Spring Gobbler 2022
After hunting along Tionesta creek, Thursday, for spring gobbler I was driving through the Allegheny National Forest in Forest County to check out another area I’ve seen turkey a year ago. I was on a bendy road and when I turned a corner there was a long beard in the middle of the road directing traffic, like an adult crossing guard for school kids, so his turkey friends could cross the road safely. I looked to my left and there were already a few in the forest who already crossed. I threw the truck in park. The gobbler walked into the trees to catch up with the others. I jumped out of the truck and ran after them to split them up. None flew but they ran and scattered.
I drove down the road and there happen to be a pull off where I could park. I got my camo’s on and grabbed my hot seat and over-under. I quickly, trying to be quiet, walked up through the woods trying to get into an area close enough but far enough away that they can’t see or hear me coming. I sat down against a log and waited before calling. Maybe in about 5 minutes I gave out my first call with my diaphragm mouth call. A hen answered up in the woods pretty far away and sounded close to the road. It was pretty thick where I was sitting so I decided to move up closer to where the hen was clucking from. I came to a good clear opening in the woods that I could see some distance. I sat down against a tree, waited and called again. Again a hen clucked back. I continued to tease the turkeys to coming within sight but they were teasing me and didn’t seem to be coming my way. One yelp and I heard a gobbler to my right down the small hill. I waited and gave another cluck and he answered again. He seemed to be a distance away and when he did appear he looked to be about 80-75 yards away. There was plenty of skinny short saplings between the bird and the direction he was slowly walking. The whole time the other turkeys were clucking as if calling him to come to there confused state of being.
As I calmly sat still I’d cluck now and then. He would look my way but seemed more interested in the real clucking of the other turkeys as if a dad knowing the sounds of his own children in a playground and didn’t pay me much mind. In so being I picked out an opening and got ready to shoot. I knew he was some distance away but I figured this might be my only chance hoping my 3” mag load would find my target. When he cleared in the opening, with still some saplings between us, I pulled the trigger of the double barrel and it boomed to life. The gobbler hesitated and ran trotting off in the opposite direction. I couldn’t believe I didn’t hit him. After a bit I went over and looked for feathers and found none. Chance one failed. After that I gave a loud call and the gobbler answered but was way far away. I decided to walk back to the road.
I walked through the woods on the other side of the road just to scope out the area from which they came. A 100 yards or so I found fresh turkey scratching in the leaf covered ground. It looked like a great place where turkey feed often. After a couple of yelps without answers I gave up and decided to go trout fishing. I figured I’d try again another day. On Friday I had other things to do and since I am retired I had plenty of time to go back after them. I didn’t want to hunt on Saturday and get caught up in a competition with weekend turkey hunters. So I set myself on Monday.
Monday I awoke early and by the time I drove and parked it was around 6:30 am or so. It was a little foggy but I wasn’t too worried that the turkeys already passed the area. I walked through the woods and planted myself further in the woods but still able to see most of their feeding area. I gave a few yelps and immediately a gobbler answered from a distance beyond. I moved about 50 more yards towards the sound and sat behind a downed tree resting my shotgun on the trunk. We had quite a bit of a shouting match for some time. He was coming closer but didn’t appear to be in any hurry. If I didn’t call for some time he would gobble as if to see if I was still around. I’d answer him. Other times if things were silent for some time I would yelp and he’d answer me. He finally came within sight maybe over a 100 yards or so through the dense forest. His tail feathers were fanned out in proud gobbler fashion. I was able to see there were a couple of other turkeys with him. I tried for sometime to get him closer but he wasn’t interested in meeting up as if the girls he was with would get too jealous and angry. They finally moved on down hill but still withing yelping distance. They seemed to turn back towards me and coming up hill in my direction. They got within good clucking range and we conversed like two neighbors behind fenced yards and across a busy highway out of view. I kept my eyes peeled looking for them out through the thickets. Within a 100 yards they appeared.
In the mean time a group of about 5 deer came into view in the direction the turkeys seemed to be heading for. I’d cluck now and then but most of the time the gobbler wouldn’t answer. It was fun and interesting watching the young deer and turkeys interact with each other so close. One of the deer must of gotten too close at one time that I saw a turkey fly up quickly and clucked like it was spooked of something one of the deer had done. This was all good and enjoyable watching but I wasn’t here on some deer and turkey documentary. I wanted that gobbler.
