PODCAST: Getting Thoughtful at the Thoughtful Spot

I probably would have stayed back in town this weekend, but the temperature was cold enough that I thought I might freeze the pipes at Turkey Camp if I was not there.  Indeed, the temperature was 17F and still falling when I went out armed with the recorder and my trusted mug of coffee.  I was met at the back door with a hearty gobble coming from the Hundred Acre Wood .

Lately, I have had this theory about turkeys, about hunting pressure, and a better way to look at how we interact with turkeys.  A lot of folks think I’m nuts, but . . . well, hear what I have to say.

Podcast — Thoughtful at the Thoughtful Spot

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PODCAST: Three Jakes at the Honey Hole

Just under a month separates me from The Spring Opener. This was my first trip out to the Honey Hole. It seemed like I’d just gotten up and left last week, even though it had almost been a year. I was formulating a spiel about what to do when faced with complete silence when several gobblers and some hens turned on just at the bottom of Heartbreak Ridge. They kicked up enough of a fuss that three jakes came over from Left Leg Creek and walked right in on me. It was a lot of until the wind got stronger and I had to stop recording.

Podcast — Three Jakes at the Honey Hole


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PODCAST: Fog at Faulty Towers

This was our first weekend back at Turkey Camp.  It had been a harsh winter, but the cabin was in one piece, and the deer and turkey both seemed as though they had not suffered too much.   A week ago there had been a foot of snow on the ground.  Now it was still a bit soupy, and there was a lot of fog in the mornings, but nothing to keep the turkeys from getting cranked up.  I made it out just in time to Faulty Towers to catch some gobblers and hens.

Listen carefully.  You can hear the rolls of fog effect the turkeys. When a fog bank rolls over them, they get chilled ( I sure did) and they clam up.  When the fog lifts, they start calling again.

Podcast — Fog at Faulty Towers Part 1


Podcast — Fog at Faulty Towers Part 2


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Shaman, where do you hunt turkeys?

I have one property . It’s my farm, and the only folks that are allowed to hunt it are my sons and my old boss, SuperCore. What I’ve learned there in 13 seasons is that generally there are only a few days a season where any group of turkeys are willing to be called. The rest of the time, you can sit back and read a book. However, on those days where they want to be called, they will come to nearly anything.

On my 200 acres, I have three or sometimes four independent groups. I won’t call them flocks, because there are sometimes several flocks in a group. The groups act independently of each other. In a way, it is an analog to hunting three different farms. They may be hot out by Gobbler’s Knob and completely dead out at the Honey Hole. On average, however, the whole place is either on or off and it is mostly off. I get reports from my neighbors, and places as close as a couple of miles will be hot when mine is dead cold, so it is a fairly localized phenomenon. The key to success is being out as often as possible and being in the neighborhood of a gobbler when he gets the urge.

My turkeys have a very short memory. I think we give them far too much credit for getting overworked and over-hunted. My reason for saying this is that I have a really good place to sit right on the back of the house. From The Thoughtful Spot, I can survey a good chunk of my own place and several adjoining farms. We go back there in the evening for a cocktail before firing up the grill. Frequently, we have turkeys come out to visit before, during and after season. I have seen the same three gobblers come up towards the house three nights in a row and get terminally surprised when they find humans. I have seen similar things happen elsewhere on the farm. I am left to conclude my turkeys cannot remember from one day to the next.

The Thoughtful Spot at Pooh Corner

The Thoughtful Spot at Pooh Corner


What I do think is happening is that hunters interpret the turkeys’ coolness on a given day to being over-hunted. If things were hot on the Opener, and then by mid-week the gobs have clammed up, folks think it is due to too much hunting. I have stopped believing that. I have searched for the reasons why, and my answers so far are hazy. However, it may be that there are forces at work that we do not fully understand. The one answer I’ve gotten that bears further research is that falling dewpoints will turn on gobblers. That is a rare circumstance on spring mornings.

I used to believe the conventional wisdom, and worked hard to vary my calls, change venues, vary my routine, etc. If you look back on my earlier writings, I talk about hunting one 200 acre plot as a chess game. In retrospect, I believe now that I may have been over thinking it, specifically on calling. I used to say to myself “I used my slate call yesterday, so I’ll leave that home and go with the crystal.” The past few years, I’ve been more likely to say, “The slate worked well yesterday, so I’ll stick with that.” Last season, I didn’t fill a tag. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I think my new plan worked. I just buggered up shooting opportunities. If I’d been on the right side of the tree instead of the left, or gotten my gun up sooner. It was good season. I just didn’t put anything in the freezer.


Are long distance shots a good thing?

