The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 12, 2012

It’s been a tough turkey season so far

By Clint Ferguson
For The Register-Herald

— Turkey season is definitely an early-bird-gets-the-worm game, so to speak, as the mornings start well before daylight. I’m not much of an early person, so it takes me a few minutes and a cup of coffee to get functioning. After the brisk walk up to the top of the ridge with the first rays of sun trying to peek through, I’m wide awake and ready to hear a gobbler break the morning silence.

Usually the turkeys will talk a little before flying off the roost, revealing their location. This gives you the chance to slip in and get close before setting up. However, it doesn’t mean that they’ll fly right down into your lap; oftentimes, they’ll pitch off in the opposite direction, especially if the gobbler has hens with him as the hens don’t like competition.

When they don’t cooperate and head the other way, I usually try to go find another gobbling bird. I’ll remember the spot where I was and return later, around 9 a.m. or so, when the hens go to the nest. By returning to familiar ground, the gobbler is more likely to come in fast if he’s still within hearing distance of your calls.  

So far this year has been tough for me. I’ve heard a few turkeys gobble and know where they’re roosting, but they haven’t been very vocal at all. The times I’ve made it out I’ll hear a faint gobble and no longer pinpoint where it came from, only to set up and never hear another peep other than the song birds singing the rest of the morning.  

That’s turkey hunting, though, as it only takes finding a lonely gobbler and things can happen fast. I just haven’t found that one yet. When the turkeys aren’t talking, I often find myself just sitting back and watching the sun rise over the rolling hills and hollows. The pink sky gives way to an orange glow with a dense fog hanging in the river bottoms. It’s times like this that remind me all is good and I’m right where I belong.

Needless to say, I’ve been enjoying those sunrises. One morning I made it to my vantage point at daybreak but never heard the first gobble. From this location I can hear most of the farm.

Another thing that happens when the turkeys aren’t communicating is that I do more walking, which isn’t a bad thing as I can always use the exercise.

Just as I was walking toward and cresting the top of a point, I caught movement to my left. All of a sudden a head and neck pops out behind a black oak tree. I froze in my tracks and said to myself, “That’s a turkey’s head.” It was facing in the opposite direction and had no clue I was there. About that time, another red head pops up directly in front of me, not 10 yards away.

As I went to shoulder my shotgun, the turkeys wasted no time in taking to the air. There was another bigger bird to the right and all I could do was watch them glide down into a deep hollow. I’m pretty sure the two were jakes, but since I couldn’t see a visible beard I followed the law and didn’t shoot.

I had let out a series of calls 100 or so yards away before walking to the top of that point, and those turkeys never made a sound. That makes it tough when they won’t talk back as I’m walking along trying to locate a bird and literally run right into them. I’d much rather have the ol’ Toms come in gobbling their heads off like they’re supposed to but, like I said earlier, that’s turkey hunting.

April has already turned to May and summer is almost here. The fish have been biting, and with the turkeys not cooperating, I’m ready to get back on the river. The good thing about this time of the year is that you can chase turkeys in the morning and catch fish in the evenings.

Good luck to those still venturing out; spring gobbler season ends Saturday. Be safe and have patience.