By John E. Phillips
While at the University of West Alabama in Livingston in the late 1960s, I majored in turkey hunting, deer hunting, bass fishing and crappie fishing with minors in catfishing, squirrel hunting, quail hunting and coon hunting. I also took all the courses I needed to fulfill the academic requirements necessary to graduate and worked part-time. I learned early on that choosing the best mentor I could find would enable me to do better in my majors. Some of the young men I attended college with had been turkey hunting from the times they rode on their granddaddys’ shoulders in to the woods and sat still long enough for their granddads to bag gobblers. Some of these young men already had bagged 25+ turkeys before arriving at college in a time when few people anywhere hunted turkeys. They freely shared their knowledge and skills of chasing and taking longbeards. After graduation from college, I raised the level of mentors I pursued and was fortunate enough to hunt with some of the greatest turkey hunters of the day. I learned that the more days spent in turkey woods, and the more different species of wild turkey a hunter hunted, the higher his skill level was. Mossy Oak pros like Tracy Groves take some of the toughest turkeys anywhere – public-land gobblers. Another type of turkey hunter that has pressure put on him every time he goes into the woods includes TV hosts like Alex Rutledge, Terry Drury and Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland. Then there’s traveling turkey hunters like Chris Phillips, Ernie Callendrelli and Bucky Hauser. The third layer of turkey hunters who hunt under pressure are world champion turkey callers like Matt Morrett, Chris Kirby and Matt Van Cise. When youre a world champion turkey caller, the expectation is that you should be able to call in to the gun any turkey that gobbles in the woods. All the individuals in this book have been recognized for their prowess by being labeled Mossy Oak Turkey Hunting Pros. Each season, they guide hunters with disabilities, young hunters and Mossy Oak customers to toms, as well as hunt on their own. Each of them has wisdom to share on turkey hunting, whether youre a veteran turkey taker or a newbie wanting to learn how to bag a longbeard. When asked, “How many turkeys did you take this season?” these men may answer, “10.” Theyre not taking over the limit. When a Mossy Oak Pro gets a turkey within gun range, he believes he’s won the game – whether he squeezes the trigger or not. He counts these as turkeys taken, if he’s called in a gobbler another hunter harvests. Famous words Ive heard often are that no two turkeys are just alike. To consistently call in a longbeard, the more you can learn from many different hunters who’ve spent thousands of hours getting their turkey-hunting educations, the faster you can learn to hunt turkeys successfully. In my opinion, these 10 Mossy Oak Turkey Hunting Pros can teach us all the lessons that are vitally important for the next time we have the courage to challenge the monarch of the spring woods – the wild turkey gobbler. To get up close and personal with some of these legends in the turkey outdoors, Ive also included some videos to allow you to see and hear some of these turkey-hunting masters.