Our turkey pro and host of Spring Thunder says even within the past five years, his tactics have changed
Realtree's Phillip Culpepper spends three months every year traveling the country in pursuit of longbeards while filming original turkey hunting content for the "Spring Thunder" turkey hunting series on Realtree 365 (it's on-demand, and it's free). You can't hunt as much as Culpepper does and not learn a thing or two about wily toms. So when the Miami Herald decided to offer its readers turkey hunting tips, it reached out to Culpepper, who told the publication that his tactics for tagging a longbeard have changed as he's gained experience over the years.
“I don’t even hunt the same as I did five years ago," Culpepper said. "You learn so much of what you can and can’t get away with.” One of the things he mentioned was his increasing use of a lone jake decoy, most recently a Hunters Specialties jake decoy that's nicknamed "Bocephus." He recounted a hunt where the decoy made the difference with some gobblers that had shown interest in a fan, but were loitering on the other side of the rise.
“They came over the hill and they see that little jake decoy and those son-of-a-guns, their heads colored up and they came wanting to beat the fire out of him. So I’ve used it since then. It works like a charm," Culpepper said. It helps the Spring Thunder crew capture outstanding footage, too.
“Most of the turkeys on ‘Spring Thunder’ last year, we could’ve had them killed at 40 yards. That’s what I love about that decoy, it really helps finish them off,” Culpepper said. “Most turkeys, if they don’t like a decoy, they’re going to hang up about 40 or 50 yards and start getting nervous. Little Bocephus was the opposite. At 40 or 50 yards, most of those turkeys got really comfortable and that’s when they were sure enough locked hook, line and sinker coming in.”
It's always fun to get a gobbler in close, but close proximity can result in a miss if the shot pattern is too tight. So Culpepper uses Federal’s Heavyweight TSS No. 9 pellets (where legal) for more penetration at longer distances and a lethal spread at close range. He said combining the jake decoy with TSS consistently produced great content last year, and he is excited about a new twist for 2020.
“We take it seriously as far as trying to put good stuff out there but at the same time we show it like it is and like to have fun,” Culpepper said. “This year we’re going to try to do a little more. Last year we kind of had more of a polished, finished product of a show. This year we’re going to try to do more day-to-day stuff."
Stephanie Mallory is a mom, a hunter and Realtree’s PR Coordinator. She’s here to deliver an insider’s look at the outdoor business and give her opinion on all things outdoors—whether you asked for it or not.