Latest Issue

The Roving Sportsman: The Saga Continues…

After a trip with a hunting buddy to New York State on the first Sunday of the spring gobbler season, which ended in a clean miss for my friend, my enthusiasm had been renewed. Although there had been little reason to hunt here locally due to the lack of sightings or seeing fresh signs of turkey activity, it seemed worthwhile to return to New York to pursue the gobblers there.

After hunting there the last time, I had scouted the area and had discovered a large hay field surrounded by woods and several likely spots where a hunter could set up to watch the whole and hopefully lure in a gobbler within shooting range. On the first day of my return, I arrived at the field at 5:20 a.m. and stood quietly as I listened for the morning to come alive with the sound of a gobbler (or two!). It was 5:35 when a bird sounded off across the field and in the bottom of an adjoining field. He gobbled several times and was followed by another Tom waking up his harem of hens far off to the south. Quickly slipping up to the base of a huge white pine tree, I made my nest at its base and began a series of soft tree calls from a slate call.

Minutes passed, which seemed much longer, until the bird just below me gobbled back — only once — and with that, I sat patiently, hoping he would slip into view entering the field. The sky was bright, and an hour had passed when I renewed my calling. Moments later, a bird, then two and then a third edged into the field 150 yards in front of me. There were two hens and a jake. My eyes strained to catch a glimpse of the old Tom that would hopefully be following them. He never appeared, but the three others put on a show as they pecked and fed their way toward me, finally passing within 40 yards as they entered the woods to my left and disappeared into the timber behind me. The only thing that remained to entertain me were the chipmunks and a few gray squirrels — one of which came within 3 feet of my boots before he realized what he was about to step on, and quickly scurried up a tree.

The time slowly ticked away, and I would run a short series of calls from two different slate calls from time to time, but no responses came. As my watch showed 11:00 a.m., I gathered my gear and headed to the vehicle. Having worked the one gobbler and hearing a second in the distance, I decided to return the next morning.

It was 5:00 a.m. when I arrived back at my vantage point under a heavy overcast sky and a slight drizzle. With the dark skies, it wasn’t until 6:05 that the first gobbler broke through the silence. Then, a second gobbler added his voice to the morning and both birds were below the field in the same woodsy bottom where I had heard the bird the morning before. I eagerly slipped into my shooting location at the base of the old white pine tree and began softly calling on the slate call and added another “voice” with a few sounds from my mouth call. Several minutes passed until a hen emerged at the far edge of the field and began feeding in my direction. Good. I now had a live decoy to help lure a gobbler.

Suddenly, a loud “gobble” made me snap to attention! The gobbler was off to my right along the woods edge and sounded like he was a mere 80 or 90 yards away! This was a new bird, and I cautiously shifted my shotgun and body position to my right so that I was better positioned for when he came into view. He gobbled several times more, as the hen in the field in front of me drew closer. Then, a second hen appeared to my right — between me and the gobbler.

His beautiful full fan began to appear above the slope of the hay field, and slowly he came into full view. He was a mature gobbler and stood proudly as he puffed out and spread his tail feathers for his two hens. He was finally at 40 yards, but unfortunately, the two hens had joined up and remained between the gobbler and me. They continued to block a clear shot as all three of the birds eased back into the woods and slipped silently out of view. Today was not to be my day. What will tomorrow bring?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *