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Ernie Calandrelli: The Gobbler that was a Pain

Ernie Callandrelliprovided 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.

Ernie’s favorite type of turkey call

Although I use all the different types of calls, including mouth diaphragm, box, push button and tube calls, I guess my favorite is a slate call. In a day of turkey calling, I’ll use all the various kinds of calls. But I particularly enjoy running a slate call because I like the many realistic types of turkey calls that my slate call can produce. 

Ernie’s most memorable turkey hunt

One of the most memorable turkey hunts I ever went on was in Missouri several years ago. This turkey I finally named “The Pain” would gobble all morning long, but he was in an area I couldn’t reach. That tom liked to hang out in a cornfield in a hardwood bottom. On the other side of the cornfield, there was some wispy yellow grass, and every morning this turkey would fly out in that grass that was just below his chest, wattle high. That gobbler was a pain to try and take. 

Generally, I don’t like to name a turkey because I believe once you name one, he’s 10 times as hard to take. One of the reasons this turkey was such a pain was because I was guiding an outdoor writer. I knew that the last thing that we wanted to do with this old gobbler was to spook him, and for the turkey to see he was spooked by a hunter. I think when a turkey sees a hunter, that experience puts more fear in the bird. 

Most turkeys that live around agricultural fields, like this turkey, are accustomed to seeing vehicles. I decided to hunt him late in the morning, and when I saw him, he had a hen with him out in that grass field. My hunter and I got into my truck, and I drove the truck slowly out into that grass field where the gobbler and the hen were feeding on a small roadway, going down into that field. Spotting the truck coming toward them, the gobbler stayed in full strut and followed the hen out of the field and into the woods. My hunter and I parked the truck, slipped out of the truck and moved out into the field where we most often saw this gobbler strutting. 

turkey

We waited about 20 or 30 minutes before I started to call softly. The only calls I gave the gobbler were very soft clucks and purrs on a slate call. Although the grass in the field hid him, it also hid me and my writer well. The first time I clucked and purred after we were set up, I heard the gobbler spit and drum 70 yards away because there was no wind, and the field was dead silent. Since we didn’t have a tree to lean up against or a bush to hide behind, we sat in the grass and depended on our Mossy Oak camouflage to make us invisible. Shortly after I called, we saw the gobbler’s spread tail fan coming toward us. When he would drop out of the strut, his head would come up, and he’d look around the field. The tom was turkey drumming as he came to us, but he didn’t gobble. When that ole bird was about 30 yards from us, my hunter readied his shot. I watched for the turkey’s tail feathers to go down, out of sight, and for him to stick his head up above the grass. Once this occurred, my hunter fired, and the gobbler went down.

What Ernie Learned from the Turkey Named The Pain:

  • Tough turkeys, like The Pain, teach me that perseverance often pays more dividends than fancy calling does.
  • You may have to change tactics and come up with a strategy that’s completely out of the box when hunting a tough turkey. 
  • You may have to come with a technique that enables you to move toward the turkey unseen, if you can’t approach a turkey without his seeing you. In recent years, “reaping” is a new way hunters hunt by hiding behind a gobbler’s fan and crawling up to a turkey in the field. 
  • You have to make do with whatever you have to hide from a turkey. We didn’t have a tree to lean against or a bush to get behind, while we were waiting to take the shot when hunting The Pain. My hunter had to shoot off-hand because he couldn’t pull his knees up to rest his shotgun like he would have been able to under most situations. 
     

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