Tri County Wild Game Cook Off… Yes, It Was A Party!

Alabama Black Belt Adventures won "Best Overall" at the Tri County Wild Game Cook off. Shown here with Tim Gothard, AWF Director,

The Alabama Wildlife Federation Held it’s annual Tri County Wild Game Cook Off at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course in Prattville this past Thursday night. And, while it was supposed to be a fundraiser for this premier conservation organization, for those of us who just came to pay our annual membership. It was not so much a fundraiser as it was a party!

AWF is so good at putting on fundraisers across our great State that they make it look easy! Now I know it was a serious event that took much planning, communicating, “networking” “as the younger crowd says.” setting up the event’s tents and auction items, which were beautiful. Getting sponsors to underwrite and bring in extra attractions is no small thing either, but Tim Gothard and his Staff are some of the most dedicated, outdoor loving folks I know, so for them it is just another day at the office.

The Overall winner in the competition was Alabama Black Belt Adventures for their First Place – Alabama Black Belt Adventures including Philip Davis, Pam Swanner, Jack Crosby, Lee Shaffer cooking House Cured Wild Hog with Jalapeno Cheese Balls.

Other competitors offered many great wild-game foods such as my favorite ground venison burger bites with donut buns! The venison was expertly seasoned and when paired with the sweetness of the donut bun, it was OMG good! The Pepper Tree Pit Crew offered it and several other great dishes such as grilled duck and oysters. Crew members were; Drew Bass, Jeff Verner, Scott Cone, Graham Gunn and Sharon Ewer.

Pepper Tree Pit Crew

The Pepper Tree Pit Crew was showing off at the AWF! wow! Great food!

 

Another team that I enjoyed Sampling their Wild turkey Salad (outstanding) was;
Southern Orthopedics -Ryan Luchner, Danielle Drollette, and Dr. Roland Hester.

 

Southern Orthopedics had some Great Wild Turkey Salad!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Elliott and my long time friend, Andrew Harp, of Alabama AG Credit were serving some spicy Cajun Jambalaya that was super and I had to try it twice it was so good!

Alabama AG Credit offered up some spicy jambalaya! Wild game style!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama Power, A proud supporter every year of the AWF, Served up some Wild Bananas Foster that was as good as the best restaurants serve in New Orleans! Team members who were being “sweet” were L- R Susan Griffin, Trey Hayes, Whit Dekle, Greg Sparks and Richard Dudley.

Alabama Power's Team served up "wild" Bananas Foster! Talk about good !

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Hall  Properties, A long time supporter of The AWF, a frequent winner,  and just a great group of guys to know, were once again cooking up some great wild game  recipes and had ran out by the time I got there! but, I enjoyed talking to them and joking about our mutual friend, Mr. Curtis Jones, who is the Assistant Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation.. Curtis.. we know you!

 

Pete Hall, Jerry Ingram and John Hall of John Hall Properties

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the 2013 Turkey Season ends tomorrow, I say so long to the hard headed S.A.L.T birds of Dallas County and Hope the ones in Kentucky are a lot dumber! I am headed up there on Wednesday! Wish me luck! If anyone has turkey pictures to share or comments about my blog, send me a note! -postoakman@gmail.com

Post Oak out.. in the Kentucky woods, hope to have a good report next week!

Season Winding Down, Gobblers Heating up?

Home Made Archery Tom

Russell shot this Tom with a home-made Osage bow, home-made arrow of river cane and a stone point! -postoak

Looks like the weather may finally cooperate toward the last of the season and if your season has gone like mine, you could use a break! This morning, I decided to go another round with them S.A.L.T. birds over in Dallas county and I was rewarded with some fairly decent gobbling activity at daybreak.

The hunt today went like this, after hitting the alarm clock snooze button more times than I should, I rolled out at 4:18 and hastily threw on my clothes, stepped in my Merrill’s and trotted out the door intent on making up some time to try and greet the daybreak from a Hill top in North Dallas. Well, so much for that plan since I was about at Burnsville at the time I should have been standing at a listening post watching the gray fade to green for another beautiful “Bama” spring morning.

