This past weekend we had a great time in the woods even though we didn’t come away with a turkey. The area we hunt in has been logged and “clear-cut” by timber companies since last season. This caused a lot of changes in how animals (both deer and turkey) move and where they roost, strut, gobble etc. We have been adapting our game plans just as the game has adapted its patterns.
On opening weekend we were out and on the move. We definitely heard turkeys gobbling, but they were a little bit further away from where we were. In the weekends since we’ve been closing ground on them and getting closer to the right spot. This past Saturday we had a few different locations lined up and our first setup was right on the money.
We entered the woods where we anticipated the gobbler being based off what he’d taught us on earlier hunts. As we walked in he was gobbling from the roost and it was still dark out. We continued in and he kept gobbling We set up on the top of a ridge in some oaks near a creek. We had 2 decoys (a jake and a hen) out just 20 yards in front of us. We could tell he was close. He was hammering back at nearly all our calls. With each gobble, he was getting closer and our hearts started beating a little faster.
The sun wasn’t even up really good before this bird was on the ground and he was closing distance fast. On one of his last gobbles Jason said “He’s close, be still”. However, we couldn’t see him. From his gobbles, it was clear that he was out in front of us and to our right a little bit. He was working up the ridge coming up the hill that we were sitting on. I was sitting on a tree on the left and Jason was on a tree right beside of me to my right. We had a pop-up blind in an arc in front of us. It was fixing to be on!
I had the camera pointed in the direction the turkey seemingly came from. All of a sudden I saw his white head coming through the woods. He was a big turkey! Oh, man it was awesome. As the turkey came up the hill he was behind several trees. What I didn’t realize was that Jason had a clear and direct shot at the turkey and could have shot him several times. However, he was waiting on the turkey to come out into the clearing so we could get good video. After all the turkey was closing ground quickly and was only 3 steps from being out in the clearing.
When the turkey got up on the hill pretty good he was hesitating and spinning behind some trees. I caught him on camera as he went from the right to the left behind the tree. It was a textbook hunt. I felt as soon as he saw the jake decoy he would come up and spur it and we would have some epic footage! However, if you’ve turkey hunted before then you already know the story, it doesn’t always work out as you envision.
The turkey was headed to the lane for prime-time video and a kill shot. Then suddenly, he freaked out and started running and making the “putting” sound. Something about the setup spooked him. We weren’t making any noise, nobody was moving, something just set him off. Perhaps it was when he saw the decoys or maybe he saw unusual objects on the ground near him. Whatever it was he got out of there in no time flat!
It was unsuccessful as far as getting a turkey on the ground, but it was successful in the sense that we were exactly where we were supposed to be and had an awesome bird come in with 20 yards of us. It was a story we’ll be telling for years to come.
The 2nd Turkey
Jason and I sure did walk a lot that morning as we tried to get to different turkeys from different angles. I easily hit my daily “step count” and was sore the next day from walking around and up and down so many hills. We went to several different locations looking for birds and hunted most of the day. It wasn’t until mid-afternoon when we got on another turkey. We were, as they say, “Running and Gunning”.
It was much warmer by this time of the day and we were getting tired. We pulled up to a spot and started calling. A few seconds later a turkey hammered very close to us. Jason and I jumped up and were heading to sit down very quickly as if a bomb had just gone off. It was pretty funny. We sat down on a tree on the edge of the cutover and Jason started calling. The turkey hammered repeatedly and was getting closer. We hoped it was just a matter of time and that our persistence would be pay off!
One distraction we had at this point was that a huge fox-squirrel perched on a tree right beside us and was hissing repeatedly at us. He stayed there for about 15 to 20 minutes doing this. It was aggravating.
It didn’t take long before we saw the turkey come down the hill out of some small pines. He was not as big as the turkey from the morning hunt, but he was not bad at all. He was gobbling and puffing up and twirling as he came. We were, again, getting ready for prime-time footage.
