Does Patience Kill Turkeys?

Persistence, and a few key strategies, killed this gobbler about 10 years ago. He was a late season bird and the second with my own Northern Scratchbox call.

Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

“Patience has killed more turkeys than anything else.” I don’t who said it first, but it gets repeated a lot, even by some legendary turkey hunters. I don’t believe it’s true, and I doubt they really believe it’s true either.

Strictly speaking of course, what kills a gobbler is sudden and massive loss of blood or demolishing his central nervous system. Death is delivered mostly by shotguns. Some of them are tricked out with the latest specialized chokes and loads to make them deadly well beyond the 40 yard rule-of-thumb traditionally considered maximum turkey range.

But we’re not really talking about guns here, so what about strategies? We can file into the “strategy” folder everything we do to bring a gobbler into range.

We roost a gobbler at sundown. We sneak in to call him off the roost. We capitalize on his urge to distribute his DNA. If romance doesn’t work we try to sound like a lonesome hen, a feeding hen, a boss hen, or any kind of hen so that gobbler will come our way feeling either relaxed or excited but above all, safe. Yelps, clucks, purrs, cuts, whether they’re calm or enthusiastic, are in the conversation. We try young gobbler yelps or old gobbler yelps to make him jealous, or fighting purrs to make him think he can come in and steal a hen’s heart while his competition is occupied with conflict.

We set up strategically, either above him or on his level. We use decoys in various numbers and positions. We use other sounds, maybe an owl hoot to locate him, and a flydown cackle to convince him a hen just in his vicinity. We supplement our calling with audible scratching sounds in the leaves to add realism.

Some hunters’ strategy is to abandon the blind, get aggressive, and go searching for a vocal gobbler. We often call that “running and gunning,” a phrase that gives the wrong idea. We don’t run with guns and I’m not sure what “gunning” even means because we don’t pull the trigger on far more days than we do. We sneak quietly, speak to get a gobbler to respond, and silently settle into a calling position. Rather than call it “running and gunning,” maybe we should call it “sneaking and speaking.”

Sometimes no strategy works. So what do we do? We become passive. We sit tight and wait him out even if it takes hours. That’s patience, but even patience can fail.

If “patience kills more turkeys than anything else,” then fewer seasons would end with unfilled tags. In 2010 I called a gobbler in on the last day — one of many times patience failed. At just over 40 yards he did an about-face for no apparent reason and went back the way he came. Those final, few, fatal steps were up to the gobbler, and he didn’t take them.

Hunters who favor patience are often people who hunt from blinds where it’s easy to sit tight because the blind hides movement and allows greater comfort for a long sit. Patience means you’ve run out of options, but when patience fails you can still be persistent.

Persistence means you hunt when you don’t hear gobbles. It means coming up with a new approach, a new idea, a new strategy for the next time you do battle. Persistence means hunting when you’re not even in the woods, hunting even when you’re working, even when you lay your head on your pillow. In one of those moments you’ll come up with a way to take that gobbler.

People confuse persistence with patience. The difference may seem like a fine point, but the contrast is huge. Patience is passive. It’s the waiting game. Persistence is active. It means hunting every possible chance no matter how tired you are or how long the season has dragged on. Certain times call for patience, but if I must choose I’ll choose persistence. When the season gets long, most turkey tags are filled because a hunter is persistent.

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When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.