Climb a hill, kill a turkey — even in Mississippi

Mississippi features plenty of high ground on which hunters can do battle with big toms. Here’s how one hunter tracks them down.

Mississippi has hills; some are gently rolling, while others are rough and rugged. Turkeys thrive there, too.

Getting close to a mature gobbler can be downright difficult, whether you’re hunting the North Central Hills, the Piney Woods’ rolling hills, the Appalachian Foothills, or the treacherous Loess Hills in western Mississippi that extend from the Tennessee line in Desoto County to the Louisiana line in Wilkinson County.

“Chasing turkeys in the big hills will test your stamina and isn’t for the faint of heart,” said Shane McCullough of Wesson, who hunts the Bluff Hills near Rodney in Jefferson County. “If you know your territory and have a little bit of skills, it can be very rewarding.” 

Mississippi has hills — some are gently rolling while others are rough and rugged. Turkeys thrive in these areas.

Hunting big hills and high ridges, accompanied by deep ravines and wide hollows, takes patience, woodsmanship and a little know-how. Here are a few things to consider when turkey hunting any of the Magnolia State’s rugged hills.

Hunting high

A gobbler likes ridges and hills. Often, the vain baron of the woods will quietly pitch down at the best vantage point and parade with swagger, gobble with purpose and establish his daily dominance — all with great procrastination. Distant hens will readily hearken to his thundering calls across many hollows and ridges and quickly make their way to join an early morning harem.

Old-school turkey hunting tactics teach you to maneuver to a higher position than a hammering gobbler whenever possible. A hunter can see, hear and move easier from ridges and hilltops, just as a wiley tom can.

The author took this mature gobbler from the Loess Hills in Jefferson County.

Pre-dawn listening, early morning hunts and evening hunts are better on high ground. This is where hunters will find strut zones, travel routes, places of assembly and dusting bowls. Ridges and hills are more often the locations that turkeys begin and end each day — and so should a hunter.

Hunt them low

Turkeys don’t always stay in high places. A tom normally follows his harem as a spring morning progresses. They seek out lower ground in search of leftover acorns, insects and green vegetation near creeks and drainages. It’s always cooler in wooded hollows and deep ravines, and the birds will tarry for hours as temperatures rise.

“I always seem to end up in a deep hollow late in the mornings. It’s not on purpose; I’m simply getting as close as I can to a vocal gobbler. Wherever I hear him, that’s where I go,” McCullough said.

Hunters should know when stalking a tom that’s gobbling in a deep hollow or ravine, his location will muffle the sound. The gobbler may be closer than he seems, especially later in the season as foliage greens.

Target saddles and benches

Most hilltops and ridges have logging roads and ATV trails. The more rugged the country, the truer this will be.

Long, narrow ridges in rugged terrain will have dips or low spots called saddles. When turkeys move from one hollow to another, they will usually cross a ridge in a saddle. An old tom will often linger on top of the saddle, displaying and sounding off a few times, reiterating his dominance before continuing behind his harem.

Benches are flat spots located on the sides of hills or slopes. They can be from  a few feet wide to several yards wide. Dominant toms like to post up on benches and strut; they can watch hens at lower elevations and can be seen from a distance.

Saddles and benches are excellent places for hunters to sit and call. Patience will pay off. If there’s no action, stay put at these locations. It will increase your odds of encountering a tom.

The food-plot advantage

Many hilltops and ridges feature logging roads and ATV trails. The more rugged the country, the truer this will be. Deer hunters make food plots along these travel corridors; in territory such as the Loess Hills, it’s their only option.

Food plots are among the best locations to sit and wait for a gobbler in hill country. If there are turkeys around, sooner or later, they will show up.

“There’s one long ridge that I like to frequent, I bet it’s a mile long. It has two small food plots about halfway, and they’re only 50 yards apart. I sit in between them with a 25-yard shot into the edge of each one. I can’t tell you how many big gobblers I have been close to there,” McCullough said.

Calling from food plots is a good tactic; so is sitting patiently and quietly. Add a decoy or two at a strategic spot, and you may wind up toting out a big tom.

This tom was taken at 11 a.m. while strutting on a 30-yard wide bench. The author was sitting beside to a large pin oak tree in a deep ravine next to a drainage.


Hunting rugged country has its advantages; the hills and hollows are your friend. Use the terrain to move on unsuspecting toms. If he’s on a ridge, drop into the hollow and move closer, keeping some ground in between you and the bird. If he’s in a hollow, move back from the hilltop and walk halfway-down on the backside, close the distance, and set-up on top of the ridge or a saddle.

Pack some snacks and hunt late, or better yet, pack a lunch and stay all day if you have the time. Any day and all day — it’s great hunting in the hills.

About Andy Douglas 51 Articles
Andy Douglas is an outdoor writer and photographer from Brookhaven. A native of Lincoln County, he’s chased deer, turkeys, bass and most anything else the past 35 years. He lives the outdoor lifestyle and is passionate about sharing that with others through stories and photos.

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