The spring turkey season has arrived and as I alluded to last week, I am as excited as a kid a Christmas every year to be able to enjoy another season chasing gobblers in the beautiful spring woods around central Alabama. Each season brings it’s own challenges and requires us as hunters to quickly recognize how far along the breeding season the turkeys have made it to when the season arrives. Last year was a colder wetter spring and a pretty sorry spring season overall. The last week of season last year was by far the best for me and I had much more gobbling activity on my lease the last two weeks than I did all the first four weeks.
This spring appears to be a widely contrasting picture due to the early heat that got here in February and as many of us veteran turkey hunters figured to be the case, the birds are well along the way from opening day on in the mating game. I hunted in Greene county the first two days and both days I interacted with gobblers but, they all had hens with them. My yelps were met with good responses from the gobblers but, I also got a rousing reply from the hens that were very vocal and were “standing by their man”. The gobblers would only gobble about two or three times per hour in the morning hours, and of course shut down completely around noon.
Thursday, I called up two hens that circled me purring and clucking, spoiling for a fight with that “intruder girl”. I got out of the woods around noon and it was just so hot, I decided to call it a day. Friday morning, I went back to the same general area since there was four gobblers sounding off there the day before and I made it a point, even at the risk of “bumping” one from the roost in order to get on down into the deep hardwood bottoms where the turkeys were all gathered the day before to escape the heat. As daybreak broke, I was rewarded with the sound of a gobble very close so I just stopped right there and gave him a few minutes to fly down. When I heard him fly off the roost, I cackled while he probably still in the air and he busted out a big double gobble when his feet hit the ground, I could see him across the bottom, about 90 yards out, on the other side of a small stream and felt my chances were good to close the deal as he broke into a strut. Just then, it started raining hens! about 9 or 10 hens came sailing in to him and he immediately bred several who presented themselves. I knew then I was in for a long wait so I just sat and watched them all feed out of sight down the other side of the stream.
After about 30 minutes, (tactic # 1) I slipped in behind them like an old coyote on the stalk and then I outflanked them by quickly walking over the ridge and working my way along a parallel path. When I figured I had got ahead of their projected path, I set to them again and made a couple of light, crisp hen yelps sort of like “here I am, where are you?” and sure enough, I got a good gobbling response but, could not turn them to come over on my side of the bottom and all I could do is watch them walk by me at about 70 to 80 yards. I decided then to just employ ( tactic # 2) and that is patience. This tactic gets easier for me as I get older, I like to tell myself that it is me getting smarter, but in truth, it is me getting older and not being able to run and gun or plan ambushes for henned up toms. Seriously, patience is a strong tactic, but lets not over do it. Sometimes you just got to try different things.
At about 10:30, the gobbler let me know he was still interested in me and I thought he had most likely lost all the lady friends to their egg laying chore. I answered him back with a couple of loud putts and an excited yelp that he “cut”. Often when a gobbler “cuts” my call with a response gobble, that is a sure indicator he means business and it is time to make sure my head net is up and my gun is at the ready. I waited about 5 minutes and he gobbled again, this time closer and bearing in on my position. I putted a couple more times to let him hone in on me and then I saw him coming down the bottom but, he was not alone. He still had 4 hens travelling with him and I never like to defeat that many sets of sharp eyes but, I still felt good. There was some brush about 60 yards out between us and when they came out from behind it they were on the wrong side from where I need them to be! They then walked in directly behind me and I had no way to turn, move, or hardly breathe! They walked to within 15 to 18 steps of the tree I was up against, putted, purred and gave the very soft yelps they produce when they are looking for “that hen”. I had to let them walk away and I had it in mind, as I have successfully done many times, let then get out of sight, reposition myself to bring them back in front of me and then call them back in. Only this time, all I got was several more gobbles as he walked away.
Saturday morning, I hunted in north Elmore county on a new tract of land and I was pleasantly surprised to hear several gobblers at daylight, one of which I engaged in a conversation rather quickly. However, I guess his gobbles attracted another hunter who came in the area “chopping wood’ on a box call. I decided to let him play with that turkey and I struck out over a couple of more hills and hollows to find another bird. As I walked a small trail, running a diaphragm call, I was answered by a gobbler down in the bottom who was close so I just found a hiding spot and in a few minutes, I spotted him strutting over the ridge crest coming right to me! At 60 yards, I clicked off the safety, sure I had this one in the bag, when a DAD-GUM DOG! came crashing in toward the tom who was so startled he shot straight up in the air and flew off. Twenty years ago, that dog would have been in peril. But, as I may have mentioned, I am older and a lot calmer, for the most part.
So, here I sit with no kills to report from my first weekend of season. However, many hunters I know took some very nice birds and from south Alabama, a buddy took a real trophy tom who weighed 20 lbs, with a10 inch beard and was equipped with inch and 3/8 spurs. Trophy indeed! I have a photo from him I will get posted on this site soon! It appears, in my opinion anyway, that the breeding in south regions has gotten far enough along that some hens are already setting. I got two different reports, one from Coffee and another from Henry county of hunters spooking hens off the nest. This coupled with reports of lots of gobbling activity and gobblers coming to calls with no hens in tow, tells me the south area is hitting its peak or is real close. In north central, where I hunt, they are still “all henned up” so maybe the best is yet to come.
Where have all the dumb gobblers gone? I used to run across them with some regularity. You know the kind that just come to your calls like a fire truck to a three alarm blaze and often it would be two or three of them shoving each other like young schools boys trying to be the first out the door a recess. Well, I am glad, I don’t find them hardly ever anymore, you don’t learn much, and they are not much of a challenge to your woodsmanship! Nah! I don’t like dumb gobblers! In fact, I hate them! and the next one I see, I am going to shoot in the neck!
(Lord, please bring me a dumb gobbler!)
Send me some pics of those dumb gobblers and even the smart ones you out did! Email to firstname.lastname@example.org along with a note giving me permission to post them, along with of course the relevant info as to who shot and weight, spurs, beard info, etc.
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