Salter and Rutledge really know how to talk turkey


No doubt the snow storm of last week dampened the ardor of wild turkeys across the state.

Most turkey hunters will consider that a gift since most believe that the season opens at least two weeks too late. The breeding season is usually well over by the time season starts which makes it much harder to convince a gobbler that you are a hen he should look for when he has a harem right with him that he doesn’t intend to leave. So we are all hoping that the snow impinged on the amorous activities in the woods this week and set back their schedule a bit.

At the national convention of The National Wild Turkey Federation in Tennessee recently, we had the chance to listen to many of the world’s best and best-known turkey callers and turkey hunters. Here’s a few of the tips that a few of them offered to those who sat to listen.

Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland of video and hunting fame said this “When locating gobblers, make that first call you offer the best thing you’ve got. I do not believe in making three or four sounds in the effort to get a bird to shock gobble. Some guys will do an owl call, then a crow call, then a woodpecker call but I think that is a bad idea. It’s not natural.

“When a gobbler answers a shock gobble I sit down and call very little and just wait. He heard you. If he gobbled back just wait, he’ll be along. Do I talk to him on the roost? Only if I can hear hens clucking in the trees, then I’ll join the crowd. Otherwise I’ll offer him some subdued yelps/clucks then I shut up and wait.”

I’ve had the privilege to hunt with “Cuz” Strickland several times, in Mississippi and in Pennsylvania. Will Primos and Cuz came up to the Poconos to hunt with my buddy Buck Alt and me. Primos took Buck and I went with Cuz. Cuz called a bird up over the side of a steep ridge and I bagged it. When we got together with Will and Buck, Will had called a gobbler up for Buck which he got. It was quite a day.

Ray Eye the great outdoor writer and turkey hunter gave this piece of advice. “If turkeys are not talking so you decide to move and call, do it slowly. When you return, come back the same way you went because turkeys will be there somewhere looking for the birds they heard earlier.”

Eddie Salter and Alex Rutledge got together to relate their experience and advice. Both men, experts in their fields of calling and hunting. drove home the point that emotion is a huge part of successful calling to a turkey. Old hens drag their calling out, it’s like pleading, and we need to be way better at making calls that plead with birds to pay attention.

For soft, sweet calling, both liked a 2-reed call with a slit cut. Both advised hunters to carry a number of different-sounding calls since gobblers will often respond only to the kid of call they are used to hearing. Some hens are raspy and some are not and a gobbler wants to hear what his hens do.

Good advice. Rutledge has a new outdoor show coming soon that will be called “Faith, Family, Friends and Constitutional Rights.” It sounds good to me. I’ll be watching for it.

One question that cropped up at nearly everyone’s seminar was about the hunting tactic known as “fanning.” That’s when a hunter can get right out in the open and close the distance between him and a gobbler if he is holding a full-sized turkey fan in front of him like a shield.

Here in Pennsylvania, this tactic has been pretty well refused, although you need always to be careful and watch for someone using it. In crowded spaces and small fields, it is a dangerous thing to do.

Truly it’s an example of situational ethics. Many of the experts who were holding forth said that in the wide open places like North Dakota and Montana and Wyoming where huge, unending fields allow plenty of room for this practice to be used safely they have no problem with it.

But to do this tactic in heavy forest, would be like suicide and I,for one, have no intention ever to “fan” a turkey. That is not the same as setting out a decoy that has a real tail fan permanently on it. That could be a drawing card for a decoy set up.

One thing you always have to remember when listening to“experts” talking about how to do it is that hunting vastly different types of terrain makes a large difference in what will be safe in one place and yet be dangerous in another.