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Q and A: Champion Turkey Caller Billy Yargus

Heath Wood

Billy YargusMost hunters know that Missouri native Billy Yargus is one of the best turkey callers in the country. Yargus is not only good at sounding like turkeys, he is also extremely good at hunting them. Continue reading to find out what makes him such a success as he answers some common questions that  hunters are eager to find out the answers to.

In the world of competitive turkey calling, there is a name that is well known to fans as well as other competitors. This is not only due to the fact that he is a great guy that will leave a lasting impression, it is also because, at the end of each competition, his name is typically found at the top of the winner list. Billy Yargus of Missouri has been crowned champion in the most prestigious turkey calling competitions such as the NWTF Grand Nationals where he has walked away as the winner three times. He has also brought home winning titles such as the World Championship Senior Open, World Championship Team Championship twice, Mid America Open six times, and the U.S. Open Championship. With such an amazing list of accomplishments in calling competitions, it is easy to overlook that Yargus is an excellent turkey hunter as well. Every spring and fall for the past 42 seasons, Yargus has been hunting turkeys all over the country. Many hunters will agree that in order to sound as authentic as Yargus has proven in competitions, he must have spent many hours studying and hunting the wild turkey. Throughout those many years, it is no surprise that Yargus has found favorite tactics of hunting, favorite calls, and gained a wealth of knowledge that can be beneficial to beginning turkeys hunters and seasoned hunters alike. I recently sat down with Yargus to ask a few of the most common questions in order to help share his knowledge with others hunters.

Q: Besides your home state of Missouri, where is your favorite state to turkey hunt?

Yargus: For many years, it has been Kansas. However, last year I kind of came up with a new favorite when I went to New Mexico and hunted the goulds turkey. The goulds turkey love to hear you call to them and respond well to calling. It was totally different than what I was used to, we would hunt a few hours in the morning, than it would get up into the 90s. During the mid-day we would go back, eat lunch, and take a nap to rest up, then go back and hunt a few hours in the evening when temperatures began to go back down. Every time we went out we had an absolute blast hunting. The goulds turkey responded so well, it easily become a favorite destination of mine.

Q: If you could only take one turkey call to the woods, what would it be?

Yargus: It would have to be the blue cutter mouth call that I designed for Woodhaven Custom Calls. It is by far my most favorite call I take hunting. I can do almost every sound that I need while using this call, including the plain yelp, tree calls, cutting, yelping of an excited hen, clucks and purrs, kee kee runs, and I can even do some jake yelps with this call. This is a call that is brand new this year.

Q: When using decoys, what is your favorite set up?

Yargus: If I could only use one decoy, it would have to be a hen decoy in a stand-up posture. Mainly because this is what I have always used. When a hen is calling, she usually has her head up, so it looks natural. It is what a gobbler expects, standing up resembles that she is interested in him, grabbing the gobblers attention. I do also like using a hen and jake decoy. It all depends on where I am hunting and what type of birds I am hunting. If I am hunting an area earlier in the season that I don’t know very well, I will use a hen and a jake. If it is later in the season, and I am hunting a dominant bird, I will use a hen and a jake or a strutter decoy to get on his jealous side. However, if am unsure, I will use just a hen, because sometimes you will hunt where gobblers have been run off by jakes and they become intimidated. I have had birds shy away from jakes. Know your area and choose your decoys accordingly.

Q: If a gobbler hangs up and refuses to come any closer, what is your go-to tactic/call?

Yargus: When I have a gobbler that is hung up, depending on the terrain, I like to back out of the area. I will set a call on and off to a gobbler for an hour or so. If he won’t budge, I will then back out and circle around him and set up on the other side of him. What the gobbler thinks when I do this, is that the hen has started to come to him and has passed him up. So, when I get on the other side of him, say 75 to 100 yards away, I will do some soft hen yelps, nothing fancy. By doing this, I have had the same gobbler that wouldn’t come earlier, turn inside out and come right to me, just remember to call soft.

Q: What makes you a successful hunter?

During this question, I asked Yargus to swallow his pride, and tell me what he thought set him apart from other hunters, and what he does to make him a successful hunter, and why he thinks he is an expert hunter.

Yargus: First, I give all my credit for my success in the woods as well as in competitions to God; I couldn’t do any of it if it wasn’t for him. But, next I would have to say it is because I rely on my woodsmanship and my past experiences. I love to take people hunting, whether it be a kid or new comer to the sport or if it was an 80-year-old man, I am always learning and enjoy every moment of it.

Q: What is your opinion of the future of hunting? And what can a person do to assure that turkey hunting will be around for many years to come?

Yargus: I enjoy deer hunting, however, I enjoy turkey hunting the most out of all of the hunting that I do. I love the interaction between a gobbler and a hunter while calling them, it is just more fun to me. Each year a friend of mine and I take a group of kids turkey hunting during the youth hunts. I think last year we had 125 kids come in. We usually gather at our church, and I will share my testimony or have a guest share theirs. We try to focus on kids that are not able to hunt or don’t have the resources to hunt. Usually about 25 to 30 kids are ones that are less fortunate. The others are youth that are anxious to hunt. We try to be an example and teach them about hunting, so they can use it in life for many years to come. I also think it is very important, if a person loves to turkey hunt, that they join the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) to be able to keep the sport going. I also encourage to help out your local conservation officers and follow the rules. This will also assure that the sport of turkey hunting thrives. 

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