Since I was late, I decided to stop of for some coffee (now) and gatorade (later) and I gave up on the first light approach. Instead, I decided to slow down, enjoy my Monday morning vacation day and slowly work my way across the club’s dirt road stopping a few times to listen for a gobbler  on the way over to where I intended to hunt. Of course there was no one on the whole 4600 acres but me so I felt like I could be choosy and just try to strike up a gobbler from my truck. Well on my second stop, I turned the truck off and stepped out on the dirt road letting fly a loud crow call from my old Eddie Salter crow caller. The gobbler’s response felt like it would blow my cap off! He so close I thought surely he would see me and it was just a shock gobble and he would most likely fly from the roost as a “get away”. I just stood there a few more minutes and he resumed gobbling at some “real crows” so I slipped away from my truck with my gear and tipped down a small logging rd over to the left about 40 yards and started a slow pace toward his gobbles. Then another gobbler joined him and the gobbling got more rapid in pace and was a good as I have experienced this season. I only slipped about 60 more yards and found a good hiding spot before letting them know I was there. I gave a soft yelp and they stopped gobbling. Oh great! I thought, these two are as call shy as all the other ones on this place so I just sat there for about 20 minutes looking for them to show or gobble. Gobble or show is a routine that many of us “play” as I am scanning intently for that first glimpse, I am also hoping to hear a fresh gobble, closer than the last one. Well, This time I saw that white crown at about 120 yards across the open woods that had been select cut and I watched him strut around in an opening. After a few minutes, I sent a couple of sharp clucks and he gobbled an immediate response as did the other gobbler that I still was not able to see. Something else I saw, was brush piles and tree tops between us that were going to be a problem.  Well, I watched the two Toms strut and gobble for the better part of an hour but, since I knew my position was blocked by brush, I had to just sit tight and hope they walked off so I could get up and move to a more open area where they would not get hung up on their approach. when I felt sure they had left the area enough for me to move, I eased on down the logging road about 50 more yards to a spot where they would be able to walk to me with no obstructions. The only problem was, I sat there another hour doing some light yelping and clucking but, not getting any response. I thought they must have seen me move so I will just wait until they gobble to move or say anything. After another hour went by, I tried a light series of calls and they answered but, were over 300 yards away and despite them answering my calls each time over the next 25 to 30 minutes, they continued to leave. I decided to do the same.

When I was working them earlier, I had heard another gobbler sound off from on top of a hill across the road so I trekked up there and slipped up to where I could see a nice green field but, he was not there. I walked across two more hills and hollers before giving up and the wind was blowing so hard it would have proven difficult to hear one anyway. I walked back to my truck, drove on around to the section I had intended to hunt originally and off loaded my four wheeler. One good thing about a windy day is that it covers the sound of a four wheeler so I decided to ride and listen and I covered several miles of trails, stopping to listen and give some crow calls to locate a gobbler. The S.A.L.T. was beginning to show again and  not a gobble was heard by me for the rest of the morning. so I loaded my four wheeler for the ride back home.

But, I decided to try the two gobblers from early that morning again,so I drove back around  to where I had heard them and slipped off down the closest trail to the right and around to a small clover field that was planted on a sandy hill side. The clover was sparse and I was disappointed but, it was the closest spot for my tired legs so I sat in the shade on the back corner so I could watch the log lane. I thought about taking a nap but, It was near lunch and my breakfast was long gone so I decided to yelp about 15 minutes and wrap it up. On my first yelp, Not a peep… I thought, I am wasting my time but, since I walked down here let me give it a few minutes. Five minutes later, I made a couple of sharp cuts on the mouth call and the gobblers both answered from down under the hill! After another yelp and response I could tell they were coming up the log lane from the bottom of the hill. My stomach growled, my throat was dry as “powder-house” and I was just about ready to forget about it, when I was delighted to hear that unmistakable sound of a gobbler drumming and then, the gobbler stepped out at about 40 paces and made a few more steps and a couple of drums. Then he stopped and stuck his head up as if to ask my approval and I gave it to him!

I never saw the other gobbler but, at that point I was just glad to have one on the ground.  As I walked to the truck, I found myself reciting, “season winding down, number 3 on the ground”. It has been a tough one and I am usually glad to see it end since I hunt too hard when I don’t have a limit. But 3 is not too bad..

I served my wife, kids and granddaughter fresh fried turkey “fingers” for supper tonight. All in all, not a bad day to be an old turkey hunter..

Turkey hunting can really try your patience so I am in awe of those who take a turkey with a bow. The hunter in the photo at the top of the article, Russell Aradine, not only achieved that feat, he took that turkey with a traditional bow and arrow, all home made, stone point, native American style! Now that is some patient turkey hunting and some great bow skill! Thanks for sending in your Photo Russell!

Winding down, three on the ground..

Post Oak..

 

S.A.L.T…. I Don’t Like This Kind

Mike Midkiff with a Big Grady Alabama Gobbler! postoak

Salt,  it is great on fries, and most everything else I eat that is not sweet. Heck, I even like it on some sweets such as watermelon. But, I recently got introduced to a new kind of salt or at least an acronym that spells it.

