Turkey tactics from two Mississippi masters

Patience, knowing where turkeys want to go, can go a long way to helping you fill a tag this season. These two experts help you understand.

Sometimes, it only takes a few well-timed purrs and clucks to get them coming his way. 

But there are times when he can’t call them off the roost in your direction, especially when there are a lot of hens in the area.

Andy Duvall of Carrollton understands. A veteran turkey hunter and call-maker, he killed his first gobbler at age 10. He knows how to turn the heads of gobblers and tempt them into making fatal mistakes..

“If he’s got hens, then I try to call the hens in,” Duvall said. “I like to let them know I’m there and keep close to them and let them dictate how much they want to communicate. As long as I’m close to them, I’ll purr and cluck, just enough to let them know where I am.

“But the easiest way to call in an old gobbler is to call him to where he wants to be. The only way to know that is to know their habits and the lay of the land. If you scout year-round and become familiar with an area, you’ll know their strutting grounds and where they like to spend their time from mid-day to mid-afternoon. If you know where they’re roosting and where they like to be mid-day, then you can set up and call them in the direction they’re already going.”

Late afternoon or evening

While many people prefer calling to gobblers off the roost, the reality is that many people have to work in the morning, but they can hunt afternoons. And some, like Duvall, have great success. 

“I’ve killed more turkeys in the evening because I can go more after work,” Duvall said. “And they can be much easier to call and kill if you can locate an old gobbler.”

Andy Duvall dropped the hammer on this Carroll County gobbler.

During the afternoon, gobblers usually don’t gobble a lot, but they will respond to calling, especially when they find that the hens have left them and they’re alone. 

“I’m going to walk the ridgetops along hardwood bottoms as well as along pasture edges,” Duvall said. “I’ve located more turkeys by using the terrain to my advantage and spotting (them) by sight or with my ears. I’ve located more turkeys in the afternoon by hearing their scratching while I’m slipping around and listening.” 

If he locates some turkeys or if he knows an area, he’ll often set up on a ridge above the bottoms and purr and yelp softly while scratching the leaves. 

“When I’m walking to my hunting spot, I’ll also use a crow call to try to entice a shock gobble,” Duvall said. “But if you move too much, you might spook more than if you just set up and call. I like to set up and call every 15 to 20 minutes, and I’ll spend two to three hours there.”

Be patient at mid-day

Award-winning author and veteran turkey hunter Otha Barham has spent a lifetime calling to wary gobblers around the country, and his Mississippi turkey education prepared him well. The wise old birds around these parts were such a challenge that they made other birds seem easy. At 83, he’s still successful at getting his birds. Barham can’t run-and-gun like he used to, but he can still be effective by hunting the mid-day hours and utilizing his patience and calling skills. ​

Barham prefers hunting mid-day from high spot on a ridge where his enticing calls can be heard from long distances, in any direction. He proved that last year during a mid-day hunt in Lauderdale County. 

“I didn’t hear a gobbler at daylight, so I called sparingly, like the old-time hunters recommended,” Barham said. “I didn’t want to spook the turkeys by calling too much and making them call-shy. I’d call about every 30 minutes, trying to attract any bird I could.”

Barham stroked the lid of his box call, producing a series of yelps, and put the call down.

“Gobble, gobble, gobble.” An old tom sounded off in response from the hollow to his north. 

“At 10:30, that old gobbler belted out a thunderous gobble, so I called back to him,” Barham said. “I sent out a few sweet love yelps just to let him know where I was and shut it down for a while. I wanted to entice him to come looking for me.”

Get a big gobbler started your way, and make sure you call just enough to keep him interested.

Patience pays off

After a little game of cat and mouse, the gobbler couldn’t stand it any longer and belted out a few more thunderous gobbles, pleading with the hen to answer him. 

“I answered him again about 15 minutes later, and he gobbled right back at me,” Barham said. “Then, he went silent, and I knew he was coming.” 

Ten minutes later, Barham heard a limb crack, turned to look, and out walked the coal-black gobbler.

The author (right) accompanied 83-year-old Otha Barham on a successful hunt last season.

“That gobbler popped out there and stopped dead in his tracks,” said Barham. “He didn’t move for what seemed like an eternity and just stood there and looked around the field. He was afraid that another gobbler was going to come in and spoil his party, and he was on full alert.

“He finally started easing towards the woods, so I decided to try and find out if I had enough for him,” Barham said. “I told myself that it was now or never as I pulled the trigger.”

“Ka-boom!” roared his 12-gauge Berretta. The lovesick tom collapsed in a heap, flopped a few times and died.

Barham had put another notch on his turkey call. Later that season, he duplicated the feat with another fine bird he killed at 1:45 p.m. 

“If you have the patience and know how to call, then you can find a ridgetop or pasture where turkeys are and still be successful harvesting turkeys no matter your age,” he said. “It was hard for me at first, but I finally had to modify my hunting, and I’ve been very successful as a result.” 

If you want to harvest a gobbler this spring, you might want to utilize some of Duvall’s and Barham’s tips and techniques. Head to the woods and be patient.

Meet Andy Duvall

Andy Duvall of Carrollton has been an avid turkey hunter since he was 8 years old. He is an expert turkey hunter, call-maker and competition caller. He has harvested birds around the country and has been making calls for several years. 

Andy Duvall has been hunting turkeys for 25 of his 33 years.

Duvall won the first calling contest he entered, taking first place in friction call in the state championship. He’s had top-3 finishes or better in calling competitions in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida, and he’s also had several top-3 finishes in call-making competitions. 

Here are some facts about Duvall:

  • Hunted turkeys for 25 years. 
  • Best Mississippi gobbler: 111/2-inch beard, 11/4-inch spurs. 
  • First turkey: Harvested at 10 years old with his father. 
  • Favorite call: 3-reed combo cut mouth call he makes. ”Mouth calls are more convenient and have less movement,” he said. 
  • Calls he makes: mouth calls, scratch box, pot calls and box calls. 
  • Favorite shotguns: 12-gauge Remington 870; 12-gauge Benelli SBE III. 
  • Favorite turkey load: TSS No. 9. “I shoot this because it allows for cleaner kills,” he said. 
  • Andy Duvall quote: “I don’t care about shooting a turkey at 60 to 70 yards. It’s more fun to call them up in your lap and shoot them in the face at close range.” It also takes more patience and is much more exciting.”

Mississippi turkey season

Spring season: March 14-May 1. Bag limit: one bird per day, 6-inch beard or longer, three per season.

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Michael O. Giles
About Michael O. Giles 269 Articles
Mike Giles of Meridian has been hunting and fishing Mississippi since 1965. He is an award-winning wildlife photographer, writer, seminar speaker and guide.

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