I have made these mistakes for the most part, same mistakes with both Mirriams in southern New Mexico (mountains of Lincholn National Forest south of Cloudcroft), North Western PA hills and the flat lands here in western NY.
Moving on a bird to soon - I have bumped gobblers that were still in the roost over an hour after the sun came up because they were gobblin everytime I touched my call. I tried to move in closer, they busted me from their elevated perch. FLY DOWN ALREADY!!!!!
- What I learned was to be much more patient and try very hard to hear that bird moving. Either hear him getting closer, farther away, more to the east or so on. I focus on listening to determine this. If it sounds like he is in the same place and the sun has only been up an hour, I will not get any closer than my estimate of 200 yards.
Calling to much - The more a bird responds, the more we call. I never thought that every time I make a call, I am trying to fool a very intelligent animal. My calling too much caused birds to either leave, or come in silent to investigate.
- What I learned was to remember that everytime I play a call, I am trying to fool an animal into thinking that I am fluent and natural in his vocabulary. And that I am drop dead gorgeous, single, and hot for him. Fooling a bird into thinking you are the real deal is hard to do once, let alone many times. Don't call too much. Just call enough to get him to come in.
Calling to close - This lesson I have learned in two parts, with and without decoys. I never understood how great a turkey's vision was when I was a teenager. I also had no clue on how using decoys made a difference when it came to calling. Calling birds when they are too close makes them VERY nervous and skitish. People think that when turkeys do that "spinning" thing at 50 yards all fanned out that they are excited and showing off. If they do circle or spin and then leave, they did the spinning out of fear and were looking for trouble, hence leaving, and if you were calling to them when they did this, that's probably why...too close.
- What I learned from this was to shut up and smile. My code of conduct is that when I see a Tom responding to my calls or decoys, I get ready to shoot, even if he is 200 yards away. I call very very little and only if he changes direction. Let his curiosity bring him in the rest of the way. If you can see him, he can see you.
- When using decoys I learned that both male and females will commit to a decoy. Meaning that when they are within 20 or so yards of the decoy, they will most likely close the distance on their own to investigate. Once a turkey has committed to the decoy, do not call, no purring!
Set-up - In southern New Mexico it was easy to roost the Mirriams. I would set up on them, usually by sitting up against a tree, wait for them to fly down and try to call them in. I got busted most of the time. Same thing with eastern birds.
- What I learned was to do more scouting and pattern the birds from the roost to their feeding and sun bathing areas. Don't settle for the comfort of sitting up against a big old tree. Have something infront of you. Whether it's a log, a pile of rocks, even if you have to snip a few fronds from a pine tree and stick them in the ground, break up you outline.
Act like a hen, not a hunter - When I first started I would walk around and call every ten minutes or so. Had some luck with this, it's how most people locate birds. The problem is that's what hunters do, not what hens do. How often do you see a hen walk by you screaming a yelp? Most of the time when I see a hen walk by me heading to a feeding area she is crying. She is making super soft and quiet whimpering noises.
- What I have learned is that a hen is just like a human woman. If you are in your car and you pull up next to a hottie with your window rolled down, is she going to flirt with you? Will your odds be better if she ends up at the same bar as you and you meet her there? Yes, woman are more comfortable to mate when they are in a comfortable place, not while they are in transit, dealing with their kids at the grocery store or pumping gas. Understand the psychology of the birds. I tend to see hens much more vocal when they get to their desired location. If you can, hunt and call from this location. Think of all of the times that you have seen a hen walk by you, did she even make a single note of noise??
Love the hens and call them in - I used to think that calling a hen in was a bad thing. It was a set of eyes that I did not need close to me. I would simply watch the hens move along and did not understand their value.
- What I learned is that the Tom wants that hen. Call her in and try to hold her in your area. She is the real deal decoy, her voice is true and pure and she will attract a lot more attention that I can attract with my calling. Love the hens, use them to your advantage.
Cardinal Sin of all time - Once you shoot, (with a gun) run your butt over to that bird and assume that he is only knocked out cold. If you have a gun, have it ready to shoot from a safe distance. Do not use your gun to beat the bird to death like my 16 year old cousin did last year with his Remington 870. Bent the stock bolt and trashed the stock.
- What I learned was that feathers are like chain mail armor. How many times have you rolled a bird or knocked one out only to have him get up ten seconds later and run away. Move in on your bird if you can. The only reason that I wont move in quickly is if my camera man also has his bow and we are trying to get a double.
Look before you pee - I can't count how many times I have spooked birds by getting up too fast to pee. Or by getting up for any reason. We are out there during a season because that is the best time of year due to how much the turkeys are talking and moving. Let's not forget that they move quietly more than they move vocally.
- What I learned was to try and pretend that there is a bird 50 yards away everytime I move. Whether it's to grab a sandwich or stand up. I also don't want to attrat the attention of other animals like squirrels. I'm not sure if a squirrel bark will make a turkey nervous, but it annoys the snot out of me.
There are many more lessons that I have learned and will continue to learn but these popped out in my memory and seem to be some of the more important mistakes in my history.
"Instruments of Mass Destruction"