Time passed by and I finally got to see two gobblers, one shorter beard and a hen. The gobblers kept their distance but the hen got close enough at times that I hoped the gobblers would follow. The gobblers were maybe 80 yards away or so and behind a downed tree trunk for sometime. They would answer me at times as I would cluck trying to keep their attention. In the meantime two of the young deer were feeding and getting closer to where I was sitting. Close enough I was afraid to move and close enough I figured at any time they would get a whiff of me and spook causing the turkeys to disperse in fear. One of the gobblers got withing maybe 65 yards. The deer were getting closer and I could see they appeared to be wary of my presence. Though the distance between the gobbler and I was through thin saplings again I figured I’d let go a shot before the deer spook and the turkeys fly away. I picked out a small opening just to the left of an upright 5” diameter tree that I was hoping the gobbler would walk into before the deer spook. I heard a deer snort at the same time the gobbler came into view. I aimed for its head and the 12 gauge boomed. I heard the deer take off into the deeper forest and the gobbler turned and ran followed be the other gobbler. I couldn’t believe I missed again. The hen in the meantime didn’t run very far and was still within view. I sat there quietly like a sadden dog licking his wounds.
The hen started to cluck as if she was lost and confused about what just happened. She actually came within 15 yards of me clucking as I sat still. Out in the distance, over a 100 yards the two gobblers were walking. They weren’t walking towards me or the hen but keeping their distance towards where I saw them in the first place. With a couple of clucks the hen turned and walked up to them. I couldn’t get them to turn and they disappeared like a concert band leaving the stage without coming back for an encore! Fail 2….
I gave them a day of rest and went back out on Wednesday.
I have called and got gobblers to answer me quite often but I never seem to get them close enough to shoot. I still couldn’t believe I didn’t hit the ones I shot at, even at that distance. My confidence of getting them closer was more than shaky but I wasn’t giving up. It was if I knew what restaurant they like to visit so I would stick around like the paparazzi trying to get that one photo of a celebrity that would make the tabloid headlines.
I woke up early Wednesday and drove to the same area, parked in the same place and crossed the road to the same feeding zone. I got pretty close to where the turkeys had been the other day. After a few yelps a gobbler answered up on the hill in the opposite direction they appeared the other day. I decided to set up Hielda, my hen turkey decoy, on a mound of dirt about 30 yards away from me. I settled in against a large tree and started calling. The gobbler didn’t answer my calls that often but when he did he was getting closer to my location. He hadn’t answered in some time when I saw him up on the side of the hill from me displaying his prideful tail feathers. I think he was being pretty sneaky and cautious without calling. I must of watched him and his girlfriend for sometime. He wasn’t getting any closer. I was sure he saw my decoy and maybe studied it enough, from a distance, that he wasn’t too interested in meeting Hielda. I mean my decoy wasn’t anything too pretty to look at but hey it might get a guys attention if she’s the only single in town.
While calling another gobbler answered my yelps higher on the hill. Now, I was hoping old long beard would get jealous and maybe visit Hielda for a quick ‘how do you do’, before the other gobbler shows up. Well no chance of that. In fact as I called or fell silent the two gobblers were calling and answering each other. I watched old long beard move down and across the hill too far away to shoot. ( Having missed twice before I wasn’t going to take any more long shots. I only had one 3” mag left.) I’d yelp now and then and the other gobbler would answer more often then long beard. Every once in a while long beard would gobble and the one behind would answer as if they were just keeping in contact where each other were.
I was looking out towards where the other gobbler was answering from, when I finally got an eyeball on him. In fact there were three together. They weren’t feeding but just seemed to be three buddies loitering around to decide what bar to visit first along the strip. They kept on answering me but every once in a while long beard would gobble maybe warning them I’m a fake. I watched the three pals for some time slowly moving in the same direction that long beard and his girlfriend followed. I tried a couple different clucks and one call may have got one of the boys quizzical attention. I’m sure they saw Hielda by now and maybe she didn’t look so bad after all. They slowly started to walk in her direction and I was patiently waiting for them to get within a comfortable distance I was sure I couldn’t miss. As I said they were approaching slowly like first timers deciding what to say or how to approach a street corner girl. They weren’t in any hurry that’s for sure. I had the shotgun up with my elbow resting on my knee for steadiness. They weren’t paying any attention in my direction so I took time to see who’s beard was the longest and the first one won, or lost depending on how you look at it when I pulled the trigger. The shot connected and the gobbler was flopping around like a chicken with its head cut off. The other two fellows backed off giving their friend room to take his fit. When the gobbler I downed settled the other two clucked at him like they expected him to get up. It was if they weren’t sure if he just had a heart attack or died after taking an epileptic fit.
I just sat there quietly waiting for the two to leave their dead buddy. They kept on clucking but no matter how hard they tried their pal wasn’t getting up. I finally stood up and the two clucked and walked away as if it was time to leave the viewing after giving him their last farewell.
After field dressing the bird I carried him to the truck and had myself a little tailgate party with a Vintage Cameroon. Who cares if it’s only 8:30 in the morning for a stogie?
He wasn’t the longest beard but he gobbled and I think wanted to take Hielda for a ride!!!