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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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The Roving Sportsman… Oh, Well…

In the last weeks of our spring gobbler season here in Pennsylvania I was pretty convinced that the population of birds, at least in the areas where I would frequently hunt, had been slowly decreasing over the last few years. Sure, I was happy for several hunters I knew that had reported a successful season

In the last weeks of our spring gobbler season here in Pennsylvania I was pretty convinced that the population of birds, at least in the areas where I would frequently hunt, had been slowly decreasing over the last few years. Sure, I was happy for several hunters I knew that had reported a successful season — a few even getting their second spring gobbler. But, for me, it seemed my best opportunity was in southern New York State where I had seen a few turkeys and had interacted with several gobblers as they would reply to my calls, thus offering me some encouragement.

With that in mind, I returned two more mornings to New York, arriving before daybreak each time. Yet, each of those sunrises produced the same results — turkeys gobbled, I would see hens, but none of the gobblers would venture my way. I was beginning to wonder if the gobblers that I had been hearing were actually domestic turkeys penned up behind the neighbor’s barn!

Admittedly frustrated, I remained home the next day, deciding to do some overdue yard work and tree planting. It was 11:00 a.m. when I was shocked to hear a bird gobble in a nearby woodlot, a mere 100 yards away! I quickly snapped into turkey hunting mode, gathered my shotgun and donned my camo and slipped slowly along a row of pine trees toward the area he called from. As I eased into the woods, he gobbled again, now slowly moving north and starting down into a hollow below. I moved 40 yards closer to sit at the base of a large beech tree, and then let out a short series of purrs and soft yelps on the slate call. No response. Now, I aggressively cut and yelped and cut again. No response. I sat quietly, watching intently for more than 30 minutes, hoping to catch movement at any moment. Not a darn thing! I rose, turned around and began walking away when an alarm putt sounded! I spotted the hen that was coming my way slowly, but I just shook my head and thought “This is how it has been going for me all season.”

I took a rest from chasing gobblers and went to a sporting clays tournament that following weekend, and my big break was about to fall into my lap. I was telling good friends, Les and Jackie, about my lack of success this spring while hunting turkeys and I could see a twinkle in their eyes. They lived in southern New York on a large property that was largely hardwood forest with some fields interspersed, and they said that they saw turkeys there every day. “No one hunts there, and you are welcome to come up and try your luck,” they added.

I arrived late in the afternoon and as I drove toward their home, I had a good feeling based on the freshly mowed fields and mixed hardwoods forest. It looked like good turkey habitat. Les met me at the equipment shed and chauffeured me around the property on his 4-wheeler, showing me the property line and pointing out logging roads and spots where they generally would see turkeys.

It was 4:20 when I entered the woods the next morning and listened as songbirds began their rituals of greeting the daybreak with their various songs. I eagerly awaited the first gobble, but none came. I called off and on during the first hour with no response. For the next several hours I moved along logging roads, and when nearing fields would make several calls, but again, no response. I came across several spots where turkeys had been scratching for food that very morning, and even came across some fresh tracks and a spot where a gobbler had been strutting earlier that morning. But I neither heard nor saw any turkeys that morning.

And that, my friends, is how my spring gobbler season went this year. Was I disappointed? Sure, a little. But, in all reality, I had a great time. I saw a lot of great sights that I never would have had I not been in the woods, including several recently born fawns. I had a great time when I hunted with a good hunting buddy, and I made a great friendship with my previous acquaintances, Les and Jackie — a stronger friendship that may not have grown had it not been for the hunting opportunity they so generously offered me. Oh, well, in the end I didn’t get a turkey this season, but I had a great time anyway!

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