The turkey was heading down the hill when he stopped behind some cedar trees. He had paused previously so at first it wasn’t a big deal. However, he stayed in this one spot and would not move. We called to him, he gobbled back. He puffed up and spun around and showed off, but would not come closer. They say that in the turkey world the female is supposed to go to the male and that at a certain point the male Tom will draw the line and not move any closer. If that is the case that is exactly what this Tom was doing. He simply would not advance. We sat there for 45 minutes watching this bird do the same thing over and over. It was both a beautiful sight and a frustrating experience at the same time.
We did everything we could think of to get him to come closer, but in the end, he would not come forward any more than he already had. Eventually he turned around and went back into the woods and continued to gobble at us and then we quietly slipped out of the woods and headed back in.
Focusing On the Positives
In situations like this you just have to find the positives… and for us there are several. We are very blessed to be able to simply get out and hunt. Everyone doesn’t have that privilege. Beyond that we are fortunate to have a few spots with turkeys on it and we are learning more about their general area and patterns with each hunt. It’s just a matter of time I believe! Ultimately though, getting a bird on the ground is not all it’s about. Being able to get out there with friends and see these sights up close in a great experience. We won’t soon forget any of these memories and hopefully they are just a chapter in the story of when we get the big Tom on the ground! Until then we’ll stay after it.
My friend Jason Love and I hunt together often and we’ve been chasing some turkeys in our area for about 3 weeks. Up until earlier today the turkeys had been winning. It has been somewhat frustrating trying to get everything to line up.
Thus far this season it has seemed that the turkeys are not nearly as vocal as they have been in the past seasons. My theory has been that they are silent because of the coyotes (as demonstrated in the “Tech-Turkey Brings in Coyotes” blog video. This season we’ve been turkey hunting twice and seen 6 coyotes, shot 2, and killed 1. I was hoping the trend wouldn’t continue. Fortunately today we had a much different and better experience.
We got there early and set up near a point that overlooks a field. Behind us was a fresh cutover. We were louder on the way in that we wanted to be, but we made it to our spot. We’d scouted birds and seen them in the area for the past few weekends. We were not hearing them, but rather were just seeing them. Though, this morning we had turkeys gobbling from all directions, which was a nice change of pace.
As the sun rose we listened to nature wake up. We heard several turkeys start gobbling. Jason started giving the turkeys the “pillow talk” and we had one that was going absolutely crazy, but he was far off. However, he was seemingly getting closer with each gobble. It was an awesome morning in the woods. It was cool enough that mosquitoes weren’t out and we weren’t covered in sweat by the time we got to our location. The turkeys were really hammering from the trees and it was good to finally hear them in the area again.
We anticipated the turkeys entering into the field, but as often happens when turkey hunting, the unanticipated occurred. We had 3 jakes come in really silent behind us from the direction of the cutover. When they got about 60 yards from us they gobbled and liked to scared us half to death. At that point Jason turned and got his body in position to shoot in that direction. He saw the birds and said “Hey they’re close sit still, don’t move”. So I knew that they were getting within shooting range. I didn’t move because I didn’t want to mess up the hunt.
As I sat there looking the wrong way it dawned on me that the camera’s screen was reversible. So I turned the camera around backwards and aimed it over my shoulder. Then I flipped the viewfinder screen so that I could see in the viewfinder. It was really difficult to video in reverse over my back, but I did the best I could. It took me a while to find the turkeys, but when they got really close I was able to video them. One thing I could easily see though was Jason’s facial expressions and reactions. He was very focused and as they got closer you could tell it from his body language because things got more intense.
When the turkeys got about 20 yards away from us I was able to find them in the viewfinder. They worked their way closer. The turkeys were feeding just about 15 yards from us when they went behind some stumps. They stayed there momentarily, though it seemed liked forever. Then they started moving across our face to our left. Jason whispered “You ready?” and I said “Yes” and the turkey stepped into the perfect window, but he didn’t shoot. He had a tree in his way. I said “Wait!” and zoomed out. Then a few seconds later I said “Yes” and Jason instantly pulled the trigger and the bird dropped to the ground. The other 2 took off running and the rest was history.
Now to help you visualize that story, check out the below video...
This season has been full of ?first? birds. I have taken 4 new hunters with me and some have taken their first spring gobblers. Going on these hunts is really enjoyable anytime someone gets their ?first? of any wild game.
Since we?re in the low-country of SC, turkey seasoned opened March 15th for our club. The night before the season opener a good friend of mine named Sam ("The coon hunting guy") and I decided to stay the night at the club house in order to get a good spot the next morning. We arrived at the club house around 10:30 to the sight of a large fire burning and three guys sitting around it trying to stay warm. We got out of the truck and Sam Introduced me to the other members of the club. By the end of the night it felt like I had known them my entire life. We all sat around the fire telling stories of different hunts that we have partaken in; everything from ducks to deer to turkey hunts. After an hour or two we took our gear into the bunk room and got setup for bed. We set the alarms for 4:00am. The next morning everyone sleeping in the house woke up at 4:00 o?clock to the sounds of five different alarms going off simultaneously. After a quick breakfast snack we arrived in a spot we had roosted two gobblers a few days before. When day light broke the horizon I hit the owl call, but didn?t get an answer back. This happened for about 15 minutes. Sam and I were stunned that the birds would not answer. We decided to just sit down and do a little bit of calling. Just after putting out a hen decoy and sitting down at the base of a tree, I started to call softly with my slate call. Sam turned and asked if I heard a gobble in the distance. I responded "No I was calling and couldn?t hear anything." Sam was sure that he heard a bird so we got up and started to make our way in that direction. After walking about 300 yards we heard a hen yelping right on top of us. Before we knew it we had to drop to the ground in the middle of the road because we had a bird right on top of us. A jake came out to the edge of the road and I told Sam to take a shot. Sam shot one time and missed and finished the bird with a second round as it was running down the road. I don?t think that the jake we shot was the bird that gobbled earlier that morning. Even though the hunt didn?t turn out the way we planned, with us setup to film the bird coming in Sam still got his first bird on the ground. If everything happened according to plan they wouldn?t call it hunting. ###
My father?s good buddy Danny also got to harvest his first turkey on the opening weekend of turkey season. It was early Sunday morning and we made our way to a different piece of property. We all got out of the truck and walked down a little dirt road. By the time we got to the half way there was enough light to hit the owl call. We had three different birds answer us! We rushed down the remainder of the curved road and got to a little hard wood bottom where we expected the turkeys to come to. Well once again it didn?t happen as I had planned. As soon as we got set up we heard hens start yelping in the same area where the gobbles came from. I thought to myself these birds are probably already ?henned up? and wouldn?t leave the hens. After about an hour of listening to the birds gobble on that cool spring morning, they finally shut up. They wouldn?t gobble to any type of call we tried. I didn?t have time to stay there and hunt. I headed out to worship service back in Charleston. About 11:00 am I got a picture message from my dad of a bird. I called him and he explained that they setup of a food plot that was still growing from deer season. After an hour and a half of sitting patiently the birds emerged from the bottom making their way to the food source. Three gobblers came strutting into the decoys. Danny slowly rose up his gun and set his sights on one of the gobblers. He took one shot and it was a solid hit! Danny had never been in a turkey hunt before. He told us that "it was the most exciting hunt he has ever been on." Danny said it was a big adrenaline rush watching the gobblers strut 25 yards in front of them, and he couldn?t wait for the bird he wanted to clear the decoys for a shot. The bird weighed 19 pounds had 1 inch spurs and a 10.75 inch beard. The key to that successful hunt was patience because If they would have tried to get closer to the birds after they stopped gobbling, the turkeys may of spooked and the hunt would of been over. Instead they knew the turkeys? patterns and cut them off while they were going to feed. ###
