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Gary Howey

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Turkey Hunting The “Run and Gun” Method By Gary Howey

Entered by Gary Howey

Former tournament angler, hunting and fishing guide. Inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing "Hall of Fame" in 2017. Active member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), Past Executive Director (AGLOW). Howey has been an outdoor communicator since 1980 with his award winning syndicated "Of the Outdoors" columns appearing in magazine, newspapers, and tabloids throughout he upper Midwest and nationally.

April 15, 2015

No matter what type of outdoor activity you are into, windy, cold, damp days can put an end to most activities before they start!
This especially true when it comes to a spring turkey hunt, making a hunter thinking more about the nice warm bed he’s in than chasing turkeys in the rain!
Calling spring turkey when it is cold and damp is a tough job, but do not think all turkeys hole up during these types of weather conditions. There are always a few toms out there looking around for a receptive hen!
This is when we revert to what we refer to as aggressive turkey hunting tactics. This is something not talked about a lot as it involves more work than other turkey hunting tactics.
You’ve more than likely seen TV shows or videos where the hunter makes a few calls, sets down in one spot for a couple of minutes and then the bird magically appears!
These hunters on these programs do not need to look around a whole lot to locate the birds because they are in an area that they have been in before or he is hunting next to a feeder in his own backyard.
If you spend a lot of time in an area and spend a lot of that time looking for the birds, you are going to know exactly where they are!
Because we are filming in different locations, in areas we may have never seen before, we arrive the day before the hunt, scouting as time allows, but there are times when our schedule puts us into an area after dark and scouting just does not happen.
This is where we revert to my aggressive turkey calling.
On opening morning, we are in the field well before daybreak, not a half hour, I mean when it is pitch dark as turkeys may not have the best night vision, they still can detect movement in low light conditions.
If the area looks like it would hold turkeys, we like to use a locator call to get a response from the Toms.
We start our hunt by jumping from one ridge line to another calling with our owl, crow or predator calls trying to get an old gobbler to shock gobble
Don’t travel along the top of the ridges: as a turkey’s keen eyes will pick you out against the skyline and your hunt will be over before it begins.
Travel just below the ridge line, high enough to be able to see and hear what is going on below you, but not high enough to be silhouetted against the skyline.
If there is no answer, we will break out our binoculars and glance along the ridges, trying to spot the birds as they come down from the roost.

Once we have located a gobbler, we set up, calling quietly at first, getting louder with each repetition. Loud and long can be the key. Not so loud that you spook the bird, but loud enough so the Tom knows you are there.
One of my hunting partners and I have taken over thirty Toms this way and most of them being long beards.
In order to do this, we have had to compete with other hens as well as several Toms. By calling aggressively on and off for up to a half-hour, we have pulled birds in from long distances.

Larry's spring turkey

Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Larry, Myhre, Sioux City, IA. with a Gobbler take using the Run & Gun method.

If the Tom will not come to us, we will work on the hen. We call loud, trying to sound like another boisterous hen trying to draw the Tom away from the boss hen.
You would be surprised how upset this makes the hen. On many occasions, we have had an old hen walk/run over to see who is making all the racket, trying to take her boyfriend away.
We have had a hen go beak to beak with our decoy, where it looks as if a fight was about to break out, when the tom finally followed, looking for his wandering hen.
When hunting aggressively, you need to make sure that all your bases are covered; you may have to carry numerous calls.
With our crew, it can mean as many as a dozen diaphragm calls as well as slates, box calls, locator calls or even push button yelpers.
Never fail, on certain days the birds will want to talk to one call when I am using a different one.
Since you never know when you will hear a gobble, as it could be in the next valley or just across the fence, camouflage is an important part of the equation!
When it happens, you may not have a whole lot of time to find a place to hunker down in and camo allows you to blend into a small amount of cover.
This is why we mix and match camouflage patterns, allowing us to blend in with most terrain. A wood pattern all-purpose camo works great for the areas we hunt. We try to use the same camo pattern for our turkey vest, face- mask and cap as it helps us to blend in well.
If we are hunting late season when the trees have leaved out, we will go to dark on the bottom with more green on the top as this has always produced for us during late season.
I don’t go into the woods with one of my shiny shotguns, as it would stick out like a sore thumb. My semi-automatic shotgun has a synthetic Mossy Oak camo pattern while my partner’s shotgun is flat black.
Since we are using the walk and talk method where we move from ridge to ridge and call or as we call it. “The run and gun method”, we need to travel light and anything that makes noise will spook birds.
The last several years we have experimented with several decoys including foam, hard body, expandable, inflatable and silhouette decoys.
Depending on what part of the season, we have used as many as four hens and two Jakes.
I set my Jake decoy out in front at 25 yards on my left side, as I’m right-handed while my partner, a left-hander sets his up off to the right. We scatter our hens around the Jakes, making sure there is at least three feet between the Jakes and other decoys as the incoming Tom will go right to the Jake and will need room to strut around the decoy.
Once the Tom is in the decoys, because we will be filming, we let him do his dance for a few minutes and then tip him over.
By using aggressive calling tactics, covering ground and hunting smart, you do not need perfect weather conditions to take a gobbler.
Let’s be honest, how many times do you choose a weekend to hunt gobblers that are perfect?
Not many, so try hunting aggressively and you’ll find that your Thanksgiving supper could be wild turkey, not ham like it’s been so many years before!

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