Turkey Season Off To A Good Start For Many Hunters

The early spring and warm weather has got the Tom Turkeys gobbling great and I have received many reports and photos from folks around central Alabama who are taking some good birds. A number of hunters have taken three or four birds already so they will be wrapping up their season early since the limit is five gobblers. Unfortunately, a small number of hunters will get “amnesia” and some will continue to hunt until April 30 without regard to obeying the law. Don’t be one of those guys! If you get your limit, leave your gun at home and take a kid or a novice hunter and call a turkey up for them!

Some of the best hunts I have had, especially in recent years, are those where I have taken a youth hunter, lady hunter, or a hunter who has never been turkey hunting and call in a bird for them to take! I called in birds last year for three hunters and all three were hunts I will remember for the rest of my life. Compare that to the many turkeys I have taken through the years that I have no memory of what so ever. It is pretty clear to me that the value is in sharing the splendor of a wild turkey gobbler responding to your calls and finally coming to you in a full strut, red head glowing, the white and blue highlights that our creator so skillfully adorned the male turkey with, the iridescent feathers that show hues of green, brown and black in a collage of colors more magnificent that a “Van Gough” or a “Renoir ” ever dared to be!

It is no wonder that it causes grown men to swoon at the first glimpses of our prize coming in to our skillfully presented “audio-ruse” and in the anticipation of the moment the trigger is pulled! I know the sight of a trophy buck stepping from the woods in to view on a greenfield, a flock of “green heads” locking down and coming in for a landing over a pristine pond on a biting cold winter day are all wondrous sights we as hunters cherish with a passion we would fight to defend. But, for me and many others, that gobbler who has committed and shows up in our gun sights is the most beautiful and majestic trophy we will ever find. Last week, I was having lunch at a local BBQ cafe when an old friend walked in who I hadn’t seen in a while and I went to greet him and “catch up”. The first topic was turkey season as he is an avid hunter and is one of those people I referred to earlier that I took to kill their first bird. I called that old Lowndes County swamp tom for nearly an hour and he travelled from almost out of hearing range right to me in a slow, delightful, strut that ended with a “bang!” From that point on, Curtis was hooked on spring turkey hunting and we still laugh about how excited he was as the old tom slowly made his way to the gun. It has that lasting effect on most of us “turkeyaddicts”.

As for my spring season this year, it has been less than spectacular. This past Saturday morning on my lease in Greene County, there were several birds gobbling and I went to the closest one and slowly snuck in as close as I dared. He was blasting out gobbles that indicated his youthfulness and I was able to sneak to within sight of where he was perched at the edge of a third year regrowth cutover. The only problem was some briars so thick that I knew he would never come through it to me so I had to turn backwards and use the toughness of my turkey vest to push through the briars to a point I could reach the woods. Once in the woods that were open, old growth stuff with a clear understory, it was easy to see this would be the spot to call from so I got to a good setup spot where I could see him land and waited for him to fly down. After another 10 minutes of gobbling off the roost he sailed in just as I expected. I started to envision a quick hunt and early breakfast at a local eatery and I sent a light yelp over to start my persuasion with the bird.

An immediate response and I got my gun shouldered as I leaned against a big old wide based oak tree that hid me perfectly. Only the gobbler was not fully persuaded! He started to walk down the hill and I cackled to turn him thinking surely he is just a two year old and will come right on in to some excited cackles and cutts. He answered every peep I made, he answered scratches in the leaves, he answered my lightest purrs and most demanding putts but, kept walking! I then decided the silent treatment was in store so I stopped any noise and sat for almost an hour as he gobbled every few seconds at crows, other hens, a pileated woodpecker cackling, and even a dog barking at a house close to a mile away! I kept thinking, this little two year old gobbler will be here any minute but, he was not inclined to come see me. He walked across the hardwood bottom and over the next ridge “telling everything” in the woods where he was. When I was sure he was far enough away, I walked about 200 yards down to the bottom of the hollow and found another great cover spot by a huge poplar tree that was close to a hundred feet tall. My first yelp was a excited hen yelp closed by a couple of loud putts and he double gobbled in response from just over the next ridge, when he gobbled again, he was clearly headed to me and his gobbling frenzy excited two other toms so much they gobbled as well! I thought, now I am getting somewhere! However and hour later he had circled my position twice and came in behind me standing on the hillside where he flew down. He would not come in range and stayed 80 to 100 yards out as he made another circle. I refused to do any calling since I was certain he knew where I was and we got in another stand off. I let him walk away again and then slipped back up the hill to where he had passed by twice and waited. I sat silently for 35 to 40 minutes when I caught movement off to my right and saw him walking in silently, looking for “that hen”. At 35 steps, he found her. The new “flight control” Federal premium number four shot did a super job and he hit the deck without so much as a kick or a flop. I was somewhat disappointed in his stature when I picked him up although I had already determined he was just a hard headed two year and he had a 8 inch beard, short, dull spurs and weighed in at 17 pounds. But, I will say he offered me a great morning and more than enough of a challenge for this old turkey hunter..

