horntagger: Welcome to the Missouri Sportsmen with your host horntagger.
Our special outdoor guest this week is Alex Rutledge, Pro Staffer for Hunter Specialties. Welcome to the Missouri Sportsmen, Alex.
Alex Rutledge: Glad to be here, and glad to have you here while we do this promotion. Going to have a good crowd here and I see we have lots of kids and that's what the future is all about, the kids.
We're going to have some fun tonight and we're going to teach everybody how to use some of the new calls. Especially, educating the kids about turkey hunting.
horntagger: Alex, how long have you been a Pro Staffer for Hunter Specialties?
Alex Rutledge: I've been with the company since about 1983 or '84. I've been with them full time for five years in December. Well, I guess five or six years. It's an honor to be with this company that many years. I got to watch them grow. This company actually started 26 years ago with one item and that was a roll of camouflage tape. So we have come a long way, actually manufacturing about 840 different items, its just unreal how big Hunter Specialties has gotten.
horntagger: How did you get started Pro Staffing for Hunter Specialties?
Alex Rutledge: I actually started with turkey calling and contest calling and got to winning a bunch of contests. Ray Eye approached me at that time. Everybody knows Ray Eye. I owe a lot to Ray and his brother Marty. horntagger: Ray's a lot of fun to be around.
Alex Rutledge: Oh yeah, Ray's a big cutter. But, anyway, that's how I got started. He asked me to work with him at Ozark Mountain Calls then they started a company, HS Strut, back in '84, I believe.
horntagger: Alex, you're one of the Missouri Turkey Hunters out of BirchTree, Missouri.
Alex Rutledge: Yes sir.
horntagger: Do you get to hunt Missouri much each year?
Alex Rutledge: Yes, I am an outfitter as well. I guide turkey hunts. I hunt Missouri turkey season ever year.
horntagger: I must have missed my invitation.
Alex Rutledge: [Laughter] Oh, just rub it in. Rub it in.
horntagger: I am guiding this year, too.
Alex Rutledge: Oh good, where you guiding at this year.
horntagger: Just on the farm, I out called a friend last year and I told him I would call for him this year.
Alex Rutledge: It's all in good fun. It's all in good fun.
horntagger: I told him not to call, until I told him to. It was too late by the time he started.
Alex Rutledge: [Laughter] I am going to put you on the spot, were you using a good HS strut call?
horntagger: [Laughter] Sure, sure till the very end then I went with my voice.
Alex Rutledge: [Laughter] O.k., Alright.
horntagger: What other turkey have you hunted in the U.S.?
Alex Rutledge: I have done the slam. I finalized the slam the year before last year. I shot the Merriam in Nebraska. I shot the Osceola, Rio, Eastern and the Merriam. I haven't shot the Gould yet in Mexico.
horntagger: What is the other one, the Ocellated? That's a new one for me. Reminds me of a Peacock.
Alex Rutledge: Ocellated, yeah, you are hearing a lot of emphasis on that bird. They cackle.
horntagger: Out of the Eastern, Rio, Merriam, Osceola, Gould and the Ocellated which one do you think is the hardest?
Alex Rutledge: Well, I have hunted the Ocellated or the Gould, but I would say some of the toughest turkeys I have hunted in my life would be in Southern Missouri.
horntagger: Southern Missouri?
Alex Rutledge: It is. Alabama is very tough…Mississippi. A lot of it is what type of turkey you actually get to hunt, you know, if birds are pressured a lot or not and what transition you're catching them in if not ready, not vocal yet, or not with hens yet.
If they're not with hen's yet they're ready to go. They're a lot easier to call. That's the kind I like.
horntagger: [Laughter] Well Alex, with Missouri season weeks away, what should the Missouri Turkey hunter be doing this time of year?
Alex Rutledge: What I suggest to everybody, if you are a turkey hunter, a beginner hunter, or a veteran hunter, know where your birds are at. Be scouting right now, drive them roads, and talk with the farmers where you are seeing these birds at, take you a topo map. If you have permission to hunt these properties, mark these properties where you are seeing birds. Obtain permission if you are seeing these birds there all the time. Right now, birds are starting to split up. Some of them have been split up a week or so ago. But you still see some gobblers in groups. Pay attention to what they are doing, they stick to a routine and that is going to tell you where you are going to get them ground blinds set up.
horntagger: Mike Hubbard, MDC Wildlife Biologist with the turkey, also said they have started splitting up this week.
horntagger: With a population of 600,000 wild turkey's in Missouri…
Alex Rutledge: 600,000, what do you think of that. That's a lot of turkeys.
horntagger: Some people say that roosting has become a lost art. Do you still roost birds?
Alex Rutledge: Always, I say always but pretty much most of the time. A turkey hunter who wants to be successful everyday has to stay on top of his game. By roosting them you know where they're at. Keep scouting, roost your birds, know where they're at. There are different ways to roost birds, going out with locator calls or even as much as calling to them getting them fired up. Setting up, calling them in, setting up on them, then walking out on them.
horntagger: Alex how do you start a morning hunt that you have roosted a gobbler the night before?
