This past weekend we had a great time in the woods even though we didn’t come away with a turkey. The area we hunt in has been logged and “clear-cut” by timber companies since last season. This caused a lot of changes in how animals (both deer and turkey) move and where they roost, strut, gobble etc. We have been adapting our game plans just as the game has adapted its patterns.
On opening weekend we were out and on the move. We definitely heard turkeys gobbling, but they were a little bit further away from where we were. In the weekends since we’ve been closing ground on them and getting closer to the right spot. This past Saturday we had a few different locations lined up and our first setup was right on the money.
We entered the woods where we anticipated the gobbler being based off what he’d taught us on earlier hunts. As we walked in he was gobbling from the roost and it was still dark out. We continued in and he kept gobbling We set up on the top of a ridge in some oaks near a creek. We had 2 decoys (a jake and a hen) out just 20 yards in front of us. We could tell he was close. He was hammering back at nearly all our calls. With each gobble, he was getting closer and our hearts started beating a little faster.
The sun wasn’t even up really good before this bird was on the ground and he was closing distance fast. On one of his last gobbles Jason said “He’s close, be still”. However, we couldn’t see him. From his gobbles, it was clear that he was out in front of us and to our right a little bit. He was working up the ridge coming up the hill that we were sitting on. I was sitting on a tree on the left and Jason was on a tree right beside of me to my right. We had a pop-up blind in an arc in front of us. It was fixing to be on!
I had the camera pointed in the direction the turkey seemingly came from. All of a sudden I saw his white head coming through the woods. He was a big turkey! Oh, man it was awesome. As the turkey came up the hill he was behind several trees. What I didn’t realize was that Jason had a clear and direct shot at the turkey and could have shot him several times. However, he was waiting on the turkey to come out into the clearing so we could get good video. After all the turkey was closing ground quickly and was only 3 steps from being out in the clearing.
When the turkey got up on the hill pretty good he was hesitating and spinning behind some trees. I caught him on camera as he went from the right to the left behind the tree. It was a textbook hunt. I felt as soon as he saw the jake decoy he would come up and spur it and we would have some epic footage! However, if you’ve turkey hunted before then you already know the story, it doesn’t always work out as you envision.
The turkey was headed to the lane for prime-time video and a kill shot. Then suddenly, he freaked out and started running and making the “putting” sound. Something about the setup spooked him. We weren’t making any noise, nobody was moving, something just set him off. Perhaps it was when he saw the decoys or maybe he saw unusual objects on the ground near him. Whatever it was he got out of there in no time flat!
It was unsuccessful as far as getting a turkey on the ground, but it was successful in the sense that we were exactly where we were supposed to be and had an awesome bird come in with 20 yards of us. It was a story we’ll be telling for years to come.
The 2nd Turkey
Jason and I sure did walk a lot that morning as we tried to get to different turkeys from different angles. I easily hit my daily “step count” and was sore the next day from walking around and up and down so many hills. We went to several different locations looking for birds and hunted most of the day. It wasn’t until mid-afternoon when we got on another turkey. We were, as they say, “Running and Gunning”.
It was much warmer by this time of the day and we were getting tired. We pulled up to a spot and started calling. A few seconds later a turkey hammered very close to us. Jason and I jumped up and were heading to sit down very quickly as if a bomb had just gone off. It was pretty funny. We sat down on a tree on the edge of the cutover and Jason started calling. The turkey hammered repeatedly and was getting closer. We hoped it was just a matter of time and that our persistence would be pay off!
One distraction we had at this point was that a huge fox-squirrel perched on a tree right beside us and was hissing repeatedly at us. He stayed there for about 15 to 20 minutes doing this. It was aggravating.
It didn’t take long before we saw the turkey come down the hill out of some small pines. He was not as big as the turkey from the morning hunt, but he was not bad at all. He was gobbling and puffing up and twirling as he came. We were, again, getting ready for prime-time footage.
The turkey was heading down the hill when he stopped behind some cedar trees. He had paused previously so at first it wasn’t a big deal. However, he stayed in this one spot and would not move. We called to him, he gobbled back. He puffed up and spun around and showed off, but would not come closer. They say that in the turkey world the female is supposed to go to the male and that at a certain point the male Tom will draw the line and not move any closer. If that is the case that is exactly what this Tom was doing. He simply would not advance. We sat there for 45 minutes watching this bird do the same thing over and over. It was both a beautiful sight and a frustrating experience at the same time.
We did everything we could think of to get him to come closer, but in the end, he would not come forward any more than he already had. Eventually he turned around and went back into the woods and continued to gobble at us and then we quietly slipped out of the woods and headed back in.
Focusing On the Positives
In situations like this you just have to find the positives… and for us there are several. We are very blessed to be able to simply get out and hunt. Everyone doesn’t have that privilege. Beyond that we are fortunate to have a few spots with turkeys on it and we are learning more about their general area and patterns with each hunt. It’s just a matter of time I believe! Ultimately though, getting a bird on the ground is not all it’s about. Being able to get out there with friends and see these sights up close in a great experience. We won’t soon forget any of these memories and hopefully they are just a chapter in the story of when we get the big Tom on the ground! Until then we’ll stay after it.