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Ernie Calandrelli Belly Crawls to a Turkey

provided by John Phillips

Ernie Calandrelli, from Buffalo, New York, enjoys all outdoor sports and has been turkey hunting for 44 years. Calandrelli retired a year or so ago from his positions of PR Director and Head of Advertising for Quaker Boy Calls after 34 years and is a longtime Mossy Oak enthusiast. Calandrelli has won or placed in the top 10 in over 100 turkey calling contests, including state, regional, U.S. and world championships. He’s hosted outdoor writers and Quaker  Boy customers on turkey hunts all over the country in years past. Calandrelli has made so many friends in so many states that today he hunts as often as possible during spring gobbler season and deer season. Mossy Oak asked Calandrelli to name the wild turkeys that have taught him the most over the years.


This gobbler was out in a field, and the field was surrounded by woods. I went through the woods quite sure that the turkey couldn’t see me. When I finally got to where I could see the gobbler, he was about 200 yards away from me. Using my binoculars, I started watching the gobbler. I saw a gravel road on the other side of him that was about 100 yards from the turkey, and this gravel road was used often with cars coming up and down the road. As I watched the gobbler, I noticed that whenever a car came down the road, that tom would squat down in the grass and disappear. He’d probably learned that some of the people driving down that road might shoot at him, or they might have shot one of his buddies. Then he’d stand up. I watched four or five cars go by, and every time a car passed, the gobbler would squat down and vanish in the grass. 

Ernie CalandrelliI hadn’t called this turkey at all, so I decided that when the turkey lay down in the grass, I’d belly crawl out into the field where he shouldn’t be able to see me. I started crawling, and when I saw the turkey stand up, I’d lie flat in the field. When I’d hear a car coming down the road, I’d peep up and see the turkey go down, and then I’d start crawling again. The grass was so tall, people in the passing cars couldn’t see me or the turkey. I crawled for a long time, laying down flat every time I heard a car coming. Finally, I knew I was within 35 yards of that gobbler. I twisted around to sit on my butt and hold my gun on my shoulder. I aimed where I thought the turkey was, and after the cars passed by, the gobbler stood up, and I shot him. I looked at my watch; I’d been crawling for a half hour before finally getting in position to bag that bird. 

What the Belly Crawling Turkey Taught Me:

  • Turkeys may have small brains, but turkeys still can learn. This turkey had put two and two together and understood that when a car came down the road somebody might shoot at him. However, if he ducked down in the grass he couldn’t be seen, and no one would shoot at him. 
  • I probably wouldn’t have believed this story, except it was a tactic I used successfully. 
  • This turkey reinforced the fact that every turkey is different. Once you find a turkey, you have to do what you must to take him, regardless of how silly the tactic may seem. 
  • Some people may not want to crawl for 30 minutes on their bellies to bag gobblers, but you need to decide before you leave camp whether you’ll do whatever is needed to take a tom.

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