Turkey season opens April 3, and thousands of camo-clad hunters will be hunkered in blinds, trying to beguile gobblers with their impersonations of a feathered Mae West.
“Hey, big boy, why don’t you come up and see me sometime?”
During the spring mating season, wily old gobblers become as giddy as teenagers on prom night.
They strut like John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever" and fan their tailfeathers like Vegas showgirls.
They’re all dressed up and ready to go.
The trick is to lure them in by mimicking a sultry hen.
Sometimes it’s not easy – a longbeard may pace back and forth on a ridge for an hour, gobbling and trying to make up his mind. Even if he decides to check out the come-hither putting and purring, he may slip in quietly and cautiously, making sure the coast is clear before he makes his move. One scratch of a nose will send him scurrying off.
Other times, he’ll come running with his tongue hanging out.
One memorable morning, two big gobblers responded to my calls. They flew off their roost and hit the ground running. They raced each other across the field toward the fence corner where I sat. The first one there was the loser.
Some turkey experts claim wary old gobblers can detect the slightest flaw in calling. Hit one sour note, like a piccolo player in the symphony, and the hunt is busted.
That's not necessarily true. I’ve heard turkeys shock-gobble to the screech of a rusty pasture gate. The first turkey I called in on my first hunt, some four decades ago, answered a slate call my buddy said sounded like a bobcat getting neutered.
Perfection is overrated.
There are three main types of turkey calls – the afore-mentioned slate, the box and the diaphragm. The diaphragm fits in the roof of the mouth, and I’m afraid I’ll swallow it.
I’ve tried tying a string to it, but I’m afraid I’ll swallow the string, too.
Since I don’t have to worry about swallowing a box call or slate call, I’ll stick with those. Besides, hunting buddy Clarence Dies makes classic Three Tracks box calls, and he keeps me supplied.
Native Americans and old-timers made turkey calls out of wing bones, which poses a chicken-and-egg quandary: to make a wing-bone call, you have to kill a turkey. But to kill a turkey you need a wing-bone call.
Turkeys make some 50 different sounds, including clucking, cackling, purring, putting, gobbling and yelping. There are three kinds of yelps -- tree, lost and assembly. There is also a high-pitched kee-kee call Clarence used to lure in the only gobbler I killed last year.
There are lots of instructional videos on the internet showing rookie hunters how to mimic the various calls.
Or they can do what I did – just scratch a slate call and see what comes running – a big gobbler or a bobcat that walks funny.
Longtime outdoors columnist Larry Woody is a three-time winner of the Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year award and is the author of several books, including “Along for The Ride.” Woody covered NASCAR from the early 1960s until late 2007 in addition to SEC sports, minor league baseball, the Tennessee Titans and the Vanderbilt Commodores.