I have never met anyone who loves to hunt more than Dr. Eddie Lipscomb of Port Gibson. Doc, as he is known by his friends, hunts just about everything - deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, ducks, geese, crows, quail and pheasant.

But what really gets his blood pumping is the thunderous gobble of a wild turkey.

Doc's passion for turkey hunting was sparked when he was a youngster growing up in rural Winston County. His uncle, a local game warden, took him on his first real turkey hunt when he was 15. From that point on, Doc knew he was hooked on the challenging sport.

"The first several years I hunted turkeys with Uncle Jay, we didn't have much luck," Doc recalls. "Having lost almost all my hearing after contracting red measles as a child, I was at a disadvantage when it came to turkey hunting.

"I didn't get my first hearing aid until I was in college, so I had to rely mostly on lip reading and hand signals while hunting with my uncle."

It wasn't until Doc and his wife Betsy moved to Port Gibson and started their veterinary practice that Doc really got serious about turkey hunting. Not only were they a great team of veterinarians, him a large-animal practitioner and her a small-animal vet, but they also made a very effective turkey hunting duo.

"I learned everything I know about calling gobblers from Dr. Betsy," said Doc. "She is without a doubt the best caller I have ever heard. She would call them in and I would kill them."

Unfortunately for Doc, their turkey hunting partnership ended after six years. Doc says he thinks he just burned her out on it because he wanted to go so much. After all, waking up every morning at 3:45 a.m. for over a month straight might prove to be a little tiring to anyone. Luckily, Doc had been paying close attention to his wife's calling techniques, and was able to pick up where they had left off.

Other than the two years at the peak of the turkey die-off in Mississippi in 1990 and 1991, when he killed only two longbeards each year, Doc has scored his limit of boss gobblers every season since.

But he doesn't limit his turkey hunting excursions to the Magnolia State. Doc completed consecutive Grand Slams in 2000 and 2001, then traveled all the way to New Zealand and harvested 10 Rio Grande gobblers. Nowadays, Doc restricts his wild turkey hunting to "only" three or four nearby states. And not surprisingly, Doc takes his fair share of these out-of-state longbeards.

So how does a nearly deaf veterinarian always seem to have success in the turkey woods? Well, before the thought crosses your mind, you should know that Doc's turkey hunting ethics are beyond reproach. Doc may be a fanatical turkey hunter, but he also believes in fair chase. He refuses to shoot jakes (even where it is legal), has never been tempted to shoot a gobbler off the roost and cringes at the thought of taking a longbeard with a rifle.

Doc attributes his good luck to a combination of factors that he has learned over the years. According to Doc, most hunters make the sport of turkey hunting far too complicated. Many folks think they have to become a good caller or a master woodsman before they can hunt turkeys.

And while both of these skills can increase your odds of bagging a bird, the best way to learn to hunt turkeys is to pick up a turkey call, head to the woods and start hunting turkeys. Sure, you will make mistakes, but you will also learn from those mistakes and become a better turkey hunter as a result.

But just in case you need a few helpful hints, here are some of the secrets to Doc's success.

 

Know the terrain

Doc firmly believes that learning everything you can about the property you hunt is the first step necessary to ensure success. Long before the season opens, Doc is out in the turkey woods learning the terrain. He makes mental notes of such things as food sources, roosting areas, potential nesting sites, dusting and loafing sites and potential strutting zones that turkeys will utilize during the season. He also pays close attention to natural obstacles like creeks, fencerows and dense thickets that might prevent a gobbler from coming to his seductive calls.

"Instead of running all over the country hunting turkeys all over the place, I have found I have far more success when I pick a few select properties that I know like the back of my hand and hunt them exclusively," said Doc. "You have to know the land and the habitat.

"Wild turkeys are creatures of habit and will always be found near a food source."

According to Doc, the longer you hunt a particular piece of turkey ground, even if it is public land, the better you will know the land and the more likely you will know where to find the turkeys when opening day rolls around. With very few exceptions, like changes in logging practices, the same flocks will be in the same places year after year because they have the habitat they desire in those locations in the spring.

 

Learn the routine

Once Doc becomes familiar with the property he plans to hunt, his next step is to figure out the routine of the birds that are found there. And despite what many folks think, not all turkeys follow the same routine throughout the day.

"The easiest way that I have found to bag an old tom is by first figuring out his daily routine," said Doc. "And even though a gobbler's individual routine may not be exactly what you think he should be doing, all turkeys have routines for where they roost, where they feed, where they strut, where they loaf and what they do during the middle of the day."

A gobbler's normal routine begins with him gobbling from the roost. Next, he flies down to meet up and display for his hens, moves to an area to feed or water, visits a site to dust and loaf, then follows his feeding hens until it is time to return to the roost at dusk.

One key factor in learning a gobbler's daily routine is to realize that not all turkeys do the same thing.

"No matter how well you have an old tom patterned, you just can't always predict what he will do," Doc added. "Turkeys are on their own time schedule, and that schedule may or may not match up with our own. But there are consistencies in what they do every day. These consistencies are what you need to focus on if you want to harvest a particular longbeard."

 

Choose the right shotgun

Selecting a turkey gun that fits you and your individual needs is of utmost importance. And with hundreds of models to choose from, picking that perfect shotgun shouldn't be too much of a challenge.

However, far too many turkey hunters fall into the trap that "bigger is better." Over the years, many an old longbeard has fallen to a single-shot 20-gauge and relatively light game loads. Rather than focusing on the largest gauge or load size, pay more attention to the appropriate weight, length and recoil for the individual doing the shooting.

"I have several turkey guns in my collection, but I only use one of them for hunting," Doc noted. "Although it isn't the prettiest gun you will ever see, it fits me perfectly and that's what really counts."

