Why Give Away Gobblers? | Great Days Outdoors

You may want to give impossible gobblers away for someone else to hunt.


Editor’s Note: Preston Pittman, the creator of Pittman Game Calls in West Point, Mississippi, has hunted turkeys all over the U.S. and often has people give him hard-to-take toms.

The craziest thing I ever did to take a turkey was put cow manure all over me.

In the world of turkey calling, we have what is known as hand-me-down gobblers. I’m referring to a hunt that happened back when I was in my twenties and I was just beginning to learn how to hunt turkeys.

I learned pretty quickly to be skeptical when a hunting buddy says, “I have this ol’ turkey I’ve been hunting for several days. I don’t have time to hunt him. If you want to try and take him this season, I’ll give you permission.”


When Edwin Lamb from Perry County, Mississippi, called me and said, “Preston, you know I work offshore on the oil rigs. I have to go back to work, and I won’t be able to hunt the rest of turkey season. But I’ve found a gobbler on private land that I’ve been trying to take. I’ll let you have him if you want him. The land is in Lamar County and the season just opened.”

I should’ve realized there was a problem with this bird, or Edwin wouldn’t have given him to me. In those days, I wouldn’t have given him a gobbler I’d found either unless I was unable to take that bird.

I called the landowner, went out to his house and met him. I asked him to tell me about the land he owned. He walked over to the back window of his house, waved his hand in front of the window and said, “All the land you can see is mine.”

I saw a 60-acre cow pasture with a row of privet hedge dividing it. Above and surrounding the pasture lay a beautiful forest. I could see a creek running through a hardwood bottom. I’d never seen a better place to hunt gobblers. I couldn’t believe Edwin had helped me get the rights to hunt this property.

The first thing I said to the landowner (Mr. Brown) was, “Those hardwoods on top of the hill above the pasture look like a great place to start hunting.”

Mr. Brown answered, “No, you can’t hunt there. A doctor owns that land, and he said that my fence was 2-1/2-feet over his property line. He put out surveillance cameras, and he has people riding the property line. He said he’d have anyone arrested who got over on his land.”


I said, “Okay, can I start hunting down in that bottom on the left side of that pasture?”

“No, you can’t hunt there,” Mr. Brown said. “The farmer who owns that land said that fence was 1-3/4-inches over the property line. I’ve been told he has a still down in that bottom, so he may shoot you if you go down there.”

I couldn’t believe I only had a cow pasture with a privet hedgerow dividing the 60-acre cow pasture into two 30-acre pastures. I decided to at least visit the next morning, get in that privet hedge and call to see what would happen. I selected a stand site inside the privet hedge where I knew the turkey couldn’t see me.

Hunting for gobblers.

Admit it; some turkeys are just smarter than we are. Photo by Preston Pittman

A Tough Bird Loses to an Epiphany

The old bird started gobbling before daylight. I gave the tom some light tree calls and he gobbled in response.

Just as that first early-morning glow brightened up the woods and the cow pasture, the old gobbler pitched out of a tree and landed in the middle of the cow pasture 100 yards away. He was gobbling and strutting and walking straight toward me.

At about 65 yards he stopped, stood still for a few minutes, and ran back into the woods. I knew that bird hadn’t seen me, and I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t come within gun range.

I couldn’t see what might have spooked him or prevented him from coming to me.

The next morning I decided not to call at all. I’d wait and let the turkey fly into the field and then give some subtle clucks and purrs. When I started calling, the gobbler started coming to me, but like there was a brick wall 60 yards from me, the bird stopped, stuck his neck up, looked around and ran right back into the woods.

“I replayed in my mind everything that was happening around me when I was trying to call that gobbler.”

He kept acting the same way every day, even when I changed to a slate call and then to a box call. I even got so desperate that I bought a Primos turkey call, hoping that by using a different call I could get the gobbler to come within gun range.

But all my tactics still didn’t work.

I tried everything that should work to bring a turkey within gun range. I hunted that silly turkey for eight consecutive days. The ninth morning, when I got out of my truck, and the dome light in the truck turned on, I had a revelation.

I replayed in my mind everything that was happening around me when I was trying to call that gobbler. I finally figured out the problem. It was like an epiphany. On the way to my stand site, I found some liquid cow manure and rubbed it all over my hunting clothes.

Once I put that cow manure on me, I said to myself, “That gobbler is going to die today. I’ve finally figured him out.”

I got to the hedgerow where I’d been calling from, and when the gobbler flew out of the tree and landed in the field I yelped to him three times. He came running in and stopped at 18 steps. I put him on the ground.

This turkey was the first I’d ever taken that had 1-3/4-inch spurs, indicating he was a really old gobbler.

Hunting for gobblers.

Gobblers that see through hardwood to a field won’t fly across a creek…until they see a hen. Photo by Preston Pittman

What This Turkey Man Learned

When I’m telling this story at seminars, I always ask my audience, “Why do you think putting cow manure on me enabled me to take this gobbler?”

No one has ever answered that question.

What I finally realized on that ninth morning in the privet hedge was every time I called to that gobbler, a cow or a calf would come over to my stand to investigate what was making the call. Gobblers can’t smell. But cows can. They sniffed a strange human being in that fencerow, turned around, and fled back to the pasture.

This gobbler had learned to watch the cows.

On the ninth day when the cows heard me call and came to investigate, they detected cow manure instead of human odor (this was many years ago before cover scents were introduced to the turkey market).

Once the cows smelled what they thought was another cow at the fence, the gobbler relaxed and came in, thinking he was going to find a girlfriend instead of having lead applied to his head.

The lesson here is this: when you’re dealing with a bad turkey, pay attention to everything around you. And, if you’re frustrated with trying to take a tom you can’t seem to harvest, give him away to someone else to hunt.

For more turkey-hunting tips from Preston Pittman, check out the Kindle eBook, How to Hunt Turkeys with World Champion Preston Pittman, available from www.amazon.com.

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