Like many turkey hunters, my hopes were high coming into the spring gobbler season. What effect would this year’s early spring have on hunting conditions, the breeding cycle and bird behavior?
I had a great turkey season, with one exception: I didn’t witness anything unusual. The one obvious effect was early foliation.
Fortunately for me, the night before my first hunt my hunting partner had roosted two gobblers and three hens. Come morning, we were in a blind when we heard a single gobble, and within minutes the five birds were on the ground about 200 yards away. We knew they’d spot our decoys and hear our calls but weren’t sure that would be enough to pull the gobblers away from the hens.
Eventually, one of the gobblers got curious and started our way. Just about the time he was in gun range we noticed the other gobbler, with hens in tow, also coming in. We thought we might get a double. I had first draw, and I can tell you my nerves were tested as I watched the first gobbler come in close to the decoys. He was getting antsy and I knew I had to shoot. My partner had to make a choice. I shot and at 15 paces, the 22-pound long-beard hit the ground. My partner had a more difficult shot and didn’t pull it off. It was still a very thrilling hunt.
In the following weeks, I got out a few more times. With the mercury rising daily, I hoped to get a crack at a second bird soon. A woodlot I like to hunt is nearly an hour drive, but one cool morning I was there at 5 a.m., listening to a turkey gobble exactly where I hoped they’d be. His continuous gobbling and the increasing foliage allowed me to get in close, about 75 yards from him. I’m not exaggerating when I say this bird gobbled two or three times a minute. He was hot. I passed on setting up a decoy and got my back against a tree quickly. Eventually, I let out a few soft-tree-call yelps to let him know where I was. That just fired him up even more.
Soon, I spotted another turkey roosted nearby and quickly identified it as a hen. Then she let out a few calls of her own. Now I had some competition. I usually don’t like to overcall, but I wanted to let that gobbler know that the first hen he heard (me) was still there. So, I waited a few minutes and called again. About 5:45 a.m. I saw a bird fly down over the hill from me, and when I heard the gobbling sound a little different, I knew this tom was on the ground. At this point, I reached for a box call and let rip with three crisp yelps. I didn’t call too loud, but I did give it a little more volume than the tree calls. He answered before I finished the third yelp.
Now, the roosted hen started clucking furiously, and I wondered if she had seen me or was just upset that another hen was trying to steal her boyfriend. Either way, I sat motionless and ready, praying she didn’t fly down and take the gobbler in another direction. If she was going do that, she would have to do it quick.
The next gobble I heard was closer than the last, as was the next one. He was coming and I was ready. Soon, I saw movement just out in front of me and spotted that blue head bobbing and looking around trying to find me. When he stepped into an opening that I later marked at 33 paces, I let him have it. At 5:50 a.m., my season was over. This one was a 21-pound longbeard.
Every time I encounter these birds, successful or not, I learn more and more why they are considered big-game birds. I love spring turkey hunting, and I hope you also had a great turkey season.