As a turkey hunter, we have many names for the prey we hunt.  Gobblers, Toms, Long beards, hook haulers,thunder chickens,swamp roosters,etc. are of course the type of turkey we seek, a BOSS gobbler is a dominant turkey male,usually an older male with long sharp spurs we call hooks, who has physically whipped the other gobblers in a particular section of the woods and has claimed it as his kingdom as far as breeding rights go. The Boss Gobbler will chase down and whip (by spurring, pecking, wing beating and kicking) any other gobbler that shows up in his area that struts, gobbles, or tries to mate with the hen turkeys. This is referred to as the “pecking order” and it is more than just a catch phrase if you are a wild turkey.

I have hunted areas before and am hunting several  this season where it is clear a dominant, Boss gobbler is in control. In north Dallas County, the old boss lives in an area we hunters have labeled as “area 31”. The old Boss gobbler there has the other gobblers shut down and you never hear a peep out of them, although I have personally seen 5 other gobblers in the 31 area, he is the only one who ever gobbles.

The worst part is that his gobbles bring the hens in the area running to his location so he never has a need to gobble over three or four times from his roost limb just to let the “girls” know where he is and then he flies down to his “strut zone” where he struts, drums and displays how great he is and the hens just bow down and “get the job done”.

 Now, as a turkey hunter, whose hope is that his man-made calls mimic the “sweetest hen“ around and those calls entice that lonesome gobbler to come looking for her, his antics are wrecking my turkey season!  In areas where there are good populations of gobblers with no clearly dominant males, the gobblers use the strategy of who gets there first gets the “prize” of the hen’s affection. These are the turkey hunting woods that favors the hunter and when I can hunt in woods like that, I often get to meet the lonesome tom and greet him with a load of lead to the head.

On the tract of land I hunt in Greene county, Boss gobbler troubles have “bloomed” again this year ( I killed two boss gobblers over there last season) and the old boss over there is calling section number 8 and over to the “Horse Shoe Road”  as his home range. However, even the gobblers in the adjoining sections are being very quiet so far this season.  Add in the fact that the adjoining tract is being logged so there is a lot of tree cutting equipment noise to deal with as well! The other morning I had old # 8 gobbling good and walking to me getting closer with each gobble, then a log skidder cranked up and the back up beeper shut him down like a COLD SHOWER! I sat there for two more hours listening to the loggers rev engines and trees popping as the cutter blade hit them. I know they got to log, but not in turkey season!

Another  part of the “Boss problem” equation, and one that may have even more weight in the matter, is the crazy spring weather. I know, I have lamented on it several times already this spring but, the very cold weather of March prohibited a lot of the turkeys from getting started so the breeding calendar appears to have been compressed so that there is an almost frenzy among the hens to not get left out and they are literally running to the dominant gobblers so they can get their nesting started.

The good news, if there is any, is that hopefully the hens will “cool down” quicker than a bride after the honeymoon and they will go “all maternal” on the old toms. When the hens turn to setting the nests with their “clutches” of eggs for the next 28 days, the gobblers will bust out and start gobbling again as they go looking for a last session with a “sweet hen”and I plan to be there sending out those calls when that happens, if it is before April 30th when the season closes!

I have managed to get a few gobblers to “come see” though. But, none were above average and several were not even worthy of a “Heavy Shot Samich”.  I am saving that for the “Boss”.    Besides those Heavy Shot shells cost $6.00 a pop! That is painful to me!

Ohh, and the S.A.L.T. acronym ? Let me explain, this is my first year in this particular club and I noticed on the sign in board, under game hunted, they did not list turkey, but, several listed S.A.L.T so I finally asked one of the guys and he just smiled and said “hunt here a few days and you will figure it out”. Well, I was sitting in the woods yesterday morning and once again not hearing any gobbles when it hit me, S.A.L.T stands for Sorry A## Lockjawed Turkeys!  I almost laughed out loud!

Get to the turkey woods while you can.. season closes in 18 day and counting down too fast..

Post Oak…out.. saying ”hold the salt please”, it runs up my “pressuh” as we say in the country..

 

Cool Temps Make For Slow Turkey Action..

I like to talk an old gobbler in to a ride in my Truck! ..postoak

Lets face it, Spring, warm weather, sunshine makes for a much romantic setting outdoors than cold, rainy, windy plain old “yuck” days!  The cool and sometimes cold, spring days we are suffering through have really put a damper on the turkey “mating games”.

Lots of my hunting friends and hunting contacts who help to report how things are in “their neck of the woods” are all seeing the same thing.. Much less activity than you would normally see in the first week of April!  I normally have two or three birds down by this time of year and often have already called in birds for other folks. Not so this time around, I have had shooting opportunites at three gobblers but none of the shots were the “in your face” kind I like to have so, I passed on them cause the worst thing to do is take a long range, desperation shot. Like a long shot on the basket ball court, they just don’t find the hoop too often. That was the hunt I had last Saturday.

