“Do you want to kill a turkey, or practice your calling?”
Bo Pittman, among the best turkey hunters to ever roam Alabama, once posed that question to an accompanying hunter who was quite taken with his calling ability—me. His self-evident question sank in, and I never called when I hunted with him except those infrequent occasions when I was invited to do so.
Though in time I came to realize that wild turkeys were, like Pittman, somewhat less impressed with my expertly wrought and abundant yelps, cuts, keekeeing, and all that, at the time I thought it might make things easier for him. Bo, whose family owned and operated the famed White Oak Plantation of Macon County, Alabama, didn’t agree and we did things his way, which entailed more woodsmanship than showmanship.
Bo has always been a minimalist when it comes to calling and probably all of us should be more like him, or at least admit that calling isn’t always going to get us out of the woods with a gobbler slung over our shoulder. When you stop to think about it, usually it’s some talkative and inquisitive hen that makes the racket, or younger toms that hope to impress you with their gobbles.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t call first thing in the morning in hopes of encouraging a gobbler to fly down near you, because that happens a lot. But generally you should be more discreet about it later in the morning and call less, if at all. Enjoying a successful hunt doesn’t have to end the way you imagined it, or the way it always appears on one of those hunting shows, after a symphony of yelps, cuts, and purrs.
I recall one hot afternoon when Pittman and I wandered aimlessly—or at least I thought so at the time—through a dry, mosquito-infested flatwoods with the usual assortment of hardwoods and pine. We stopped to sit and rest against a large tree when suddenly Bo said, “Shh. I hear drumming, do you hear it?”