Everyone on the internet seems to argue about which turkey — whether it's various subspecies or birds from different regions of the country — is the toughest to kill. Well, which one is it? — Art Johnson, Kannapolis, N.C.
Easy. The toughest bird to kill is the one that's frustrating you at the moment. Turkeys are so unpredictable and turkey hunting situations are so varied that a multitude of factors can make any bird almost impossible to kill some days.
In general, the toughest turkeys to kill are hard-hunted Easterns in regions where they've been hunted the longest, such as the Southeast. The reason is simple: pressure. A South Dakota Merriam's isn't that different than his South Carolina Eastern cousin, yet the Palmetto State turkey will turn you in circles and leave you crying more often than not. Why? He and his forebears have been subjected to far more human hunting pressure than the prairie turkey.
That doesn't mean Southern or other pressured turkeys are impossible to kill. They're still turkeys, after all. They sleep in trees, feed, strut, gobble, yelp and breed just like turkeys anywhere. And during the right conditions, they might run to a call. Conversely, a Gould's gobbler that's never seen a human might still be an obstinate bird when he's henned up or otherwise not in the mood to play. But on a day-to-day basis, pressured turkeys are far tougher customers than lightly hunted birds.
So how do you hunt these tougher turkeys? Just like you would any other turkey, but you must be more precise with your setups, movement and calling. Also, in general, lay off the yelper with pressured turkeys, and strive to be as realistic as possible. Hard-hunted gobblers have heard a din of poor to average calling, and they're not going to buy that old program. Further, be prepared for pressured turkeys to come in slowly and silently.
Don't shy away from tough turkeys. Yeah, they're frustrating, and sure, you won't always kill one. But when you do, it'll be a hunt you'll remember for a long time.