As it did last year, success has found me before the second weekend of the spring turkey hunt has come and I am once again kicking myself for ending so early. It is bitter-sweet and after last year's early success I said that I would be very choosy so as to maximize my trips out into the turkey woods. Well next year I WILL be using my bow.
It was a good and very exciting hunt. I used a mixture of run-&-gun and sit-&-call tactics which turned out to be a little more fulfilling than last year's stalk.
I left my apartment at 4:30 this morning knowing that I had an hour long drive and a 30 minute hike in the dark. I found my way to a likely roost area before civil twilight. Come 6:00, I was sure enough on the dance floor. But the toms were roosted with a ton of hens and this early in the breeding cycle the toms will not be leaving unbred hens unless conditions are perfect. They got off the roost at 6:36 and although I was set up within 75 yards of the roost, I never got a look at them. Although we danced vocally for about 30 minutes, for reasons only known to toms, hens and jakes, the whole flock shut up and peaced out.
I held that position till about 7:30 and then my legs started asking for some work. I had covered about 3/4 of a mile over some very nasty ridge country when I noticed some hen calling coming from an adjacent ridge across a meadow. I was then treated to the sight of a band of elk feeding in a meadow about 400 yards from where it sounded like the hens were. I crossed the meadow (painstakingly slowly) and started up the ridge. I could tell the hens were just over the top of the knob I was working up to and all of a sudden a gobble scared me half to death. This tom was closer so I sat down and got ready. I pulled out my slate and did a little purring. Sure enough the first bird to show itself was a hen peaking over the knob. She didn't see a fellow feathered-friend and went back to where she came. Then Dr. Gobbler eased his way out of the brush and across the opening the hen had just vacated. He had a beard that nearly dragged on the ground and was the biggest wild turkey I have ever seen. I didn't have my gun up and couldn't take the shot although he was only at about 35 yards. He disappeared behind the knob.
Well, being aggressive worked last year so I took the opportunity to get my blood pumping. I started working around the low side of the knob. I then caught a glimpse of his fan peaking over a rock ledge he was walking under. He got behind a tree and I could see everything but his head at what turned out to be 52 paces. He finally raised his head and I let him have it. BUT.... there was another gobbler behind that rock ledge that got the hell out of the country after my shot. And it wasn't just another tom... it was the gobbler that I had seen minutes earlier with the massive beard. I didn't take the time to make sure I was looking at the same tom. Damn it! But it just means that I can help my brother and cousin get a shot at him later in the season. My bird is no slouch, with a less beat up fan and the same beard length of 7 inches as my bird from last year.
I got him dressed and I was heading back down to school for a calc quiz by 11:00.
I can't wait till next year when I can hopefully get another shot at the one that got away. Good luck to everyone that is going to make it out to chase birds this season.