LIVINGSTON, Ala. — George Mayfield has seen the evolution of turkey calling in his 40-plus years of turkey hunting.
He started hunting under the tutelage of the late Ben Rogers Lee, who won a long list of turkey calling championships and is often referred to as a "pioneer in modern-day turkey hunting."
Mayfield learned a lot about calling, but more about turkey hunting from Lee. One of those first lessons has always stuck for decades: "Don't get in a turkey calling contest with a turkey."
It's a mantra that Mayfield lives by. As a matter of fact, he believes silence is a hunter's best weapon.
"People get all fired up about the season and they want to call,'' Mayfield said. "They are simply in love with the sound of gobble.
"I understand that. A gobble is the finest music a turkey hunter can hear. But that love makes them want to call too much. I know that and I try not to do it but sometimes I even get caught up in the moment and talk more than I should to them."
But Mayfield likes fooling the turkey as much as he loves hearing one sound off after he's made a pretty series of yelps.
"The objective is to kill him, not to get in a calling contest with him,'' he said. "You want him to respond, but you really want him to respond on your terms, not on his. Don't ever get in a calling contest with a turkey. I mean,just because you make him gobble don't mean he's going to run in and give up.
"What actually makes a turkey come is silence, it's not the call."
Mayfield said that a call should be used to stimulate the gobbler. When he gobbles, you respond appropriately and then "you shut the hell up."
"When you shut up, you have it in reverse terms,'' he said. "You have a turkey up on the hill and he's gobbling and every time you call, he gobbles. Well if he shuts up on you, you get your gun up and get ready.
"But he doesn't show. You start thinking 'OK, what's the deal?' So you try him again and try him again, but he doesn't gobble. You wait and call again and he doesn't gobble. You finally give up."
Mayfield believes that almost all veteran turkey hunters have had this happen to them. And when that happens, it's more than likely because you've called too much.
"But what are you going to do?" he said. "You're going to stand up and you're not going to walk from that tree back to the truck. You're going to walk up there and look — you can't help it. You top the hill and there he is slicking up and getting the hell out of Dodge.
"He just called you up, and he did it with silence. That's how you got to do the turkey."
He adds it doesn't work all the time, "nothing does."
Instead of constant calling, Mayfield would rather stimulate the bird, getting him to respond.
"I want to know how he is gobbling and the direction he is gobbling in," he said. "If he's fired up and gobbling in my direction, I start backing off. I make him call like three times on his own and I won't say nothing.
"I listen for the direction he gobbles. You can tell when they turn around and start gobbling at you. When that happens, don't say a thing. Just slow him down when you talk to him.
"Don't call him and see if he moves. More often than not, just like the hunter who is motivated by silence to call more and then go and look, the same thing will happen with the turkey. The frequency of gobbling will increase and as long as that gobble is directed in your direction, he's thinking about that hen just out of sight."