I just can’t wait to meet his dad or one of his uncles!

Maybe in the next couple of weeks when I go back over to Try them again.

Until next week, hope your turkey season is going great!

Send me a picture of that turkey ! email it to me postoakman@gmail.com

~Postoak~

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Tactics for "Henned-Up" Toms and Why I Hate A Dumb Gobbler

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 postoakman@gmail.com 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.

Thanks for reading and click on the recommend button for me!

~postoak~

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This Thursday Morning is Just Like Christmas Morning For Us Turkey Hunters!

This Thursday Morning, March 15th, is the first day of Spring Turkey Season in Alabama. There are a lot of grown men, me included, that will find it hard to sleep tomorrow night as we toss, turn, check the clock, wish we could get some “good sleep” and about 30 minutes before the clock is set to alarm, we drift off, into that “good sleep”, just to have our ears assaulted by the cruel tolling of the bells to rouse us from that rare slumber. The sleep shakes off like a sucker punch from the third grade and we arise with a mix of youthful zest for the pursuit we are to about undertake, ohhh yessss! another spring season has finally arrived! I guess you can tell I like to turkey hunt huh?

Last weekend was the special “youth only” weekend for turkey hunting and I took my granddaughter out for her first turkey hunt at a hunting club I joined in Elmore County. It was a better opening morning than some I have experienced, a little windy and cool when we left the truck but, it warmed nicely and we enjoyed the hunt. The only problem was that we heard no gobblers and saw no turkeys, very little “turkey sign”, and covered over 3 miles of trails in our quest to find a gobbler to “work”. My granddaughter was great though, and had no complaints about the distance we walked or the outcome of our hunt. She was ready to “keep hunting” when I pulled the plug on our hunt at about 9:45. The wind had gotten up and without hearing any activity out of the turkeys I believed to be in the area, I knew it was time to head home. She got a little spoiled by her “beginners luck” in the deer woods and had an impression that turkey hunting could be just as easy to squeeze the trigger as it was on the deer hunt. She is optimistic, even if her grandfather is not.

Thursday morning, I will be standing on a hill top well before daybreak on a turkey lease I share with two nephews and a good family friend. We have 1450 acres in north Greene County that is comprised of rolling red clay hills with just enough sand in the mix to make it clump like prairie gumbo mud from the lower part of the west Alabama Black Belt. The majority of the lease is paper company cut over land and is accessible only by four wheeler. The property has some wide SMZ stands and a few hundred acres is a privately owned tract with some beautiful timber on it. It is not all together the best land I have ever leased but, It does have a good population of “birds” .”. I have hunted the area intermittently for the last 42 years and enjoyed some great hunts, even though the area has a reputation for growing “Psycho Toms” and I have to agree with that assessment. I believe they are some of the more challenging birds I have hunted and I will choose to hunt elsewhere if I can find a good lease but, they too seem to come and go. I had a great place here in Elmore county for about 10 years and the club I was a member of gave up the lease. I then joined a club up in Coosa County but, that did not work out so I subleased turkey rights to a great place over in Sumter county. The lease over there was super and I took a limit of birds every year and called in birds for others each year. However, a clear cutting by the corporate owners after I hunted it for 6 years caused the hunting club I was sub leasing the turkey rights from to give it up and that took me to an advertisement for the lease in Greene County. Kind of a home coming since I hunted there in my youth and lived in that area, only thing is the land and me both look a lot worse for the wear of the last 40 plus years.

Another Christmas-like activity is to prepare your check list and check it twice! I hate to have the naughty, nasty things happen due to a lack of planning and preparation on my part. So, be sure to check all your gear, your clothes, boots, turkey vest, seat cushion (for sure) or other type of portable seat, check your calls, (you should have already been practicing enough by now that your wife has threatened you, just be sure they are in the truck!) decoys, if you use them, owl hooter, crow call, face mask, camo gloves and of course, your gun and shells. Make sure you have some good mosquito repellant ( a thermacell repellant device works great!) and for sure, a tick repellant to spray on your clothes!! Mosquitoes buzzing about your head distracting you and causing you to move can get you “busted” by a gobbler, or hen, and have cost me more than a few gobblers. BUT! let me tell you that ticks can be a real threat to your health and possibly your life! I had a severe case of Lyme disease several years ago and it took me years to recover from it. Please purchase and USE some type of tick repellant and even then, check yourself or get checked for tick bites as soon as possible after leaving the turkey woods Some of the ticks are not much bigger than the head of a stick pen but, they can really pack a punch in the world of virus and parasite infection. Google” up some info if you doubt the danger of tick bites, they are nasty!

If you prepare and equip yourself with the right gear, right knowledge, right land to hunt on the right days, turkey hunting can be a very righteous experience!

