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Guest Blog - Pee Dee Gobblers
The below is a guest blog submitted by Andy Belk
Armed with my vest of tricks and my trusty old 835 I coined "mule" due its ability to dislocate shoulders, I found myself in a familiar spot at daybreak with the first bird gobbling on cue right where expected (or hoped). I slipped around the edge of large oak/cypress stand bordering a cutover, finally stopping in front of a large wide bottom popular tree surrounded by budding iron wood trees. After several minutes of the gobbler sounding off at every crow and owl vocalizations, I gave a soft yelp to present my location also. He responded so my plan was to sit tight and quiet until fly down before engaging in any further turkey dialogue with the single gobbler, until another bird gobbled behind me spoiled that plan. In an attempt to be greedy I turned my head and gave a louder yelp in the direction of the new player, which responded with an approval gobble. With the two very vocal birds still safely on a tree limb and me setup close things seem to be shaping up to be a classic hunt when I noticed the familiar sight of a white head sneaking through the swamp paralleling my location, ?ahh?, the typical silent 2 year old gobblers attempting to beat the boss gobbler to a lonely hen. Sneaky walked to within 50 yards of my setup to take a peek but wasn't content not seeing a hen and continued on his search for love. Right behind him was another white head in tow also showing little interest in the ghost hen. As he passed, I let out a yelp followed with a soft purr. He returned to take a closer look hopping up on a deadfall for a better view, I quickly contemplated the range, "45-50 yards, gosh dang", as much I wanted I could not close the distance or increase shotgun range with telepathy alone. As a bowhunter I should know this well by now. I made the correct, albeit difficult decision, not to squeeze off. Nothing was left to do but watch the lonely gobbler wander back in the same direction he came.
As I sit thinking of what could have been, a group of crows harassing a hawk provoked the first cold shoulder gobbler into hammering out a gobble. He was now a couple hundred yards away, overcoming the anxiety of a boss gobbler in the area he gobbled once more, then again. He was obviously now strutting on an old logging road behind me. I gave another soft yelp and he responded. This correspondence of calls lasted 15 minutes with neither of us budging. With the situation not evolving I abandoned my favorite tactic of passive and sparingly calling and I threw out a hard cut to the locked up gobbler. He responded with a gobble, then another, and the second gobble was much closer. I gave one more loud cut with the same eagerness to hear a response. I readied the gun. I knew he was committed and within minutes a white head appeared. He was coming closer but attempting to swing in behind me. As I followed him with a bead drawn the increasing extreme angle to my left continued to pull the gun off my shoulder onto my bicep. As he stopped to look for his lady, I was well aware of the whollop that "mule" packs even in the midst of the excitement. Knowing unavoidable immense pain was in my immediate future as I squeezed off, the 2 year old gobbler flopped at the kaboom and I scrambled to my feet. I felt blood dripping from my nose, but no time for minor issues like loss of blood because the battered gobbler was attempting to regain his feet...and I was too! As he stumbled to his feet to make 3 or 4 more steps a second round from the mule out ran him to seal the deal. 13#, 9.5" beard and 1/2" spurs. (Those deep river swamp birds seem to weigh on average 4-5lbs less than field birds and even Piedmont birds).
WeHuntSC.com - Andy Belk's 1st Turkey
But the story continues.......
After breasting out the first turkey, there was no need to head home so early. It seemed as many of the hens were nesting and the boys were out looking for love so I headed to one of prettiest river flats in SC. This area is a favorite hangout for turkeys and hunters. Waking slow and deliberately, I allowed the live crows the due diligence of locating turkeys as not to "bugger up" turkeys by blind calling in a location fellow club members will certainly hunt later on.  However, 300 yards from the river I decided to toss out just one yelp since the pesky crows were drawing very little attention from any nearby toms.  I was answered by a turkey across the slough about 400-500 yards east, right where I began my search for a love sick gobbler.  As I rapidly moved back up the slough, the crows keep the gobblers pinpointed.  All they needed was a little sweet talk to overcome their case of late morning lockjaw. There was no way to avoid wading across the slough with snake boots that lost the waterproofing many miles ago.  A little murky water and wet feet was certainly not a valid reason to miss out on a chance for another Pee Dee gobbler.
I made my way across the slough and setup beside a large cypress which casted the perfect shadow to conceal my outline. The swamp looked almost magical in a sense; it is simply a beautiful place to be especially on a spring morning.  After another yelp from the diaphragm there was a quick answer from an old tom seeking a date for brunch. He was coming closer with each gobble then suddenly became silent which is often the tale-tale sign a weary bird is sneaking in.  Twenty minutes passed in a standoff of silence.  Finally, I saw a red head 60 yards out.  He was looking desperately, but seemed disappointed to not see his lady. I gave a soft purr, but with no visual he was not committing so he moved on angling away.  I was quite dejected at what transpired, until the obvious pounded me over the head. The younger bird at daybreak required aggressive calling to close the deal.  With hindsight fresh on my mind, I mustarded up the best sounding cut I am capable of producing and my effort was rewarded with not only a double gobble, but a gobble from two toms.  I replied again and they responded with the same enthusiasm.  Just like the first turkey, nothing to do now but allow them to make the final decisions. The next few minutes seemed like hours, and then finally I saw the same red head appear through the tall swamp grass.  It was too late this time, his eagerness had drawn him within too may footsteps. I had the gun shouldered and resting on my knee. I squeezed off with both beads of the barreled aligned on his neck.  At the blast my turkey sprung to the air, followed by his partner in crime.  An instant thought of "How in the heck, there's no way", then Flip, flop, there was my bird anchored like I expected.  My disheartened surprise soon changed to a much better surprise of realizing 3 gobblers were hanging out together rather than two, my target was DOA.
WeHuntSC.com - Andy Belk's 2nd turkey
15.5#, 1-1/16? spurs, 10.5? beard
With a two bird limit in that county, my season was finished in less than 3 hours. Next time down I will have the luxury of working a call only, but there are 3 tags left for other counties, if time will allow. 
Every day is a blessing, but considering some of the personal trials over the two previous springs kept me from the "spring turkey woods", I can't help but to believe the Lord smiled down me this one day and allowed me to take home two of his creatures and provided an awesome day in His creation.
Guest Blog by: Andy Belk, Lancaster SC

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