Editor’s Note: Steve Coon works with Drury Outdoors (Mark and Terry Drury) and appeared on the Drurys’ TV show, “Dream Season the Journey.”
An eyeballer is a turkey that stays in the tree after fly-down time and looks for hunters. When he's gobbling from a tree to call his hens to come to him, a smart gobbler knows that he's also calling in other predators like foxes, bobcats, coyotes, feral dogs and hunters. This turkey will stay in a tree and answer every one of your calls, but he's searching for you - eyeballing you - as hard as you're looking for him. He's also looking for foxes, coyotes, bobcats and feral dogs. This bird is one most hunters love to call to, because he loves to gobble. But that’s all he’ll do. If he doesn’t see a hen coming to him, he'll do one of two things. He'll pitch out into a wide-open field where he can see in all directions, usually for 100 yards or more, or he'll fly back into the woods so far you can’t see where he's going.
We’d been trying to call and take the Eyeballer for several days. I’d roost the bird at night, so I knew where his roost tree was. Then we’d slip into the woods before daylight the next morning and try to call him in to the gun, however, that bird just wouldn’t come. Finally, after several days of hunting this turkey, we roosted him at night like we always did. Then, about 11:00 pm that night, we returned to the place where we had the gobbler roosted and set-up a portable blind, using a total-concealment blind to completely hide the hunter. The next morning we quietly got into the blind about 1-1/2-hours before daylight, didn’t call a single time and waited for the turkey to pitch out of the tree. We knew the way he usually traveled to feed. So, we set-up our blind on his path. Sure enough, when the sun was coming up, the turkey began to gobble. I didn’t call to him. The gobbler was gobbling so well and so often that any hunter in his right mind would want to call to that gobbler. And, I have to be honest. Leaving my turkey call in my turkey vest and not taking it out and calling was a real struggle for me. Half the fun of turkey hunting is talking to the turkey. But on this morning, I knew that if I gave that turkey the slightest cluck or purr, I wouldn’t see or hear from him the rest of the day. I sat as still as possible in my blind. When he flew down from his roost, he landed about 20 yards from my blind, and I took him. I have to admit that sitting in the blind and not calling was pretty boring. However, being able to watch the world wake-up, hearing the Eyeballer Tom gobble, seeing him strut on the limb and watching all the critters in the woods scurrying around helped to defeat my boredom.
The secret to taking that gobbler was that every morning we hunted him, we watched how he flew from his roost tree out to this field. After he had been out in the field for awhile, if he didn’t have any hens come to him, he’d walk out of the field and into the woods at the same spot. Since we knew the direction of travel the turkey was taking when he left the field, we knew exactly where to set-up our blind to be along his travel route. When you find a gobbler that you can’t call in, the only way to take that gobbler is to learn his routine. Know:
- Where does he usually land when he flies from the tree?
- Where does he land in the field, if he flies to a field?
- When he leaves the field, where does he enter the woods?
- When he enter the woods, where does he go next?
In most instances, you have to hunt a tough tom like you hunt a deer. You pattern him and assume that your turkey call won’t help you at all. As a matter of fact, your turkey call may keep you from taking a bad gobbler. To consistently take bad turkeys, you have to learn how to hunt a bad turkey and not just call to him.