Due to some “other items” one of which was the untimely death of my Boston Terrier that I loved way tooo much. (No that is not possible, he was like my child, some of you know what I mean.)I did not hunt except last Saturday and that was more in an effort to distract myself from the pain of his passing.

A "best friend" I lost on Good Friday, My Boston Terrier, "Nixon" postoak

Well, on Saturday at daylight I was on the hunt for the same old gobbler that I nearly killed on the opening weekend. He is clearly the boss of a big hardwood bottom on the club I am in over in Dallas county. Any turkeys that are gobbling at daylight, hush immediately after he gobbles once or twice from his roost as kind of a warning to the subordinate toms and an invitation to the hens all in the same breath. And sure enough, He announced his location in response to the first blast of my old Eddie Salter Crow Call about the same time some real crows started crowing in the western realm of the woods I was in.

I decided to just wade on in to his sanctuary instead of trying to call him up the hill  to the clover patch where I last saw him. I have found that getting in an old gobbler’s comfort zone can bring great reward if you use good “woodsmanship” and don’t call to him until you get as close as you dare. It took me the better part of a half hour to make a trek around the end of a hardwood ridge and then drop off in a “oh my Goodness” beauty of an open hardwood bottom with open areas large enough to sustain fescue patches. The bottom had old growth oak and pines 5 to 6 feet in diameter and I worked my way into the floor of the bottom, slipping from tree to tree, as I waited for his next gobble, never giving any hen calls, just listening for his gobbles and moving on in. I got within 150 yards and figured not to push my luck anymore so I found 3 big pines and using one for a shiield, I made my set up.

At the first yelp I made, he thundered back a double gobble and I just gave a loud “Cutt” that he responded to with another blasting double gobble. I got my gun up on my knee and pointed in his direction and waited for about 10 minutes, then I saw him coming across the open bottom in a full strut! What a site to see! At about 90 yards, he came out of his strut and stood straight up, looking for the hen that had came to see him.  When he started walking again, it was a very careful, slow walk and his head was bobbing around as he was intently staring my way, looking for that hen. As he went behind a big water oak, I clicked off my safety and took aim waiting for him to step out. He apparently had played this scene before and when he stuck his head out around the tree I said to myself, “I got you” then, as if he heard me, his reply was “no, you don’t” and he pulled his head back behnd the oak in a millisecond and took off running directly away from me, keeping a tree on me to prevent any shot. I sat there and watched him leave wondering how many other hunters had contributed to his p.h.d. in “lead head avoidance”.  Like him, I have played this scene too many times but, learned to stay still and let him leave the area. I sat motionless for 20 minutes then slowly relaxed and sat still another half hour. I have had times when a gobble just “showed back up” as if he was not sure of the “boogy-bear” that spooked him and was still wanting to find that “sweet little hen”. That was not the case this time but, after 50 minutes, I hit the crow call and he gobbled from over the next ridge only 300 yards away. I got up and walked quickly across the open area of the bottom and got hid in some privet hedges near a blown down hickory tree and when he gobbled again, I gave a sweet little reply on my glass friction call that was a different sound than the mouth call I used in the first set up. He gobbled double and triple gobbled from the ridge every 3 or 4 minutes for the next 2 hours and strutted, drummed and just got hmself all angry as he could not understand why “the hen” was not coming on up the hill. I would cluck and purr very lightly on the glass from my hiding spot and got quite amused at how he would respond.

Then I gave him the “silent treatment”, not responding to any of his gobbles or drumming and that seemed to start reeling him in. Again, I got my gun up, tapped off the safety and was ready to squeeze when he hit the next opening, but like before, he seemed to lose his nerve at the last minute and he turned and ran back up to the ridge top. Another hour I sat and watched him strut and when he got barely in sight, I belly crawled away and dropped off in a running water branch with 6 foot deep banks and used it as cover to leave his area. I did a circle move and got 180 degrees on the other side of his location for the third act of our dalience. The old gobbler did exactly like he had twice before but, I was worn out. My watch said 2:30 p.m. and he first gobble at me around 6:50 a.m.  Between his “cold feet” and my empty stomach, I decided I had enough and slipped out of the bottom. It was about a mile back to my truck, all uphill, and I was glad to see that red Ford. As I sat in the seat and munched on a  apple, I had to tip my hat to the old tom. He still had his head and I sure had a great time trying to take it. Who knows? next time he might be a little hotter.. if the weather is too..

I will be back in the woods tomorrow for a whole week of turkey hunting and am going to finally get the opportunity to hunt my turkey lease over in Greene county. Hope I find some hot weather and some hot gobblers over there who want to ride in my truck!

POST OAK …OUT IN THE TURKEY WOODS..