How would you define the term "turkey pro?" Is it a outdoorsman who has been turkey hunting for many years? Is a pro at this sport one who consistently bags his gobbler limit every season?

Maybe it's a hunter who has scored the royal quadruple slam of all American turkey species. It could be the guy who makes his own calls or one who makes "pro team" status with a call company.

Truth is, this term may be more difficult to profile than one might imagine. Then, of course, a pro is often in the eyes, ears and mind of the beholder.

Mississippi is replete with good turkey hunters. The origin of this is unclear, but it may have to do with an ample statewide turkey flock, plenty of public lands to hunt and private lands managed for turkey-enhanced habitat. It may also have to do with the unique status of the Magnolia State being home to so many turkey hunting-related commercial businesses including numerous outfitting services catering to turkey hunters.

Little doubt exists that Mississippi is a top turkey-hunting state. This is evident in the roughly 35,000 gobblers harvested each year, a liberal season of almost six weeks, along with a bag limit of three toms.

Resident hunters are lucky that so far the outside world has not tuned into the turkey potential of Mississippi. That leaves us to hone our skills and ply our homemade tactics against some of the toughest gobblers in the country.

And speaking of plying skills, here's a chance for old dogs to learn new tricks from a couple of salty, experienced turkey hunters. Check out the game plans of these two guys, and see if there is anything here you can add to your own turkey bag of strategies, tactics and gobbler bagging tricks.

Madison's madman

Sometimes nicknames are hard to shake. For Ronnie Foy of Canton, it's doubly hard because he has gathered so many monikers over the years, some of which could never be printed here.

To say the least, though, Foy is considered one of the best turkey hunters in the state. He was raised in the country, learned to turkey hunt on his own, crafts his own calls and can coax a stubborn gobbler across a desolate field, a water barrier or a briar path worthy of hiding record-class bucks, which he also chases with considerable success.

Today, he operates his own guide service out of his old farm home place north of Canton.

"When I was a kid, we worked hard on a farm," he said. "My dad did not hunt. I saw wild game all the time while I was doing chores around the farm house and sheds, or helping with spring planting or fall harvest. I was right in the middle of some of the best deer and turkey habitat in Mississippi, maybe anywhere. At some point, I just decided I was going to take up hunting, and so I did.

"Everything I learned about hunting came from being self-taught via multiple trials and lots of errors, or I learned from a few select other hunters along the way. When I was kid, there were no hunting shows on TV, no instructional VCR tapes or DVDs. The only hunting magazines I could get my hands on were at the local barber shop.

"This exposure to Mother Nature at an early age has gone a long way toward helping me learn to move quietly in the woods, listen intently for even the minutest sound indicating game was around, moving closer or further away. I learned to read sign, fresh and old, to scout for locations where game gathered to eat, bed or just move through the territory.

"All of these skills most hunters would just consider the basics, and they are, because they are the most critical. The main difference with my background and experience is that I grew up with it, saw it everyday and learned it all the hard way on the ground firsthand."

"Ol' Yogi used to say it ain't bragging if you can do it. Well, I have been blessed with being able to do it pretty darn well especially when it comes to turkey hunting. That is most of the time I can anyway. Ma Nature does pull a fast one every so often. That's part of the game, too, knowing what to do with a bad hand of cards.

"Clients I guide are always asking me to explain the essential secrets to consistently bagging gobblers season after season. It all starts with those basic, essential skills I learned coming up in the ranks.

"My No. 1 strategy before I do anything else is to locate birds to hunt once the season opens. I don't automatically count on last year's hotspots. That piece of woods might have been logged since last spring. Find the birds first, and then you'll have some to hunt.

"In a sense, one might be able to say that I'm a road hunter. Since I drive a rural mail delivery route out in the county, I travel the back roads everyday. During the early spring, you can bet I keep a keen eye open for gathering turkeys in fields and around woodland edges of properties I can hunt. That consists of most of my scouting. I rarely go into the woods before opening day, and I never, ever call to turkeys before the season starts. The element of surprise is critical.

"When the action starts, I use very basic set-up tactics and simple calls. I only ramp up the aggressive action and calling when I need it, and sometimes I do. Once I hear a gobble, I try to work in close enough to set up in a spot I think the tom will want to come to. Low volume, light, sweet yelps and clucks usually gets the job done more often than not. It's not rocket science, but it is experience learned on the long, hard road to turkey hunting."

Coaching to coaxing

If you think turkey hunting is tough, maybe you should try a stint at coaching football at the community college or high school level. Trying to marshal a decent team of 50-plus players, a diverse coaching staff and all the other elements of putting a football team on the field of play every week of the season ought to make turkey hunting seem like a cake walk.

Just ask Gene Murphy, the long-time head football coach now retired from that main sideline job to take on the role of Athletic Director at Hinds Community College in Raymond. Or ask his son, Kelly Murphy, the defensive coordinator coach at Wayne County High School in Waynesboro. Oh, yeah, they turkey hunt, too, as a team.

"We don't consider ourselves to be great turkey hunters," Gene Murphy said. "Sometimes I'm a little embarrassed to be asked about it. Both my son and I see turkey hunting a whole lot like we do when it comes to coaching a football team. It requires a lot of preseason preparation and organization. For us, it is just like having to put together a game plan for a weekly football schedule well before you hit the field of play.

"When I scout a team or watch film of an opponent, I try to figure out what plays and tactics I can employ to defeat them. When Kelly and I talk about turkey hunting, we use the same approach. With turkey hunting, we scout carefully trying to determine where the birds are, how many are there, how many long beards might be in the flock, where are they roosted and where do they go after the fly-down.

"Then we devise a game plan of action trying to put us right in the middle of their usual course of travel. More often than not, we get the score, but sometimes we run out of downs, too, and have to punt.

"If they fly down and head straight to a green field to chase bugs, then we want to set up there to wait them out. If they meander over to a creek to water or to a sunny spot in the woods to strut or whatever, then our best plan is to get the jump on them. We like to beat them there to set up in advance, and have them walk right into our ambush.

"It is all about the winning of the second guessing of just what a gobbler is likely to do on any given hunting day in the woods that makes us successful. Our success also hinges on the fact that I mostly bring Kelly along to use his ears in the woods, since I can't hear a thing anymore."

The younger Murphy acknowledged as much.

"Last season, Dad kept saying he thought he was hearing a gobble real close by when I finally had to lean over to tell him to be quiet, since it was just a woodpecker in a tree next to our set up," he said. "Guess it's good to have a son along to hunt with, especially one who can hear. So we may not be the best turkey callers in the woods, but our game plans almost always put us on the birds."

Seems coaching and turkey hunting are all about getting ready for the game before the first whistle blows.