If Marshall Collette of Greensboro strung together all the beards from the turkeys he's killed or called in for other hunters on a piece of rawhide, you could probably use it to measure for first downs in a football game.

So when North Carolina's season opens on Saturday, April 14, Collette will, shall we say, be looking to gain extra yardage.

Collette, a member of the Mossy Oak and Quaker Boy pro staffs from Greensboro, spends countless days in the woods during spring gobbler seasons in states all over the country, hunting, calling birds for other hunters or for hunting videos.


To say that he has a pretty good idea what it takes to kill a nice gobbler would be an understatement. To say that he doesn't mind sharing his knowledge with others would be an even bigger understatement.


Collette did several turkey-hunting seminars at the Dixie Deer Classic in Raleigh in early March. The following are some tips gleaned from those seminars: 


One of the biggest problems hunters have is understanding when, how loud, and how much to call.


At first light, Collette wants to be in the woods at the spot from which he wants to listen to turkeys on the roost. Often, when a gobble rings out in the predawn, the tom has already heard a nearby hen clucking or yelping on the roost and is letting her know where he is. Collette tries to shock a gobble out of a tom by using locator calls, either an owl or a crow. He likes to hear a bird gobble at least two or three times to give him a good idea how far away the bird is and in what direction. He'll wants to be around 100 yards from the roosted bird before he sets up.


When he sits down to work a bird, he tries not to face the gobbler directly; he'd rather shift his body around so that he's sitting against a tree trunk, with his legs pointed 45 to 90 degrees to the right side from where he thinks the turkey is. That way, if the turkey comes directly in or to the left, he can swivel his torso around and get a clean shot, and if the turkey comes in to this right, he's facing that direction and can get a clean shot without having to move too much.


Collette does not want to call to a turkey until he's convinced the bird has flown off the roost. Yelping at a roosted turkey, he said, often results in that gobbler staying on the roost an extended period of the time as it waits for the hen to appear. But when he hears a gobbler fly down, the first thing he wants it to hear is him calling.


"When you hear him hit the ground, you want to let him know you're there," he said.


Collette usually starts with some soft clucks, often from a simple, push-pin type call. If the gobbler answers, he might respond by clucking or yelping, depending on the gobbler's mood. He might switch over to a friction call – a slate or glass call – and he'll call loud enough to see if the gobbler is interested.


"It takes only one call to kill a turkey," he said, "but you need to be able to cluck, yelp and purr."


If the gobbler responds, he'll work the bird, but he'll tone down the volume of his calling as the bird approaches, and he shuts up completely when he thinks the bird is almost in range.


"When you're calling a turkey, you're reversing nature," he said. "The hen usually comes to him; you're trying to make him come to you. He's gonna come as far as he think he needs to, to where he should be able to see his girl friend, and then he'll stop.

"If a turkey hangs up out there, out of range, it's often because you called too loud. The closer he gets, the quieter you call. Most hunters want to call 'til they can see him, then shut up. I want to quit calling before I see him, and I don't want to see him until he's in range."



Collette said a turkey's eyesight borders on incredible, especially when it comes to detecting even the tiniest bit of movement anywhere out to a hundred yards or more.


"A turkey's eyesight is so good, he can see you change your mind," Collette joked.


However, for that reason, Collette said he never calls to a turkey while he's standing up; he always kneels down, crouches or otherwise reduces his silhouette. While he spends a lot of time walking through the turkey woods on logging roads or well-defined trails, he never calls without stepping out of the road into some cover. And he never steps into an open field to call.


If a gobbler hangs up, out of sight and out of range, strutting and gobbling but not budging, Collette has a couple of things he'll try. If the gobbler has hens with him, he'll try to call aggressively at the hens, cutting and yelping. "You might be able to get one of the hens made and call her to you, and when she comes, he's going to come, too," he said.


"One other thing you can do, if you think he's the dominant gobbler in the area, you can gobble at him," said Collette, who either uses a gobbling tube or a normal tube call.

"He hears that and he might think Elmo has slipped in there to his girlfriends, and there are instances when he'll all but run over you," Collette said. "He's going to run in there and kick Elmo's butt. But that's your last alternative, and it can be dangerous to do on public land or on private land right up against one of your (property lines)."

 Collette said hunters need to be capable callers using a variety of different calls: push-pin, friction, diaphragm, box, and to a lesser extent, tube or suction calls such as wingbones. The reason: "One day he might gobble at one kind of call, and the next day, he wants a different kind of call," he said.