The waiting game
If there's one thing that sends a chill down the spine of a turkey hunter it’s the sound of a gobbler at first light. With turkey season fast approaching I decided to visit several of my favorite spring turkey hunting areas to see – or rather hear – what was going on.
Just like deer hunting, I don’t want the birds to know I’m around so I never call just to get a tom to gobble. My scouting consists of sitting on the tailgate of my truck alongside a rural dirt road, coffee in hand. If a bird gobbles within a mile of me I’ll know where he’s hanging out and that’s all I want to know. The hunting part will come later.
I’ve always said the hardest part of turkey hunting is getting up at o-dark-thirty, and my first attempt of the year to get up that early wasn’t easy. Fortunately, my hunting areas in Pennsylvania and here in New York are within 25 minutes of home so I guess I’m luckier than some guys who have to drive a considerable distance if they want to be in the woods before the first owl hoot.
The alarm rang, I forced myself out of bed, got dressed, poured a thermos of coffee and headed out the door. The sky was clear and I was optimistic about my chances of hearing a bird or two herald the day. I wouldn’t be disappointed.
Driving south into Pennsylvania, I turned the truck up a lightly used dirt road and five miles later I turned off the ignition, poured some coffee and waited. The first bird sounded off along the creekbottom about a quarter mile from me; the second was higher on the ridge while a third appeared to be somewhere between the two. Perfect. It was only 5:45 and I had located three birds. This was enough information for now.
Getting back into the truck, I decided to head to my friend’s farm in New York about four miles away. I thought I might get there early enough to hear a bird or two there. All I wanted to know was if the birds were roosting down low near the small creek that flowed through the property or higher on the hill. It would be a good starting location once the season started.
I turned off the highway and followed an old road leading to an abandoned gas well. It was just before six o’clock when I turned off the truck’s engine, got out and lowered the tailgate. The woods were quiet and nary a turkey gobbled. Was I too late?
I’ve always said when I die I just hope it isn’t in May or October, my two favorite months to be in the woods. The morning was beautiful and I was enjoying the sounds of various birds when two deer crossed the gas line about a quarter mile above me. I watched through my binoculars as they slowly crossed the gas line heading north to another patch of woods. Just before they reached the edge of the gas line they suddenly stopped and stared into the woods. Something certainly had their attention but it wasn’t alarming them.
Seeing some movement, I panned the binoculars to the left and spotted a hen turkey. She was soon joined by another and then the third. Could a gobbler be far behind? The first hen was in the middle of the gas line when I spotted him. All fanned out and strutting, ol’ tom was sheparding his girls through the woods on their breakfast run.
The birds fed slowly, pecking at seeds or gravel until finally disappearing in the woods from which the deer had come. It was only 6:45 and I had birds located in two states. Turkey season is coming and I can’t wait.