I have hunted wild turkeys for the past 25 years or so and the accomplishment I’m most proud of is my being able to collect my Grand Slam. That’s one each of the four sub-species in the continental U.S.; Eastern, Rio Grande, Merriams and Osceola. Every day I admire the fans from these four birds that grace a wall in my office.
Tim Loftin, who owns Kel’s Cove on Lake Claiborne with his wife, Kellie, is as serious about turkey hunting as anyone I have ever known. In answer to my question about whether he has gotten a Grand Slam, he nodded. “I have gotten probably 15 Grand Slams; I’ve sort of lost count.”
Whoa! Fifteen Grand Slams? This means that when springtime comes, he turns the marina over to Kellie to manage because he’s either in south Florida or South Dakota or Texas or Arkansas somewhere in Louisiana chasing gobblers.
Is there one thing about the sport of turkey hunting that keeps his interest level at fever pitch?
“It’s the gobble; if turkeys were quiet I’d probably never hunt them,” Loftin said. “I’ve never hunted them in fall and don’t intend to because they don’t gobble then.”
Does Loftin hire guides or outfitters to set him up for hunts across the country?
“Nope; I’ve only paid for a hunt one time in Texas and I won’t do it again. I hunt public land plus I have been fortunate to make friends in most of the places I hunt, folks I call or stop by and visit and ask permission to hunt their land. Some of these folks have become good friends and they welcome me back every year,” said Loftin.
We picked Loftin’s brain to enable us to vicariously peer over his shoulder as he talked about his quest for gobblers.
“If there is one thing that I believe is the most important in being able to waylay gobblers, it’s patience. If I’m set up on a bird I roosted the afternoon before and I’ve been able to sneak in close to him, I wait until he gobbles before I do anything. I might give him a little soft yelp just to let him know where I am and then I just shut up,” he said.
“There have been some cases when I knew I had the woods to myself with no other hunters around and there were no hens with the gobbler, I wait until he flies down before I ever make a sound. Other times, if there are vocal hens with him, I’ll crank it up to try and out-do the hens. If a gobbler already has hens with him, it’s hard to pull him away from them, no matter how good you can call. However, later up in the morning when the hens leave to go to their nests and he realizes he’s alone, he’ll often come to your calls if you have the patience to wait him out.”
“If a gobbler doesn’t come in quickly after flying down and maybe even quits gobbling, I don’t worry; I know he hasn’t left and eventually he’ll probably come to check me out. I’ll just kick back, maybe make a soft call every half hour or so and even take a nap. I know he’s probably going to give me a chance at him,” said Loftin, adding that he has killed most of his turkeys after 9:00 AM.
Loftin relies on two calls; a diaphragm mouth call that allows him to call without moving his hands and a friction call, especially a slate or glass.
“Developing expertise with whichever calls you’re comfortable with and knowing when to call and when to shut up are all important to fool a wily old tom turkey. You can run one off by calling too much but also if you don’t call at the right time and in the right way, he may not come either,” he said.
Loftin leaves in two weeks for Florida to chase the Osceola sub-species to start another season. After that, he’ll scoot around the country after birds to put yet another notch on his growing Grand Slam list, even if he’s not quite sure how many he has.