Guy Zuck talks turkey, literally—and he doesn’t need a call to sound better than your most practiced reed. Guy competed in voice calling competitions in his youth, placing second in the World Voice Calling Championship in 1991. When he puts a reed in his mouth, he somehow sounds even more like a turkey—a super sexy hen turkey to be exact.
Guy has killed (including with clients) more turkeys in a season than I hope to in my entire life. And he did that for over two decades. I only tell you this so that you keep reading. Guy has volumes of turkey knowledge. Last spring, I sat down with him and picked his brain about turkey hunting. He graciously opened up, sharing his tricks and hiding none of his tactics, so that we all could learn and be better hunters. But most importantly, he shares his knowledge so that we all enjoy the turkey woods more. What follows is what I found most interesting from our 30 minute chat. You can watch the entire interview on our Facebook page.
Hunting Roosted Birds
JP: Out West, we always try roosting birds in the evening to give us confidence for morning. Do you roost turkeys in the evening?
GZ: No. It makes no sense. Part of it for me is hearing that first gobble in the morning, and knowing how to set up on it, how to get to it. It’s just a big part of it for me, reacting to that first gobble.
JP: So, you’d rather be sprinting in than sitting under his tree in the dark?
JP: Do you call to a roosted gobbler before he flies down?
GZ: Very, very seldom. Almost never. If there’s a lot of hen talk, I may pick up with them, but you’ll kill more turkeys if you wait until their feet touch the ground before you talk to them. Proven fact.
JP: Can you elaborate? Why do you think that?
GZ: If the tom is in the tree, and he is gobbling good in the tree, it’s natural for him to stay in the tree if he hears a hen yelping. A lot of times he’ll stay in that tree and wait for that hen to come under his tree before he flies down. It gives him a sense of security. If you wait for him to fly down and then you’re the first hen that he hears, he’s way more apt to come check you out.
Hunting Mid-Day Birds
JP: What’s your tactic for locating a mid-day gobbler?
GZ: My tactic is probably a little different than most, but at 9 or 10 in the morning, especially if I’ve worked a bird in that area that morning, I’ll just go out there and sit and let nature be nature. I know there’s a lot of good crow calls and owl calls on the market, but there’s nothing like nature. You can just go out into his area and listen. There are very few calls that I can’t make. But, very seldom do I use them in the middle of the day. There are times I do, but my favorite tactic is to just sit there and become one with nature. Go out there, sit, and listen for him to gobble. If he’s lonely, he’s going to gobble. It’s nature. That’s the one you’ll have to best odds of killing.
JP: If you could only hunt two hours out of every day of the turkey season, which two hours would it be?
GZ: Nine to 11 in the morning. He’s going to come back to that roost tree about that time. If he flew down with hens that morning, the hens will eventually scatter about. He might have 10 hens that morning, and then it’s nine, eight, seven, six, until, as nature goes, he finds himself without hens. If I’ve called to him in his roost area, he remembers all day that there’s a hen back there, especially if he answered me that morning but went off with his hens. He’ll come back to revisit that tree, in that area, and I’ll be sitting there. That usually happens between 9 and 11 am.
Turkey Call Styles
JP: What’s your favorite style of call, and why?
GZ: My favorite style of call is the one-sided box call made from butternut and cherry. With all the calls that I can make with my voice and a diaphragm, the box call is the one I hardly ever leave home without. It sounds so real in the woods. I’ve got a buddy that’s probably the best I’ve ever heard on a box call. I remember when we used to hunt together a lot, and I’d get away from him and be able to hear him calling. I was just amazed at the naturalness of that call.
JP: What’s the best call for a beginner?
GZ: The best call in the woods is a box call, and it’s also the easiest to use. Anybody can pick up a box call and make sounds with it.
Turkey Decoy Setups
JP: Do you use decoys?
GZ: I do not. It’s personal with me. I want a one on one. I want to be able to try to get him to do what he doesn’t want to do. If I use something in the turkey woods, and the turkey has a bad reaction to it, I’m done with that. If he has a bad reaction to something that otherwise he would have had no reaction to, why take it? I’ve had them come to a field and see a decoy and turn around and run off.
Talking to Toms
JP: Did you ever have an “aha” moment in your turkey career?
GZ: Yes. I saw a jake yelp at a gobbler strutting. He was spitting and drumming, and the jake yelped at him. The gobbler turned, went right to the jake, and whooped his butt. I’ve used that throughout my career to harvest several mature toms.
JP: Can you call a gobbler away from hens?
GZ: Yes. I’ve done it successfully in my career, but I’d much rather sit down on a bird with no hens.
JP: How do most beginners mess up a turkey hunt?
GZ: They call too loud and too much.
JP: How do most seasoned hunters mess up a turkey hunt?
GZ: They call too loud and too much. I still do it to this day. I get overly excited and call too loud. But, the second I start calling too loud and he goes quiet, I know it and back off. You can back off, give him some time and let him get going again. Be patient—patience is the number one thing that will kill a wild turkey. Woodsmanship, calling, all that stuff goes together, but being patient and letting a turkey do what turkeys do will make your success go up.
JP: If you could only make one hen sound, which one would it be?
GZ: A soft yelp.
JP: Name one thing a turkey can do to become a better caller.
GZ: Practice softer calls.
JP: How do your tactics change between hunting early season turkeys and late season turkeys?
GZ: You can be a lot more aggressive with early season turkeys. There’s a lot more 2-year-old turkeys in the woods then. But if I had to pick, I’d hunt the last day over the first day. The hens are nesting, so the luckier gobblers that have made it through have their zones set up, and you can sit on one and work him like you’re supposed to work him. It’s just you against him. That sure doesn’t mean you’re going to kill him, but that’s my favorite time.
Feature image via Captured Creative.