CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Well, it's time once again to play "advanced cowboys and Indians."
One of my favorite hunting partners, Jeff D'Agostino, used that phrase to describe spring gobbler hunting. I can't imagine a better way to put it.
Turkey hunting is, more than anything, a battle of wits. To be successful, hunters must persuade tom turkeys to do something that goes completely against their nature: Go looking for a hen with which to mate.
Like high-profile movie stars and professional athletes, turkey gobblers are accustomed to having females at their beck and call. Toms in the mood for feminine companionship advertise their availability by gobbling. Hens that haven't yet mated hear the gobble and come a-running.
Hunters face the daunting task of turning that paradigm on its head. They sit in the woods, yelping, clucking and purring like hens, and hope they sound sexy enough to pique all the nearby gobblers' curiosity.
Obviously, it helps to be a good turkey caller. Hunters who best imitate all those hen sounds enjoy the greatest chance at success.
But just as there's more to making music than just knowing which notes to play, there's more to turkey-calling success than knowing how to reproduce the sounds.
Experienced turkey hunters take several factors into account before they make the first sound. They gauge the distance to the gobbler, which tells them how loud or soft they should call. By paying close attention to how frequently the gobbler gobbles, hunters can divine how desperate for companionship the gobbler might be.
Smart hunters assess the surrounding terrain to determine where best to set up ambushes. They look for places that afford commanding views of the surrounding woods but provide enough concealment to avoid gobblers' sharp-eyed scrutiny.