Some early notes on turkey season
To say the first two weeks of turkey season were unusual would be preaching to the choir. Anyone who went out or who still goes out every morning can attest to the crazy weather that drove most of us to break out our deer hunting cloths rather than our turkey hunting togs.
It wasn’t supposed to snow, but it did, and it wasn’t supposed to freeze, but it did that as well. To add insult to injury when it wasn’t freezing or snowing it rained, but who’s complaining?
Despite the weather, on opening day I managed to call two beautiful longbeards to within 30 yards. The only problem was there was this little matter of a downed treetop between me and them. Thinking that waiting for a clearer shot was a better option than to trying shoot through the downed tree branches, I hesitated just long enough to watch them change direction and head uphill through some beech slash. A few clucks on my part got nothing but a farewell gobble from one of the birds as they disappeared to parts unknown.
The next morning, just before daylight, two birds sounded off on the roost and my spirits soared at the possibility of calling one or even both of them within gun range. I was sure they were the two mature toms I encountered the day before. I was set up at the edge of a field and they were across the field about 150 yards away. I made a few soft tree yelps and both birds answered, then silence.
Years of experience has taught me this scenario most likely meant the birds were on the ground and now all I had to do was to convince them to come to me. Twenty minutes later it appeared my calls worked as I spotted both toms coming over a slight rise in the field and that they would be within gun range. My enthusiasm was short lived however, because as they approached, it became clear they weren’t the mature gobblers I expected, but jakes.
The duo scratched and pecked at whatever they were eating, and it was clear they were oblivious to me as I was well concealed. I always carry a small camera with me while hunting and I slowly slipped it out of my shirt pocket and risked taking a few pictures. My unscheduled photo session went well and the birds ultimately distanced themselves from me. That was all the excitement I’d have for the rest of the day.
Subsequent mornings were met with several roost gobbles, but once the birds hit the ground the woods were as silent as a tomb for the rest of hunting hours. This scene played out for a few more days until one morning there was nothing. Not a gobble, cluck, purr or cackle all day long.
I’ve been hunting turkeys long enough to know at some point in the season this is going to happen. In fact, I expect it. The birds that gobbled enthusiastically almost every morning now seem to have developed a case of lockjaw. Despite some warmer temperatures, I haven’t heard a turkey sound in several days now. Who knows why this happens?
Perhaps the toms I saw earlier are with hens, perhaps not. All I know is now is the time to take a different approach. I know there are birds in the spots I hunt both here in New York and a few miles away in Pennsylvania and instead of giving up I hunker down.