This past Saturday Kyle Dyson and I had the opportunity to take Ryan Parson hunting with us. Ryan has never killed a turkey and was excited to give it a shot! Friday night Kyle and Ryan stayed the night at my house in order to get an early start the next morning. Not being able to decide where to hunt, we flipped a coin between the Wee Tee reserve and the ?Hell Hole?, both of which are government associated. The coin landed heads so the next morning we took our Wildlife Energy Shots and headed out to Wee Tee. At only 2 Fl ounces the energy shots blow the competition out of the water, they kept us wide awake and alert all morning! I had only been to the area we hunted once before during this past deer season. Because we were unfamiliar with the area, we left earlier than normal to get there on time. When we arrived at the gate there were two guys that were riding into the darkness on bikes. We all chuckled at the sight of the two guys riding bikes to hunt, but we soon found out they were smarter than we were. We started walking down the road at 5:00 am and didn?t stop until 6:15. Part of the reason it took us so long was because the property had changed so much from deer season. Everything was green and there was water everywhere we walked. We had to weave our way through the dry patches of the swamp to find areas we could walk across without getting wet. While we were walking the three of us crunched leaves and sticks with every step, we kept spooking birds out of there roost. We scared at least 10 different birds out of the trees on the way in. I knew that wasn?t a good thing but at least we knew that there were turkeys nearby. When we finally stopped walking we hit the owl call and heard 2 gobblers within 200 yards (at least we thought it was about 200 yards) from us. We walked a little further and hit the call. It sounded like they were across the flooded part of the swamp. We all decided to get closer in hopes of having the gobblers fly down on our side on the water. By this time the sunlight shining through the trees was good and revealed the beautiful bottom we were standing in. Kyle and Ryan sat down on trees adjacent to each other. I went to put out a decoy about 25 yards in front of our setup. As soon as I pulled the decoy out of my vest, we heard a loud Swoosh! The bird spotted me and flew away. It turns out the bird wasn?t 200 yards across the water. It was more like 100 yards and he was on our side of the flooded area. I felt terrible for ruining the hunt especially after walking as far as we did to get to the spot. We didn?t hear another bird that morning.
Knowing where the birds were roosted, we decided to go back to the same location on our next hunt. This time is was very different. We learned from our mistakes and decided to not get so close and let the birds move to us instead of us moving to the birds. When daylight broke we heard 5 different birds sounding off to the sounds of my owl call. We finally got setup and started calling. I began using the slate call and had the birds gobbling for about 30 minutes. Ryan does a vocal hen call using only his natural voice with no help of calls. We told him to give it a try to see if the birds would gobble to it. It turns out they gobbled to his vocals better than they did to the box or slate calls! I was amazed at the sounds he could produce without any calls. I set my calls aside and let him work the birds. After a few more minutes the bird came into sight. The long beard was strutting to the sound of Ryan?s call. He was about 80 yards away when we first saw him gobble. I told Ryan to use a soft cadence to try and lure the bird in and every time he did the bird would answer back with a loud gobble triggering the other 5 birds to gobble as well! It turns out the bird got hung on a flooded part of swamp bottom and wouldn?t cross the slough. Even though we didn?t kill him, it was still a great hunt!
This season I have learned to call less and listen a little more. On top of that I have learned patience is the key to hunting a smart long-beard that may be call shy or spooked easily. Another key to my success this year has been then use of the new CrossOver Camo pattern. The pattern is different from other patterns in that, compared to say mossey oak obsession, CrossOver has a variety of lighter colors. Most camo have the basic greens and browns, but cross over incorporates shades of white and different tans which helps me blend into many different backgrounds. I can stay hidden in pine trees, and swamp bottoms all with one pattern. There is not a camouflage out there that will keep you hidden if you can?t sit still. Without the help of my Thermacell to keep the bugs away I would probably scare off every bird that came into range by swatting bugs away from my face. I?m not sure I could hunt without one after being spoiled with its ability to keep my hunting area bug free.
Sams First Turkey
Ryans First Turkey
This turkey season has been a great one and I?m looking forward to a few more good hunts before the season ends.