The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 13, 2013

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Tricks of the trade

Star Beacon

— As we head into the last week of Ohio’s spring turkey hunting season, here’s some food for thought — it’s amazing that a bird with a brain the size of a green pea can frustrate so many hunters, but ya know what, they do it for a livin’, they do it to survive and they’re darn good at it.

Be that as it may, here are a few tricks that might help you in the remainder of your last pursuits or the next time a gobbler gives you the slip. It’s not gospel but it just might work:

Raise a ruckus

Most knowledgeable turkey hunters say that overcalling is the biggest mistake a hunter can make, but there are times when sounding like an all-out party may be the way to go. Let make a scenario: A hunter working a parcel of land watched a mature gobbler strut in the open on a hillside across a deep ravine 800 yards away. Of course this bird was not on the land he had permission to hunt.

Our hunter got out a loud box call and sent some yelps in the direction of the gobbler, and when he did the gobbler’s head dipped in a gobble response. Each time the hunter called the big tom gobbled back. After several hours of sparse calling, the hunter gave up and headed on to greener pastures.

He talked to friend that night and the buddy asked if he could work that bird the next day. The next day sure as shootin’ the bird was in its strut zone and gobbling its head off, and our new hunter took a different approach.

He cranked on a box call and worked a diaphragm at the same time, calling nearly constantly for 20 minutes, throwing out loud yelps, excited cutts and kee kees, and the gobbler finally had had enough. It jumped up and flew across the ravine, plopping down 30 yards in front of the new hunter. You know the rest of the story.

Sleep in

Now, this is my style of hunting! A gobbler’s typical day starts at dawn (give or take an hour) by trailing some hens and maybe getting to breed. By 10 a.m. or so, though, the hens slip away to their nests and the gobbler’s all alone. Suddenly all the babes are gone, and all he can do is head to an area where he can be seen, or at least heard, and do some strutting and gobble a little and hope there are still some hotties in need of his masculine attention.

This is why sleeping in and heading to the woods during midmorning can be a good tactic. If you know where a bird is roosted, give him a shot first thing, but if it doesn’t work out go get some biscuits and gravy and come back after a while.

It’s best if you’ve done your homework and know of several likely strut zones. Move in and give them a shot, and you should know right away whether the gobbler is home. Midmorning also is a good time to run and gun, walking a path or two-track road and calling occasionally.

But… be ready to dive into position cause when he hammers ya he may be right on top of ya.

Invade his territory

You’ve seen a big, mature gobbler at the back corner of an open pasture at 10:30 a.m. three days straight, but when you slip in close and call he goes the other way. Here are two options.

Slip into this area and silently wait him out. Leave your calls at home if you don’t trust yourself not to use them. Position yourself within easy range of where you’ve seen him and hunt him like you would a mature buck. It ain’t exciting, but it’s effective. It’s also important to get there early.

The second option can be more exciting but still require you get there early and wait. Place a mature strutting gobbler decoy in the field near where you’ve seen the bird and call with deeper, coarse gobbler yelps a few times. You even can throw out a gobble or two if you’re capable. (Never use mature gobbler decoys on public land!)

Chances are, the gobbler won’t show up until the hens leave him regardless of how you call. This is a good time to use a blind because almost everyone loses focus after an hour of two, and the blind will conceal those fidgets that always come on just as the bird approaches through the woods. Several things can occur when using this trick; the gobbler will see the decoy and come in fast intent on running off this intruder, the gobbler will hang up and eye the decoy warily and may come in or may not, or the gobbler will turn tail and run. The opportunity to see that big bird sprinting toward the decoy is worth giving this option a chance.

Hunt safe, hunt hard and give thanks to God for being able to do it.


The Ashtabula County Wildlife Conservation League’s Annual Spring Banquet that I headlined last week is going to held on June 1, 2013 at the Lenox Community Center. The center is located at 2509 Lenox New Lyme Road in Jefferson.

