure you get the sound you like. And never use school chalk on the edges of the call or on the lid because it has an oil in it that you don’t want on you box call surfaces. I recommend a box call composed of a cherry/poplar combination.

In the matter of what to use to locate birds in the pre-dawn, Hammel says we need to remember that blowing a locator call is to a gobbler about the same experience we have if someone suddenly jumps out at us from a closet. We jump and usually let out some kind of yelp. “So I close in on the area where I think gobblers are located and then blow that locator call for all it is worth. I do not use locator calls during the day however “Hammel said. “Later in the day, I may use a crow call to try to get a turkey to betray his location but I put a lot of emotion in that crow call. I do not ever use coyote calls to locate because turkeys are afraid of coyotes and likely will not answer that call. In fact, I think one of the reasons that birdsare not gobbling as much as they did several years ago is because of the rise in the coyote population. “

I very much agree with Hammel in his experience with coyotes. I have had coyotes come rushing down a hill, or around a side hill, to rush at the turkeys while I was calling to them. I’ve seen coyotes rush in and pounce on decoys, sometimes ripping them to shreds. I’ve even had coyotes come sneaking up on me while I was sitting quietly wafting calls into the air.

I’m not an expert coyote hunter, but my experience with coyotes suggests to me that using turkey calls is a great lure.