Mississippians chasing turkeys during the youth season could run into a situation that could prove detrimental long-term during the rest of the spring gobbler season.
Brad Farris, a former head of Primos Hunting’s TV and Video division who can still be seen on Primos’ productions, once gave this sage advice for early-season hunting.
“A lot of times the birds aren’t ready (mating season) as early as our youth season,” Farris said. “The problem that can cause is that you can mess a bird up for the rest of the season if you push him too hard.
“Two bad things can happen. One is you can educate him to your calling. The other is that, this early, the woods haven’t greened up. They are wide open and they can see. If you bump him, you may lose him for the season and I hate that, especially if I’ve called to him.”
Mississippi’s week-long youth season opened Saturday (March 7) and the regular spring season opens March 14.
Farris therefore urges patience during the first week or two.
“I’m not saying don’t hunt, I’m just saying don’t push it,” Farris said. “Especially if you know you have a limited supply of gobblers. It’s a long season (closes May 1) and you can come back when he’s hot and you have a better chance.
“But if you are limited in time and this is when you can hunt, shoot, go ahead and throw the book at him. Get aggressive.”
Preston Pittman, a Hattiesburg native now from Canton, is another well-known hunter who knows how much a struggle the first weeks can be when gobblers can be “henned up.”
“I hear a lot of hunters talk about losing a gobbler to hens and they give up on him and leave to find another,” said Pittman, a former world calling champion and a long-time successful call designer and manufacturer. “That’s not always wise. Wait him out, especially if he’s answered your calls. I had a wise old hunter told me a long time ago that if a gobbler at any time cuts your call (gobbles to interrupt your yelps), then some time during the day, after he’s finished with his hens and if you haven’t spooked him, he’ll come back and look for that receptive hen.
“I had a hunt where I started on a bird at sunrise and had him working, answering me, only to have him get henned up. I stayed put and at 4:30 that afternoon, I got him when he came back.”
Another early season tip is in choice of locator call. Both Farris and Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, who heads Mossy Oak’s highly successful TV and video division, prefer to talk turkey.
“I like to use my hen tube call,” said Strickland, who can make his tube heard from about three counties over. “I think it’s the pitch and volume that gets a shock gobble. I think that most gobblers especially early in the season are around hens all day and hear subtle yelps constantly, they also hear crows, woodpeckers, etc., and do indeed gobble at these.
“But that tight-mouthed, stubborn, hard-headed evil one sometimes can’t resist a loud four-note cut from a few hundred yards away.”
Added Farris, who prefers a box call to the tube: “The problem with a turkey call as a locator call is that if you get an answer, that means it’s very likely he’s coming and you have to get settled quickly.
“With a different locator, like an owl or a woodpecker call, you can take your time and move through the woods to get a good set up. With a hen call, there’s a pretty good chance he will be already headed your way.”