Saturday, April 24, 2010

2010 Spring Turkey Season

2010 Spring Turkey Season

Opening Day – April 17, 2010

After taking off the first 4 days of the 2010 Spring Turkey Season, my plans for an intense few days of hunting the wild turkey got partially derailed. Our church has an annual Youth Auction fundraising event which is the major fundraiser for our children and youth summer camps. I have always enjoyed supporting those activities with both donations for the auction, and sometimes even buying items of interest as well. This year the Auction fell on the evening of the opening day of Spring Turkey Season. I knew that I would have to break up my hunting in order to continue to support the Auction, and made up my mind to do so.
Having a place to hunt near home is always a challenge. This year several weeks before the season, a friend at church who farms not too far from our home mentioned seeing a lot of turkeys on his farm. I immediately asked if he would consider letting me hunt there. He responded that his farm was leased to a couple of deer hunters, but they never hunt turkeys, so he saw no reason that I could not turkey hunt there. A few days before the hunt, I visited his farm and he showed me around. As an added bonus, I got quite a history lesson as the farm had been in his family since Nelson County was settled in the late 18th century. The spot looked promising, so I filed that away as a place I could go.
Then, two days before opening day, a good friend, Danny Raisor, who has a nice farm on which he manages for trophy deer, but also has a nice turkey population, asked me if I would like to come hunt with him opening morning. Having hunted there before, and knowing the prospects with more certainty than the previous offer, I accepted. I met Danny and another friend, Scott Turner, at about 5:45 AM at the farm. After a few moments of pleasantries, Danny searching for his camo shirt, and revealing that he did not have any turkey loads for his shotgun, my providing a couple of extra shells I had with me, we decided where everyone was going for the morning hunt and got on our way.
Even though we arrived at the farm in plenty of time, by the time all the above took place and I was on my way, it was already light enough to see well. I was sure I was at least 15 minutes too late getting to my assigned spot, in addition to having to walk through an open field, set up my decoys and get myself situated in a blind. Then soon after getting set up, I began to hear gobbling. All of the gobbles I heard seemed to be at a great distance and off the property I was hunting. Then, not long after hearing a few toms, I began to hear shooting. Not a lot, but three or four shots, most distant, but one sounding very close. By this time, I am thinking every gobbler in my vicinity is on the run and on high alert.
I was eager to try out two new calls, a loud tube call for locating gobblers, and a wingbone call I had made myself from the wing bones of a turkey I had killed last year. Before leaving the cabin that morning some of my calling enthusiasm was dampened by a comment from Danny telling us to definitely not do a lot of loud calling as he did not want the birds to become too educated and call shy early in the season. That ruled out my new tube call! Over the next hour and a half, I did try my wingbone call, a slate, and a mouth diaphragm, but limited my calling to purrs and clucks. None of my calls seemed to elicit any direct response.
About 8:00 AM, I heard some nearby clucks, then saw two heads in front of my blind. Soon after their appearance, I detected short stubby beards of about 2-3 inches on each. These two jakes (one year old males) hung around for several minutes. While the jakes were near my blind, nature began to call producing a tremendous need to void and have a bowel movement. With the jakes there, I did not want to move and alert them or anything else in the vicinity to my presence. As my discomfort mounted, I saw two toms out in the field about 150 yards away. Using my wingbone call, I got their attention and they began to come my way. As they approached, they went out of sight in a depression in the field, so I lost track of their movements. Soon, I did see a fan and then some heads above the grass to my left and could tell they were approaching my decoys. I eventually saw three gobblers, all with adult beards, and with occasional spreading of their fans.
The gobblers would come in and out of my sight as they moved around beyond the tall grass. I thought everything was falling into place as they approached, but suddenly they turned toward the woods behind me. I could tell they had clearly altered their path and rather than continuing to approach my decoys in front of my blind, they seemed to be leaving. I quickly found one head and neck above the grass and fired. To my amazement, FIVE other gobblers flew off at the shot. It reminded me of a covey of quail flushing! In addition, about 100 yards in front of my blind and out of sight until I stood up, another gobbler which I had seen fly across the lower portion of the field was still in the field and apparently very unsure of what was going on up my way. The bird I had shot lay still where I had shot him 26 yards from my blind. Once I was certain that he was no longer moving, nature's call became overwhelming and would not be denied! Thank goodness I carry wet wipes with me when hunting!
None of the gobblers that had approached had gobbled. Some had briefly and intermittently displayed their fans, but none truly strutted. Did they come to my calls, my decoys, or were they just on a stroll through the neighborhood? I would like to think that my calling at least got them into the neighborhood, even if it did not bring them directly in front of me. The hunt still ended successfully with a dead gobbler. My bird was probably a three year old with spurs of 1 1/8 in. and a beard of 11 ¼ in. All this transpired before 8:40 AM and my opening day hunt had ended quite successfully. I had plenty of time to remove the turkey's breast, wing bones, beard and spurs, clean up, relax and prepare to get to the Youth Auction. The pressure is off for the Spring Turkey season of 2010. One bird is down and several days available over the next three weeks to get my second turkey!

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