From Old Gobbler.com

Are long distance shots a good thing, or a bad thing for turkey hunting?
« on: February 18, 2015, 08:42:58 PM »

I know on another forum that I am on for deer hunting there are some people who mention taking longer shots at deer with their bow (Long being past 30-40 yards.). While doing some research to try to get better at turkey hunting, I have noticed talk of 60-70+ yard shots. Now, I know enough to know that, in the past, 30 or so was the max on a turkey. Since then, shotguns, chokes, ammo, etc… have evolved and been improved. Do you think it is going to help or hurt turkey hunting in the long run if people keep trying to stretch out their maximum range on a turkey? I, personally, enjoy being close the deer, or in this case turkey, without them knowing I am there. It seems to be what makes it exciting for me. I just feel that if you want to take a long shot on an animal, you may as well be using a rifle (Not legal for turkey where I hunt anyways.).

So, what do you guys and gals think? Keep trying to extend the range, or keep it close?

Here is my answer:


Here I go again, sounding like one of those dried up old school turds.  I’m not.  I just sound like one, because I can still remember.

Back when I started turkey hunting in the early 80’s, nobody talked about 3.5″ shells, hevi-shot, screw-in chokes and all that other stuff.  I can still remember the advice I got:

1) You got a trap gun?  Good, use that.
2) Anything with a full or modified (!) choke will work
3)  Get some #4 high brass.  If that does not print well, try something between #2 and #6

The way I was told to figure out what your maximum shooting distance was as follows:

1) Set up Dixie cups on a stick. 8 should be enough
2) Start at 10 yards. Shoot a round at a dixie cup.
3) Back up 5 yards and shoot the next cup
4) Repeat
5) The last cup that has 2 pellets through represents your maximum shooting distance.

Anything past 20 yards was worthy of  being a turkey gun.   My Dad’s Model 12 trap gun did it quite well, so that is what I took on my first turkey trip.  I bought 2 boxes of #4 Remington Nitro Buffered Magnums for $8 bucks apiece. I still have some of them left.

So if you are looking for how turkey hunting was meant to be before the ammo companies, shotgun companies, magazine publishers, cable networks,  and the marketing companies started turning turkey hunting into a cargo cult, there you have it.

Oh, by the way, I left out the main culprit:  us. We kept going to the store and looking for that special edge. We did not have the time to go out scouting every day.  We could only hunt a few days a year back then.  We wanted that extra few yards, and we were willing to pay for it.

Now, do you really want the truth about how much gun you need?  It’s easy. Nobody likes it. I can truthfully say it is my least favorite contribution to the sport– less appreciated than my cover scent gum for deer hunters.

The Working Comfort Zone

If you bother to wade through it, you will see that I am trying to get folks to actually focus on the shots they have made, or would have taken as a benchmark for making decisions about shotguns, loads, chokes, and whatever for turkey.  I got a lot of flak from folks, telling me I was trying to tell them how far to shoot.  Quite the contrary, I was trying to get to folks to focus on their own history, rather than what a magazine had told them.  I was trying to  say that although we may spend the season getting ready for 60 yard shots, we may only ever take 25 yard shots.  My other point was to actually sit down and do the ciphering, because we  grossly inflate the need for distance.  Our own pride and the marketing folks have taught us that.

Me?  If you had asked me before I did the figuring, I would have estimated my “Working Comfort Zone” was 25 yards.  I hunt in a place that is filled with cedar thickets and the ground is hilly and uneven.  A turkey can easily be 40 yards away and be invisible due to a fold in the terrain or 10 yards away and still be hidden by an oak.  Yep 25 was my number.

14 yards–that was my Working Comfort Zone. I was stunned when I did it for myself.    Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying I meant it that way.  I’m not saying you should limit your shots to 14 yards. What I am saying is that everyone thinks about getting out to some long distance, when most hunters actually shoot their birds at much closer ranges.  Sure I’ve taken birds out to 40 yards and beyond.  The point of all this is usually I do not get a chance to shoot until they are much closer.

money they blew on ammo and chokes back during sighting in.

I’m looking back now on 30-some years of turkey hunting in several states.  I’m thinking of all the turkeys I’ve shot at, or put my gun to.  You can throw out the 65 yard panic shot I took in 2005, or the 80 yard shot I took at the gobbler back in 2011, because I misjudged the distance.  There are probably a couple more there that I’d like to take mulligans on if I thought this out more completely.   I can think of one honest bird taken at exactly 40 yards, and a couple at 30, and all the rest have been climbing up my legs. I don’t  mean this as a boast .   I don’t think I’m that good of a caller. That’s just how it is.

I  have  watched a few come from over 200 yards out across the field, and I took them at 15 yards, but I’ve had probably a dozen or more poke their heads out inside 10 yards and it was the first I had seen or heard of them.  If you take the entire body of my turkey hunting career. I could have taken all but one bird with my original rig, my Dad’s 12 GA trap gun and high brass #4’s.   90 % could have been taken with a modified choke and #6 squirrel loads.

For a beginner, I would be hesitant to do any real work towards a shotgun that shot more than 40 yards, until I had demonstrable proof I needed such a gun. My son is turning 17 during Opening Week.  He has an Rem 870 Trap and shoots 2 3/4″ and never felt the need for anything bigger.   His last gobbler was nearly pecking at his boot laces when he shot.

