Opening morning of the 2013 turkey season was a gorgeous day. It was as beautiful as May could be – the spring grass was freshly sprouted green, the ground was warm and dry, the sky was blue, temperatures climbed from the forties through the seventies as the day progressed – and I was at work. That’s when I decided to take the next day off and go hunting.
Thursday, the second of May was a carbon copy of the first. The weather was gorgeous. The world was freshly green. Grass just a few inches high, leaves beginning to bud. 45F before dawn and it would warm to 85 in the afternoon sun. I rolled out of bed at 3:30 AM for a cup of coffee and another thermos of the same along in my daypack for later in the morning. On the 45 minute drive to my hunting area I saw a skunk, a possum, a rabbit, and an elusive porcupine in my headlights. It was already a good day in the field before the sun was even up.
I expected the farm to be empty of hunters since it was neither opening day nor a weekend. I was wrong. There were 4 other vehicles in addition to mine and my hunting buddy Gene’s vehicles. Luckily, 3 of them were at the far end of the property. But the 4th pulled in right behind me and talking with the out of state hunter I found that he had a blind set up right where I had intended to hunt. Well – no problem, I'd creep into the roosting area and set up along a stream where I could catch the birds getting a drink after they came off the roost – or so I thought. As the sun came up gobbles sounded off in three directions around me, but all were at least half a mile away. I let the hunter in the blind do the calling. I was between one gobbler and him, if it came to his call, it would come right by me. Over the next hour that gobbler did work closer, but just about 6 AM the hunter behind me called loudly and those gobbles began to go straight away from him and away from me. Then they stopped entirely. They had gone silent. I enjoyed my thermos of coffee and a cereal bar and waited in the woods, until I heard the last gobble of the morning. It was half a mile away and straight toward the road. I knew that the sun would just be hitting the pasture that lay between me and the road in that direction. I reasoned that was where the birds would be – picking bugs and grass in the sunlight after the long dark night. Creeping up behind a huge forked oak tree I peeked between the trunks and found that I was right.
God had decided to continue to be generous to me. 30 yards away the knoll crested then rolled away toward another group of hardwoods. Just barely showing over the top of that rise was the top three inches of a turkey fan. As I watched, the fan folded and a red head popped up two inches above the top of the new green grass. I slipped completely behind the big tree trunk acutely aware that if this bird busted me he could run or take flight and be out of range, indeed out of sight in those trees before I could get a good bead on him. I VERY gently eased out my box call and gave it the softest of soft tiny little chirps. This was the sound of a hen contentedly chirping to herself who was not the least bit interested in what those boys over there were doing.
I had received this call from an estate where the children didn't hunt but they wanted their dad's calls to still be put to good use. I had never taken a turkey with it before. I leaned to the right and eased one eye around the big trunk to the right. I could not see the turkey at all. Had I flubbed the call and scared him away? Was he feeding with his head down over the rise? Was he running for the tree-line? ? I leaned to the left and peaked under the tree trunk. THERE HE WAS! Walking toward me, head up and alert - looking for that mysterious little hen! PUT PUT PUT he called “What? What? What did you say?” I raised my shotgun. One more step, head up and on full alert he was looking toward me. I eased the buttstock into my shoulder and leaned to the right. PUT PUT - BANG! A load of Remington #5 shot put him down and two more jakes took flight, sailing over the slope and into the trees away to my left. It was exactly 30 paces from the tree to where the jake lay. I had my spring bird.
It may be the last game I take in NY because I refuse to give this anti-sportsmen administration any money after they have passed teh misguided SAFE Act. After 20 straight years of buying hunting licenses in NY state, I will not buy one in 2013. I will not hunt in NY in 2013. I prefer to pay more as a non-resident hunter in other states than to contribute my money to a state that works against gun owners at ever opportunity. I have one more turkey tag from my 2012 license. Maybe I'll get another chance to talk turkey in NY.