The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Outdoors

May 11, 2014

A strutting, gobbling spring gobbler

Hunting, no matter what game species you’re after, usually comes down to being in the right place at the right time. Patience and persistence help as well, because you can’t expect to get anything by sleeping in and not going. With the 2014 spring gobbler season in full swing, I woke up early on Saturday morning, but had low expectations for the morning hunt.

I had hunted a couple of days during the first week and heard a few gobblers but they weren’t cooperating much as they had hens with them. My plan was to stick with it, and hopefully once the third and fourth week of the season rolled around, those gobblers would be easier to call in. All it takes is finding that one lone gobbler — or even better, gobblers.

Luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait that long. I met my buddy Dave at the gate as the first rays of sunlight started creeping over the ridgetops. We walked through the field to a point where a couple of turkeys had been roosting. Once we got there we stopped and listened to the morning woods come alive. There were a couple of gobblers but they were on the other side of the river. I heard yelping, cutting and purring over there as well. The crows were cawing and the gobblers would answer them. It’s nice when you can just sit back and let nature do all the talking to locate them.

A mouthy hen was still on the roost right below us and yelping frequently so we let her do the calling. We thought we heard a couple gobbles all the way down at the bottom by the river, but couldn’t tell exactly where they were coming from. The hen continued to yelp until 6:50 a.m. before finally deciding to pitch down out of the treetop.    After that it went silent for a half an hour or so and we contemplated what to do. I had thoughts of heading down to the river until Dave suggested that we go back to the field and set up and call a little. On our way back to the field a gobble roared out in the hollow to our left.

“Did you hear that?” I asked Dave. Then it gobbled again. “Yeah, it’s right over there,” Dave replied as he pointed toward the hollow. We quickly high-tailed it to the field and walked the edge to where a logging road was. The logging road led right down into the hollow and we thought for sure the gobbler would walk up it.

The gobbler continued to sound off at the circling crows and even double gobbled while we got into position. Dave put a hen decoy in the field and we got ready. We were looking down the logging road with the field behind us. Dave let out a series of purrs and clucks and the gobbler immediately responded. He was in the head of the hollow and working his way toward us. However, the next time he gobbled he was to our right and not coming up the logging road. Dave would purr and he would answer, and was really close, but there was thick underbrush between us. I made a split-second decision to quickly relocate as I was pretty sure he was coming into the field to my hard right. I couldn’t see that well in that direction and would have had to spin around anyway.

I stood up and walked the field edge 40-50 yards and found a large limb to hide in. I sat on the limb and no longer had gotten my gun into position when I caught movement coming into the field.  The gobbler walked out and went into full strut. All I could do was stare and admire the beautiful fanned out bird with a bright red head that was intensified by the sun shining down on it. It was one of those time-stands-still moments.

Unfortunately for Dave, he stayed back and couldn’t see the show but it worked out perfect for me. The gobbler went out of strut and started pecking at the grasshoppers. Dave sent out a few seductive purrs and the gobbler stuck his head up and then let out a gobble that I could feel in my chest.

This scenario played out in front of me for what seemed like forever. The strutting, gobbling turkey had me excited to say the least. I took a few deep breaths and tried to calm my nerves as the gobbler was working into range. I shifted my gun ever so slightly and got him in my sights. The big bird stopped and stuck its head straight up and was looking right at me.

It was a little far but I felt confident the time was right and slowly squeezed the trigger. The bird fell over and flopped and then got back up and started running toward the woods. I quickly gave chas, ripping my hat and face mask off in the process. I managed to catch up with the wounded gobbler and got a good shot at his head to finish him off just as he was going into the woods.

I hooted to let Dave know the coast was clear and that I got him. I went back to find my hat and realized my first shot was indeed a tad far and over 50 yards, which is stretching the barrel with a shotgun a bit. The mature tom sported a nine-inch beard and three-quarter-inch rounded off spurs.

I’m not sure why this gobbler was by himself with that mouthy hen close by, but I’m glad he was. Evidently, he was the gobbling bird we heard down on the river. He worked his way up the hollow and out into the field and gave me one exciting hunt that I’ll never forget.

Spring gobbler season ends May 24 so there are still a couple of weeks left to get out there. Good luck, stay safe and enjoy waking up in the spring woods.

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