This is the time of year when guys and gals of my ilk crawl out of warm beds early mornings to head for the woods. Granted, no hunting season is open now and we’re not out there to circumvent the law; we’re going out to “listen,” as you’ll overhear us talking about what we did early on pre-spring mornings. We’re going out to “listen” for a gobbler.
Turkey season is still a few weeks away, opening April 2. There’s something about getting to hear a gobbler sound off from his roost tree that gets the juices flowing and serves to fire us up for what we hope to hear opening morning.
Not only is it possible to locate where gobblers are roosting, you can also find tracks, droppings, strut marks and such to find where birds are hanging out. Such was the case for me on March 19, 2008, when I stumbled upon the mother lode of turkeys.
After an early morning of listening for a gobbler when the woods were silent, I drove up to a well site back in the woods on my hunting club. I didn’t need to hear a gobbler that morning; when I rounded the curve leading to the well site, I saw turkeys – a whole bunch of turkeys including several strutting gobblers. When they saw me, they took off but no problem; I knew where I’d be set up on opening morning.
The next afternoon, I set up my ground blind in a thicket next to the well site, and cleared brush so I could see the area where the turkeys had gathered the day before.
Granted, it was hard to sleep that night as my mind kept running the tapes back of what I had seen two days prior.
March 21 was opening day and I arrived at my blind well before daylight, I decided to sweeten the pot by placing “Pretty Boy,” my strutting tom decoy, on the well site with a submissive hen crouching in front of the tom. Then I waited for daylight with high expectations.
Once the eastern sky began to illuminate the woods and the cardinals and barred owls began their morning chorus, I heard a gobble from the woods directly in front of where I sat. Waiting a couple of minutes, I stroked a few sweet yelps on my slate call and was greeted with an immediate gobble. Then I just sat back and waited to see something.
In less than 10 minutes, I saw a white head pop up on the far edge of the well site 100 yards away. Then another head and then a third head. Three gobblers began looking for the hen they thought they’d heard.
What happened next was what turkey hunters dream about; all three gobblers spied Pretty Boy and the little hen. It became a foot race to see who could get there first to chase away what they envisioned to be a gobbler that had invaded their territory.
One gobbler won the race and immediately attacked the fake gobbler, sending him careening off the stake where I had placed him. All three proceeded to give the fake a thrashing like I’d never seen with a chorus of clinks and rattles as their beaks and spurs pummeled the hard plastic.
One of the gobblers separated from the other two, I got a bead on him and dropped him. I expected the other two to hightail it when I shot but no; they jumped on the flopping bird I had shot and began pecking and spurring their fallen cohort unmercifully.
I could have easily taken both the other gobblers but I had my limit for the day and all I could do was sit back and enjoy the show until a vehicle approached and they scattered.
Spring turkey hunting can be disappointing but it can provide thrills and excitement, the likes of which I never experienced before or since that special morning in the turkey woods.