Most of the folks I have talked to recently about gobbler activity have about the same assessment as I do after last weekend. That is, despite the early spring and early “green up” the gobbler are still not near the peak of the gobbling season and many are still being seen travelling in bachelor groups as they do in the winter season. So looks like the spring season is right on time and I am feeling a little like it is December 23rd!

Santa, bring me a big old gobbler with two inch spurs on opening morning, I have been a very good boy… mostly..

Send me a picture of that big opening weekend gobbler ! just email me – postoakman@gmail.com I will be glad to get it posted for you here on the outdoor sports photo page!

Good turkey hunting!!

~postoak~

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Special "Youth only" Turkey Hunting Weekend is HERE!

Spring Turkey season will be ushered in this weekend with a special “youth only” hunt on Saturday and Sunday. This is a great event just like the youth weekend prior to gun hunting season for deer. This is a great time to take a youngster out and focus on calling them up a big old Alabama gobbler!

I recently bought my grand daughter a nice model 37 Winchester 20 gauge single barrel shotgun for the upcoming turkey season. She is about as excited as I am to get out to the spring woods this Saturday morning and see if I can call a gobbler in close enough for her to get her first turkey. Last weekend, I was finally able to get out to a new track of land I will be hunting on this spring here in Elmore County. I also have a large lease over in Greene County with my nephews, so I should have plenty of places to find some “Toms” to practice a little hen talk on and top that off with some #4 Winchester Turkey Loads. I know lots of guys who buy the “Nitro” shells, have shells custom mixed with 4s,5s, and 6s, still others shoot “Heavy Shot” and other “hi-dolla” shells that will allegedly make a gobbler jump on his back and practice some bicycling from 70 yards away. My question is why? I like to get a turkey in a 25 to 35 yard range from my location and enjoy the “show” if he comes in strutting and drumming, before sending him a fatal head ache with some High velocity # 4 Winchester Supreme Turkey Loads. They work great for me and with a 3.5 inch 12 gauge shot gun, it is almost “over-kill” with that standard type shell so paying $5 to $9 a shell is not necessary to be successful. I would spend it if I needed to but, I have not found that to be the case for consistently killing some good eastern gobblers in the old fashioned way of calling them in softly, slowly, with limited chatter so they come looking for me. I tried a box of “Heavy Shot” a few years back right after they first came out and while they are really good, I will stick with my Winchester shells.

Next Thursday, March 15th, the season begins for the rest of us and I will be standing at my listening post well before daylight in anticipation of another Alabama Spring Turkey Season. They never get old, even if I have, and they make me forget the rest of the world, work, bills, chores, and all other manner of unpleasant thoughts brought on by our stressful existence in the fast paced world. When I send out that first call of a little shy hen, and it is answered by the lustful gobble of one, or two, or five, gobblers! all beckoning me to come to where they are strutting and drumming in a “procreation party”. Then, it takes all my focus and I will to sneak in and position myself in a spot that will hide me well but, be close enough to convince that best Tom of the woods that I am worth a closer look. We then converse in turkey yelps, clucks and purrs, small scratches in the leaves when possible to mimic a hen feeding and assure him that his “prize hen” is just over the ridge, just behind that hedge row, just on the other side of that big swamp oak. What a nasty surprise we hunters have in store for the tom ! It almost makes me feel a little sorry for them, until the first one refuses to come see me, refuses to answer my calls, or slips in on my position quietly, and lets me know with a loud PUTT!! as he is running off that HE is the king of the woods! The monarch of spring, the smartest critter on two legs in His world that I can only visit in the spring mornings when he, like all creatures in God’s kingdom, succumbs to the weaknesses wrought by interactions with others. In that, is the challenge of turkey hunting, to -out-wary the wariest- of birds who must daily be the best, or wind up as some predator’s dinner.

Gobblers, old gobblers especially, have earned the reputation and honor that they seem to imbue naturally when you observe one strutting in a field, surrounded by admiring hens and living like the king he is. It has often been said that if a turkey could use his sense of smell as well as a deer, you would never kill one and I find a lot of truth in that. An older turkey, tom or hen, is a very careful, very tactful creature, they see with the acuity of a eagle, run like a deer, a fly faster than a quail on a covey rise. Above all that, they are smart! yes, they have a small brain, but it is a brain focused on survival, focused on living for the moment, that moment he or she is currently living, they are not day dreaming, looking a a wrist watch or a blackberry, unless it happens to be a real one that is ripe, or even better, has a big juicy bug sitting on it ready to be gulped!

Hope you are making plans to go hunting and take a youngster this weekend to pass along our great hunting heritage to a new generation. Take some time in our beautiful spring woods admiring the chartreuse green foliage, the budding plants and singing song birds. Live in the moments of that time spent in the woods and think about nothing but those moments, about where you are, about what you are seeing, hearing and experiencing, that is some of the best living any of us can hope to achieve and it is the stuff of memories that matter… Memories that are even more special when shared in teaching a youngster to appreciate it all.

I will be back next week to show off that gobbler My granddaughter got, I hope!

until then, GOBBBLE GOBBLE!!!

~postoak~

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