Dinner tickets are $20 per person and the dinner ticket includes a chance on a Buckhorn CVA .50 caliber muzzleloader. The dinner this year is being catered by Briquettes Smoke House. The doors will open at 5, dinner will be served at 6.

We will be raffling several guns this year and we’ve added some more silent-auction items. There will, like last year, be tons of door prizes.

The most important thing about this banquet is that all of the monies generated from it stay right here in Ashtabula County! We don’t split it with some big name organization or promote it with their letterhead. It’s the “Ashtabula County Wildlife Conservation League Banquet,” plain and simple. We promote it, we pay for all the expenses and we reap all the rewards, which as I said stay right here in Ashtabula County!

Now, if you want to be counted as one of the 200 people who supported us in our endeavor here’s the names of some contacts in and around the county for you to get a hold of and get your self and your friends a ticket to the ball:

For more info and tickets call, Dale Sunderlin: 466-2223 President, Tim Starkey Treasurer: 224-0324, Don Powell Amboy Rifle Club: 474-9312, Scott Sutch Amboy Rifle Club: 228-8086, Don Hancock Monroe Sportsmen’s Club: 352-6404, Paul Callendar Ashtabula Rod & Gun Club: 466-1023, Charlie Platts Conneaut Fish & Game Club: 224-5044, Dave Baird Jefferson Conservation Club: 812-5837, Don Spence Monroe Sportsmen’s Club: 265-6068, Keith Vicars ORCO: 286-4358, Jennifer Bassett Orwell Gun Club: 272-5583, Bill Claycomb Rock Creek Conservation Club: 563-5741. We’re only selling 200 tickets so you might want to make that call to get tickets as soon as possible.

Don’t wait, folks, make that call, get your tickets, help us so we can help and represent you.

Remember, pass it on or it will surely pass on.

Lyme disease

The Lyme Disease Support Group, Lyme Bites, encourages those who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease to attend and share the process of their diagnosis and treatment. A review of the upcoming Lyme Symposium on June 1st will be addressed and your input is appreciated. Medical personnel and support givers are encouraged to attend.

This event will be Saturday at 10 a.m. at Jefferson Health Care’s (Jefferson Geriatric) conference room, located 222 East Beech St., Jefferson. Please park in the back and enter through the dialysis doors.

This event is free of charge and open to the public. Reservations are not required but appreciated. For more information, contact Janine Kirby at 858-2614.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month.

Grand River cleanup

Volunteers are being sought to help clean up the Grand River. The cleanup effort will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Hidden Valley Metropark, 4880 Klasen Road in Madison Township. Two teams of volunteers will help clean the scenic Grand in Lake and Ashtabula counties: Team River will collect trash and debris from the banks of the river with the help of canoes donated by Lake Metroparks and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Scenic Rivers Program, while Team Terra Firma will hit the parks along this stretch of the river to keep them trash-free. Volunteers will be treated to a barbecue lunch after the cleanup.

Those interested in volunteering are asked to RSVP by Tuesday by contacting Kim Bihler at or 528-4162 and indicating your preferred team. The number of seats in sponsor-provided canoes is limited and are available only to those at least 14 years old. Private canoes are welcome but must be licensed.

Sponsors are Lake Metroparks, Ashtabula County Metroparks, the Ashtabula and Lake Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the ODNR’s Scenic Rivers Program, the Ohio Central Basin Steelheaders and Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

Wild game dinner

Rock Creek Conservation Club will be holding its 5th Annual Wild Game Dinner on Saturday at Rock Creek Conservation Club located on Schaffer Road 1⁄4 mile west of Route 45. Doors will open at 4  p.m., dinner will be served at 6and the raffle will be held at 8. There will be a 50/50 raffle, gun raffles and a free youth raffle (16 years old and under). All are welcome, men, women and children. Ticket donation cost is $20 per adult and $10 per youth 16 and under.

Dinner ticket includes dinner, beverage and door prizes. For more information and to purchase tickets call Keith Davidson 563-9403 or Steve Laurenty 275-1530.

Sunderlin is a freelance writer from Geneva. Reach him at