Alex Rutledge: Obviously, if I have roosted the bird I am going to know where they are at and what the terrain is like. What I do is if I fired that bird up and got that bird hot. I left him gobbling and I like to do that call them in and shut up and walk out on him.
What I have embedded into his mind, that's a sexy hen and where is she at, I can't sleep all night and he is going be one of first birds to gobble in the morning if you got him hot the night before.
horntagger: Do you give them a few tree yelps the night before?
Alex Rutledge: Yep, but I may call to him depending on how early it is before it turns dark. From there I will get him fired up, getting him looking and thinking about it all night long. Then I get in there, set up and make it easy for him fly to him, of course. If I am hunting by myself get in there and set up and wait for them to gobble.
horntagger: Alex, well like for most weekend hunters they may not get to roost the birds, especially because of church on Sunday night or maybe they have to work that Monday through Friday and the first chance they get is to hunt that first Saturday which is five days after the season opens up in Missouri. What do you do when you have not roosted a bird and you are trying to locate a gobbler for the first time? Do you have any calls you start with?
Alex Rutledge: Good question, Great question. The first thing I recommend for the weekend hunter. Remember this folks. Talk with people, talk with farmers, and gain as much information as you can even though you can't see the turkeys yourself. Talk to people; get people to help you scout the property you are going to hunt. Say I didn't roost and you're that weekend hunter and then one of the first things I do is go to an area I remember seeing birds through the fall months. I go in there and I always go to the highest spot. I will start there and I will wait till it starts breaking light and the first owl's start hooting and if the start responding then I will ease in, usually above them or level with them.
Then I stop and try to work on them. First call I am going to make a lot time with a turkey call is a tree call. It's a really common call it's made by all turkey hunters.
horntagger: A lot of people hear the yelp, then they hear the tree yelp, and they can't hear the difference.
Alex Rutledge: The tree yelp is a muted-type call. Let me do the basic call, as I would start out in the morning with this mouth call. [Tree Yelping] Then he will answer you [gobble]. Basically, when I do that call I told that gobbler I am over here, it's mating season. I am in love; answer me big boy. That's what you're trying to say as a turkey hunter. You're trying to promise him the world as my good friend Eddie Salter would say. You're trying to tell him you love him.
[Laughter] Then as the morning progresses, and the bird is gobbling on he own and I have him interested. Remember this if he is cutting or interrupting your calling then he likes what you're doing.
horntagger: You have to take the temperature of the bird.
Alex Rutledge: Check the temperature, check what he likes, if he responds to it he likes it then shut up, once you have him interested, don't over call. If you're over calling then you tell him you want him more than he wants you.
horntagger: Your calling is unnatural anyway because the hen is supposed to go to the gobbler.
Alex Rutledge: That's right; Mother Nature's rule is the hen goes to the gobbler.
horntagger: Talking with the Missouri Department of Conservation we keep having a successful hatch rate and we have a whole bunch of 2-year-old gobblers hitting the woods, what is that going to mean to the turkey hunter?
Alex Rutledge: That's means we are going to have a greater success rate, higher success rate. With 600,000 turkeys in the state of Missouri, like you said earlier. It's going to be unreal. Hey, a gobbling 2-year-old can ride in the back of my truck any day. A 2-year-old bird can have from a 4- to 10-inch beard.
horntagger: Will they be more gobbling?
Alex Rutledge: Means more gobbling, lot more vocal, hear a lot more birds. I will tell you what. It's the best I've ever seen this winter, especially in my part of the country. Mild winters have helped and the conservation and the protecting them and the attitudes have changed.
horntagger: And, of course, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the fine work they have done.
Alex Rutledge: Yes.
horntagger: What suggestions do you have when you have a bunch of two-
Alex Rutledge: Two-year-old gobblers. Well a lot of them are not educated, of course. They are pretty vulnerable. Just like any animal you are going to call to, don't just go in there and hammer them right off the bat. Start easy, check their temperature, see what they like. Make it easy for them to come to you, make sure there's no fence or check between you and him.
horntagger: What new things does Hunter Specialties have out this year for the turkey hunter?
Alex Rutledge: We have a lot of new things. The New Double Strike, New Cutt'n & Strutt'n Volume 9, New AlumiStrut Diaphragm Calls, New Undertaker Shotgun Sights, New Super Strut Combo Kit, New E-Z Strut Starter Kit, New Beard Collector Box Call, Cross Cut Striker and New Waterproof Box Calls.
horntagger: If someone wanted to find out more about Hunter Specialties or a new product or have a question. Do you have a website they can look at?
Alex Rutledge: Yes we do. www.hunterspec.com
horntagger: Alex, if you are looking for someone to call, keep me in mind. I need all the help I can get. Thank you for the time this morning.
Alex Rutledge: [Laughter] I want to say one more thing in closing. Veteran hunters out there, take a kid hunting, what better sport to get them interested in than hunting.