It is a rare circumstance when I have a shot at a gobbler hung up at 50 yards, let alone 60 or 70.  That’s not to say I don’t have hunting venues that would afford that kind of shot.  The thing of it is, for most hunters, for most turkeys that get hunted,  ranges past 40 yards are moot.  Either the terrain does not allow it, or the cover does not allow it, or the gobbler is coming in and will keep coming in.   I see guys every year that are touting their long range guns in March, but in May all their kill photos include details  like “. . .took his head off at 10 yards,” “Blew him away at 20 yards,”  etc.   I wonder if they’re disappointed they didn’t kill them farther out for all the




I got hacked, but I’m back

Some miscreant hacked my sites yesterday afternoon, loading malware on 4 of them. My Internet Service Provider saw the hack and shut down the sites and sent me an email. The problem was, I did not see the email and went about my life blithely unaware. I knew the sites were down, but I figured it was a problem affecting everyone.

It was not until I was going to bed that I decided to call Fatcow, the ISP, and ask when they would be back up. Fatcow said it was on my end, and offered me a few alternatives. The easiest was to spring for a subscription to SiteLock, and wait 24 hours.

SiteLock scanned all my sites and removed whatever malware it found. Fatcow let me back into the pool a little while ago, and everything is going along swimmingly. All in all, I’m up a good 12 hours earlier than I was promised.

My apologies for the down time, but the activity here has been the lowest in 6 months the past week anyway. That usually happens as folks put away their deer rifles and go play in the snow before breaking out the shotgun for turkey.


Venison Jerky

This is the time of year where I get to making a serious batches of venison jerky. When I do it, I do it in a big way– about 10 lbs at a time. I figure it is about time I let someone in on my method. This is absolutely the easiest recipe I’ve seen.

First off, I like to use left over roasts and steaks. If I have anything left over from a previous year, this is a great way to use it up. Start off by partially thawing the package. A partially frozen hunk of meat is much easier to cut. I cut strips, slabs, medallions, whatever, about 1/8″ thick. I found an inexpensive meat slicer about 10 years ago, and it revolutionized my jerky making. I think I saw the same model online for $45.

For about 12 lbs of jerky I use one 16 oz bottle of Dales Steak Seasoning or Kroger’s as a marinade. They’re the same thing– same bottle, different label. As I’m cutting, every time a pull a handful of meat off the platter and put it in the tub, I’m sprinkling it with some as I go.

Next, come the dry components. The easiest is to get a big container of Montreal Steak Seasoning and sprinkle it to taste. I could not find a big restaurant size, so I went out looking for a recipe on the Internet. Several sources were all in agreement:

1 spoon of Kosher salt
2 spoons of coarse ground black pepper
2 spoons Paprika
1 spoon Garlic powder
1 spoon Onion powder
1 spoon Coriander
1 spoon red pepper flakes
1 spoon Dill

I ground everything to a powder except the pepper. I like the red pepper flakes showing up on my jerky. A store-bought Montreal Seasoning is all coarsely ground ingredients. I used tablespoons of these ingredients and ended up with what I would call a hot jerky. If I’d used teaspoons, it would have been very mild. If I was using store-bought Montreal Seasoning, I probably would have used 2 oz. This batch used 4 oz of equivalent. The reason being that most of the folks I’ll be sharing this with like hot jerky.

Once everything is put together, I started massaging the meat every half hour for 2 hours. I kept turning it over, separating the big clumps, and making sure the marinade was well distributed. Longer is better, but you have to watch your time. I will explain that in a bit. The meat stays cold if this is done at room temperature. My hands were freezing. Again let me remind you to start with partially frozen cuts. This ensures both easy cutting as well as no spoilage.

I use jerky trays meant for an oven. They cost about $35 for 3 trays and a drip pan. For this batch I used all six wire mesh trays and still had two trays worth of jerky left over. After I loaded the trays, I popped them in the oven, set the oven for the lowest possible setting and then left the door just slightly open.

The process of making a 12 lb batch of jerky is laborious. I started at 10 AM with wrapped frozen cuts and put the trays in the oven at 3:30 in the afternoon. It was 9PM, when I finally turned the oven off and shut the door.

As I mentioned earlier, timing is everything. At 9PM, the jerky was still a few hours away from being perfect. I turned the oven off, because if I had let it go until morning I would have had cinders. I like leather-like jerky– still a bit pliable. This morning, I got up at 5 AM and pulled off most of the top two trays, added the remainder of what I had prepared and put the oven back on. The trick here is not waiting until lunch time to start your jerky making. It would be even better if I had cut my meat on Saturday and let it marinade overnight. However, my schedule would not allow it.

February and March are my favorite jerky making months. I like it cold outside, because then I can store the meat in the garage while it is marinading. It is 10 F right now and snowing. The last thing you want to do is wait until August and try to do a big batch. I have never had a batch go bad, but I used to work at a frozen cheeseburger factory. The raw side of the plant was kept at 40F.