Truth be told, there are plenty of spring gobbler hunters that I know or have talked to that have already gotten their bird and some are actively pursuing the second gobbler for this spring season. Several of the hunters I checked in with actually filled their tag during the first week of the season. Not so for yours truly!
Before the season even began on April 28, I was noting a lack of sightings in the areas I usually hunt. I heard no gobbling, and when I ventured into the woods, there was no scratching, droppings, tracks or sign of any kind that birds were in the vicinity. It was not encouraging. Finally, with only a week to go before the season opened, I did spot two different hens feeding out across an old hay field, and I watched three jakes together. The problem with those jakes is that they all acted like they had backpacks on and were eagerly passing through my hunting territory as they sought a place to settle in for the spring.
The first week of the season was relatively uneventful. I was not seeing or hearing any gobblers and would frequently hear that “They are still with hens,” or “There are so many coyotes these days, they just don’t gobble like they used to,” or a number of other quotes that unsuccessful turkey hunters lay on each other when they are just not having a lot of luck! And I must admit I just didn’t spend the time in the woods that I should have — especially since I always say that if you are going to be successful as a hunter, then you need to spend time in the woods. The game is not going to come knocking on your house door!
Finally, after a week of slow activity, I was encouraged to travel north on Sunday to try my luck in New York state at a property that had produced a gobbler the previous year for the hunter I would travel with. We arrived late Saturday afternoon after securing our licenses and talked to the landowner, then hiked a few trails looking for recent signs of turkey activity. The landowner and his wife assured us that they had been seeing gobblers strutting and on our walk, we saw several areas just inside the woods that paralleled a hay field that had been recently scratched by turkeys. Finally, I was feeling a bit encouraged.
On Sunday morning we entered the woods well before daylight, eased along the field edge on a game trail and arrived at a good vantage point where we hoped to see birds in the hayfield and where we could also hear any gobblers that might sound off at daybreak. It was 5:35 a.m. when the first gobbler sounded off on a wooded hillside ¼ mile to our left, and shortly after that a second gobbler broke his silence and was 300 yards in front of us — across the hayfield and in a woodlot near the bottom of a ravine. Both birds responded to our calling, but were with hens, as they would not budge and ceased their gobbling shortly after 6:20 a.m. Then, the far bird — to our left — began gobbling on his own again about 9:30 a.m. It was “game on” as my partner slipped through the woods, closing the distance to the active gobbler. I remained to watch over the hayfield and call from time to time with hopes of arousing another gobbler. I listened anxiously to the vocal bird gobbling off and on until, at 10:30 a.m., a single shot rang out!
I gathered up my gear and headed to the vehicle, eager to see the bird that had been doing all of that gobbling. As I arrived at the truck, my hunting buddy came out of the woods — with an empty game pouch! It was a clean miss — something that happens to us all.
Although it was disappointing to have missed, we both agreed it was a great morning and a great day of hunting. And, really, that is what brings us back, time after time — to spend quality time in the woods with good friends and being able to observe and hear things that most folks will never get a chance to enjoy.
“Well,” we thought, “there’s always tomorrow…”