One of his longtime hunting partners, Jimmy House of Oak Grove, La., observed that Doc had a habit of flinching from the recoil of the 3-inch magnum 12-gauge turkey loads in his Remington model 870 pump gun. He also noticed that the standard-length barrel made it more difficult for his friend to maneuver in tight spaces. During the off-season, House borrowed Doc's shotgun, and had some custom work done to it by a local gunsmith.

Doc's prized turkey gun was then returned to him with a few minor modifications that provided everything he needed in the woods. The barrel had been shortened to 20 inches, making it lighter and more maneuverable in dense cover and while hunting from a ground blind. The gunsmith had also installed a ported screw-in extra-full turkey choke and ported the end of the barrel in a unique pattern that greatly reduced the felt recoil of the heavy magnum turkey loads. Then to top it off, he installed a new fiber-optic site to make it easier for Doc to align the bead on a gobbler's head in both low-light and bright-light conditions.

Preferring the original "stock" look of natural wood and the faded blued receiver and barrel, Doc decided against having his favorite shotgun camouflaged.

After trying various loads and shot sizes at distances out to 40 yards, Doc settled on the load that provided the most consistent pattern. While every gun-choke combination shoots a specific round better than the others, Doc found that 3-inch Magnum Winchester Super XX Turkey loads in No. 6 shot were what his customized shotgun preferred. And although he limits his shots to those under 40 yards, at least two longbeards met their demise at a distance of over 70 yards. Both were taken in wide open fields where Doc simply misjudged the distance as being much closer.

 

Select a call

Everyone has their favorite type of turkey call, and every single one can be very effective in luring a lovesick longbeard into shotgun range. For Doc, his call of choice is a traditional box call. Due to his hearing impairment and a gag reflex, Doc opts not to use the more popular diaphragm mouth calls. He prefers the raspy tones and the natural feel of the cedar box call in his hands.

But before you get the impression that he limits his call preferences to a single box call, think again. Doc carries a camouflage bag the size of a small piece of luggage that is chock full of every kind of call imaginable. He has box calls, slate calls, push-button calls, tortoise-shell calls, wingbone calls, glass calls, aluminum calls, scratch calls, gobble tubes and a variety of locator calls thrown in for good measure.

Based on his extensive collection of calls, you might think that Doc likes to hear himself call. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Doc learned from his wife that calling too much and too loud can run more gobblers off than it will attract. Therefore, he uses his calls sparingly, depending on the situation.

"Communicating with a wise old tom in his own language is what attracted me to turkey hunting," said Doc. "The real thrill for me lies in outsmarting an old gobbler by luring him into close range with a little seductive calling."

But calling up a longbeard isn't the only method Doc has in his bag of tricks. He utilizes blinds, both natural and pop-up styles, to hunt field edges and connecting woods roads, especially in the afternoon. According to Doc, he has taken more gobblers on afternoon hunts than he has in the morning. However, this method takes far more patience because of the long periods of time without any sight or sound of a turkey.

Then there is Doc's signature turkey hunting method that he only utilizes as a last resort. He calls it the "unique" method. According to Doc, you use all available cover, stay very low to the ground, remain as quiet as possible, and "unique" up on the unwary gobbler. And while this method always gets a few laughs when Doc describes it to fellow hunters, the success he has had with this method is definitely no joke.

 

Master of the blind

Of all the skills Doc possesses in the woods, the one he is most proud of is his ability to build a ground blind. As anyone who has ever experienced a turkey hunt with Doc will attest he is without a doubt the Master Blind Builder.

Due in part to his inability to hear, Doc was forced to learn the art of concealment in order to kill a turkey. An effective ground blind helps level the playing field by taking the turkey's keen eyesight out of the game.

For early morning hunts, Doc utilizes a small portable stick-up blind and relies heavily on his camouflage clothing for concealment. He likes Mossy Oak's Obsession camouflage because it best matches the foliage where he hunts. This portable blind/camouflage combination allows him greater mobility if he needs to pull up and change positions on a gobbling tom.

When it comes to most other hunting situations, Doc opts for a pop-up blind or builds a ground blind from natural material found in the vicinity of where he wants to hunt. The natural vegetation helps Doc blend into his surroundings without drawing unwanted attention from an approaching bird.

"While I do enjoy constructing my own natural blinds, the commercial pop-up blinds are also extremely effective," said Doc. "Turkeys may be curious at first, but they soon dismiss the blind as a threat and ignore it completely."

Especially when hunting from ground blinds, Doc likes to put out a couple of foam turkey decoys, one mimicking a jake and the other a hen. He feels that this combination helps calm any turkeys in the area and encourages them to come on over and check their new neighbors out. Another reason he prefers a jake decoy over a boss gobbler decoy is that it reduces the chances of spooking off any 2-year-old gobblers that might have already had their tails kicked by a jealous old boss tom unwilling to share any of the hens in his harem.

Anyone who has been paying close attention should have realized by now that Doc carries an awful lot of gear with him when he enters the turkey woods. He could easily be mistaken for an armed homeless person with all the decoy bags, blind bags, gear bags, call bags, turkey vest, umbrella, shotgun, binoculars and other hunting items slung over his shoulder or tucked underneath each arm. But according to Doc, he wants to make certain he has everything he might possibly need. And as far as I can tell, there is no chance of Doc ever being unprepared for a turkey hunt.

Doc's approach to turkey hunting is all about keeping everything as simple as possible. His philosophy and the biggest key to his success as a turkey hunter, despite his hearing obstacle, is his ability to be where the gobbler wants to be. If a turkey has made up its mind to go from point A to point B, then you can rest assured that Doc will be set up in a strategic spot between those two locations waiting to drop the hammer on yet another Mississippi longbeard.