At first light, an old battle-worn tom belted out a voluminous gobble that served as a warning to all would-be suitors and a come-hither call for any available hens.

In short order, birds began to fly into the field and land just out of range in the far end. A flock of hens and jakes were joined by one old gobbler that was missing his center tail feathers. Aptly named "Old Split Tail" by Dan Robinson, the king of the woods proceeded to follow the seductive hens in the opposite direction.

"What are we going to do?" Robinson asked.

"We'll wait on him," Ronnie Foy answered matter-of-factly.

He then sent out a few sweet, seductive notes to let the boss gobbler know he had a willing suitor waiting in the wings. As the menagerie of turkeys disappeared in the other direction, Foy pulled down his cap and began his vigil. Over the next few hours, the pair waited patiently on the old tom to complete his mission and return to them.

Quite some time later, Foy sent out a sultry call in the direction that the turkeys had disappeared, and a lovesick bird answered with a boisterous gobble.

"I looked up and saw 12 hens, eight jakes and one longbeard, old Split tail, running straight across the field," he said. "Old Split Tail never came out of strut, and Dan laid him down."

Patience and knowledge were on Foy's side, and years of experience taught him how to handle such situations. Chasing the retreating flock would have been fatal to their cause.

The hunt took about four and a half hours to conclude, and turned out to be one of the best ever for Foy. It illustrates his turkey hunting philosophy in a nutshell.

Find the turkeys

"The first thing I tell anybody is to make sure you've got turkeys," Foy said.

Though it may seem obvious, many people waste a lot of time hunting and calling turkeys in places where there are none. According to Foy, you've got to go to the most productive places possible, and that means hunting where the food and birds are.

Fields are the first place to locate spring flocks and gobblers. Foy will cover large open areas with binoculars, and locate turkeys while staying far enough away to avoid spooking them.

Know the lay of the land

Somewhere near the top of Foy's list of must do's is learning the land you're hunting.

"You've got to know the lay of the land to avoid hang-ups or common obstacles such as creeks, cane breaks and thickets," he said.

And there's no substitution for hands on scouting in the woods. Keeping up with turkeys is a year-round process.

"If a gobbler hangs up behind some obstacle, move sideways in one direction or the other, and he'll have a reason to move toward you," Foy suggested.

Be patient

"Get somewhere near the turkeys, and sit down, call and then be patient," Foy said. "Do your call, let them know where you are and just be patient. That bird will be back sometime that day, and I'll be there waiting."

Foy strongly advises against overcalling.

At dawn, Foy will give the gobbler a light tree yelp or locator call to let the tom know his position. Then it's usually a matter of waiting him out.

If you are the first "hen" of the morning, he'll be met with a sunrise surprise. If not, he'll come to you after servicing his usual harem of hens. Foy is from the old school of hunters, and believes in calling just enough to let the gobbler know where you are. Less is more.

Afternoon hunts

Afternoon is one of the best times to hunt a wise old gobbler, according to Foy.

"I've killed a lot of birds in the afternoon," he said. "I'll get in an area like a field where turkeys have been hanging out, and start out with some low calling. If I don't get a response in 30 to 40 minutes, I'll cut or cackle to get them excited and let them know there's a hot hen out here."

Usually the gobblers are vocal in the mornings, but the afternoon may be another story. Foy advised to be ready for a gobbler to come in silent at any time. If you're not ready, he may spot you and leave without you ever knowing he was there.

First calls

Foy believes it's more important to master one type of call and to learn the cadence of the hens. Every hen has a different sound, but they all have the same rhythm. Rather than trying to master several calls, he advises people to find out which call is easiest for them to use and learn how to play it.

"Some folks can pick up a mouth call pretty quick, but many folks are better suited to a slate or box call starting out," he said. "Find the call that's easiest for you to use, and master it before trying other things.

"There are no real secrets or tricks. Sometimes any call might work on a turkey, so don't be afraid to try something different."

Sometimes gobblers have been educated by other hunters and need a little extra enticement. Foy has worked thousands of birds, and no two are alike. However, many birds have some of the same tendencies, and Foy will find out what they want and give it to them. If they hang up with a harem of hens, you'll need to work on the boss hen.

"Every flock has a boss hen, and if you fuss at her enough and make her mad enough, she'll come over for a fight, and all the rest will follow her," Foy said. "I've had gobblers follow the whole group right into range for an easy shot many times."

Jealous toms

"If you've got two or three mature gobblers in the area that won't cooperate, try to make them mad with some aggressive calling," Foy advised. "If you can get really aggressive with your calls with some excited and aggressive cutting and cackling and make them think she's really hot, then your chances are really good that multiple birds will come in looking for a fight."

When they do come in, you just might be treated to some of the most fantastic gobbler fights ever witnessed.

If you're looking to get on a good bird this spring, try some of Foy's tried and proven techniques. Whether you try to play the game by his rules, or just add a few to your own repertoire, you'll still be ahead of the game. Try them for yourself and you just might bag the biggest gobbler of your life.

 

Ronnie Foy is available for booking spring turkey hunts in central Mississippi and may also go to your birds and call them up for you if requested. He can be reached at 601-859-2300.