Monday, January 26, 2009

Turkey Hunting Is Rapidly Changing

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Anyone who has spent any time reading my daily blog knows I am a turkey-hunting addict. Deer hunting may be what I enjoy most, but the only reason is because turkey hunting seasons don’t last long enough.

It’s possible to hunt whitetails during October, November, December and throuogh January 1. Turkey hunting is much different. Our seasons are short, and in many cases only one week in length. That’s hardly enough time to really get revved up.

Even if you hunt the whole season as has happened in the past, a hunter will get in about six weeks of hunting. It’s a far cry from three full months of deer seasons. And when I can’t turkey hunt, I buy new or used books on turkey hunting to read. Contact me at < > if you have and turkey books to sell.

My turkey hunting often allows me to pass up a bird or two early in my season, and I’ve been known to pass up several gobblers that provided easy shots only to end the season without a bird. Why, you may justifiably wonder?

It’s rather elementary. By not shooting the first, second or third bird, it allows me to maximize my time in the field and the greatest potential to experience everything turkey hunting has to offer. I spent some time two weeks ago with two old sidekicks—Harold Knight & David Hale—of Knight & Hale Calls. They hunt at a nonstop pace, and it can wring a guy out. “I remember when we hunted together 30 years ago, and life was as hectic as it is now,” Knight said.

Shooting a gobbler, whether a jake or an adult longbeard, is not why I hunt these keen-eyed birds. I hunt them for the intense challenge and satisfaction that comes from making the most of my opportunities. There are times I don’t score, but sometimes that is my decision. A turkey in the pot isn’t the only reason I hunt gobblers.

That means there are more opportunities to fool a gobbler.  More chances to listen to a big Tom gobble and double-gobble back at me, and more opportunities to watch the blue-white-red head of a highly charged gobbler move through the fields and woods in my direction, his eyes looking, picking apart the woods for any sign of danger.

Three years ago I was hunting a strutting zone 10 miles from where I live. Any bird that came to me would have to cross an open ridge, walk down the hill, and cross another 200 yards of open field to get within shooting range.

The gobblers greeted the dawn from their roost trees, and behind me were some hen turkeys. Once the first gobbler sounded of, I held off from answering him. He gobbled again, and then a big gobbler sounded off with a double-gobble that rattled the branches of the tree I was sitting again. Lordy, what a powerful blast of raw emotion.

I gave a soft yelp, and that livened up the hens several hundred yards behind me. The gobblers sounded off again, and I answered softly, and sat back to wait. The hens began calling, and I was perfectly positioned in a strutting zone where gobblers and hens would meet. There wasn’t much call me to do anything except sit still and be patient.

Ten minutes later the gobblers stood atop yonder hill, gobbled again when they saw my two hens and one jake-decoy moving slightly in a soft dawn breeze. They were spread out like soldier, and began their advance on my position. They would stop and start, and I’m mentally urging them to hurry before the hens arrived and might possibly lead them away.

The three longbeards and one jake started running when I made scratching sounds in the dry leaves like feeding birds. My shotgun was up and laying across my knees, and I was set up properly. It took those gobblers 10 seconds to cross the remaining 100 yards as they ran it in that rocking, shuffling gait that eats up the ground.

The lead gobbler ran up to poor Henrietta, my battered and bedraggled hen decoy, and knocked her off the stake while the other gobblers went after the jake the the bird owed him money..

Poor Henrietta was laying flat on the ground with the large gobbler astraddle her, and the other birds were working Jakie over in a bad way. I watched this fascinating performance for another 10 seconds, and since it was now late in the season, the gobbler stood erect with his head up to survey the scene, and a load of 3-inch magnum No. 5 copper-plated pellets took him down.

The other gobblers stopped, saw the Big Boss Bird laying on the ground, and took off. I heard the hens flush behind me right after the shot, and the birds were gone. It doesn’t take turkeys any time at all to get long-gone from the area of a gobbler shooting.

I’ve called in two different gobblers on separate hunts over the years when my wife shot them with a bow. It was some pretty exciting stuff, and each bird went 10 feet straight up into the air as the arrow drove through them, and both fell dead on the ground.

Turkey hunting is very exciting stuff. Shooting the bird is anticlimactic, and the hunt lives on long after the bird has been eaten and other thoughts of the hunt have faded away. Calling in a big gobbler, watching him approach, and then offering a shot is what triggers intense feelings in an addicted hunter.

The shot is nothing more than the final act in this outdoor drama. Sometimes the gobbler wins, and sometimes he doesn’t, but what counts the most is the actual hunt. This is a pastime where the hunt is far more important than the kill, and it’s wise for turkey hunters to remember this..

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/26 at 06:46 PM
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