Into The Field: Spring turkey season begins with success

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Stephen George displays the turkey he got from a recent hunt.

The truck’s thermometer read 28 degrees, and the frost on the windshield confirmed the chill in the air.

“I’d rather have a frost than 12 inches of heavy snow again,” I mumbled to myself. Once the windshield cleared, I was headed down the pavement to the logging road to meet up with my friend and his son for the first morning of turkey season.

My friend’s son has a busy schedule, and this would be one of the few days he gets to hunt. so we decided to hunt together in an attempt to get the young boy a bird. We had chosen to hunt the “Northern Ridge” on the property first. Birds had been roosted in the evening on this ridge the week prior, so we figured that would provide the best opportunity to get into a bird.

About halfway up the ridge on an old logging road, we heard a gobble. However, it was on the ridge to the south and not where we planned our first hunt. After a few owl hoots and repeated gobbles to the south, we changed our plan and headed in the pitch dark toward that bird. We decided to set up on the edge of an old log landing where we have taken birds before. We set the young hunter out in front and between the gobbler and us doing the calling so he would get the best shot at the bird, if it came in.

Starting the calling with some soft yelps, clucks, and purrs to imitate a waking hen, the bird up on the ridge responded with a loud gobble after every call. “He’s hot,” we whispered to each other as we sat on the cold ground.

After about 10 minutes, we could tell the hot gobbler had left his roost and was on the ground. Every gobble he made, we could tell he was getting closer and closer. As he proceeded down the ridge toward us, we could tell he was accompanied by at least one other gobbler and a few hens. Once we knew the hens were traveling with the gobbler, we figured this may not pan out as hens rarely allow a gobbler to leave for another hen.

When the flock got 75 yards away, they locked up and weren’t moving closer. The toms were gobbling at every one of our calls, but the hens were responding with aggregate and aggressive calls of their own. To escalate the situation and get the hens mad enough to fight this new female intruder (me), I imitated and called aggressively to the hen. Within 10 minutes. the whole flock came off the ridge and walked single file down to the log landing. When the lead bird, a nice long-beraded tom got within 30 yards of my friend’s son, he took aim and put the bird down with his 12-gauge Browning. It was a dandy of a bird with a 10-beard, 3/4-inch spurs and topping the scale at 20 pounds. The young hunter was as proud as punch, as were his two older companions.

Later in the day, I got to hunt a different woodlot alone and where I have seen turkeys before.

There are some big oak trees on this ridge, and deer and turkeys love to come up on it to feed on acorns. I found a nice big oak tree to sit against and sat back to enjoy sun and the sounds of spring. I started off a calling using a box call since they are loud and the calls can resonate far down into the valley below.

After about 20 minutes, I heard a faint gobble way off in the distance. I kept calling and used a mouth call and slate to make it sound like a big flock of hens feeding on top of the ridge. Soon, the gobbles from the bird we close enough to get set and prepare to take aim.

But the big bird was not going to cooperate. He followed a path up onto the ridge that put him 15 yards behind me. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched this big old tom strut within spitting range for 40 minutes. Without a decoy out in front of me, the gobbler was strutting and hoping the hen would show up. Luckily for me, a real hen did show and fed out in front of me.

Soon, the big gobbler made his way over to her and in the direction that I had the gun pointing. My leg had fallen asleep and was numb from sitting lifeless in one position for so long.

Then the gobbler walked into position and the Remington 870 Super Mag loaded with

Winchester Long-Beard No. 4 shot sounded off, and the big old gobbler was down. This bird had a 10-inch beard, 1-inch spurs and weighed 21.5 pounds, a true Boss Gobbler.

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