So far, it has been a difficult turkey season for most hunters I have spoken with. Rain and cold temperatures at the beginning of the first week kept most birds silent the first few days. This week has been better but the gobblers seem to be content with their hens.
Last Thursday, the first day I was able to hunt, was not too bad. My friend, Chris Cable, and I only heard one gobbler, but he was hot. After hearing nothing all morning, we struck a bird at 9 a.m. just over the hill from us. He gobbled his head off before coming in on Chris’s right side while his gun was pointed left (not a good situation) and ended up spooking as Chris swung his gun to shoot.
This is a familiar scenario to most turkey hunters, and this elusiveness is why a spring gobbler is one of the toughest game animals to harvest. When hunting spring turkeys so many things can go wrong to spoil your hunt that invariably something always happens once or twice each season. At least for me, something usually costs me a chance at a gobbler.
Aside from other hunters, many things can conspire to ruin a hunt. Weather can play a role. Rain, snow and wind can cause the birds to keep quiet making gobblers difficult to locate. Of course when the birds are with their hens it is also very hard to bring in a gobbler. Often they will gobble frequently giving away their position. However, it is hard to move on them because they are with other turkeys and I always seem to end up spooking some of the birds trying to get into position to intercept the gobbling tom.
Bugs are another nuisance that has cost me a few gobblers over the years. Some mornings the bugs are so bad they will buzz around your face and hands biting and crawling on your skin and clothing while you attempt to remain motionless calling that bird in the last few yards. Sometimes you just cannot take it anymore or some insect bites your neck and causes you to flinch or brush away the little bugger which sends the turkey running.
The natural wariness of a wild turkey is also a major reason they give hunters the slip so often. There are so many predators that hunt turkey as well that they must stay alert at all times to avoid being eaten.
Most of these predators have figured out the sounds of a wild turkey and will come to investigate for an opportunity at a turkey dinner. Personally, I have inadvertently called in bobcats, coyotes, bears, and even a hawk, which proved to be the most unnerving incident of the lot.
I was set up on a ridge top calling to a gobbler in the hollow below. I had been working this bird for about 20 minutes and he was coming my way. Then all of a sudden, I sensed, (for lack of a better word), something large flying right at my head from behind. A large hawk just popped over the ridge to attack a turkey. Instead, it saw me. All I saw was a large, red tail fanned out as it swerved away missing me by 2 feet at best as I rolled away from the strike. It really freaked me out when I realized what had happened. This large red-tail hawk mistook my calling for a turkey and was about to attack when it recognized I was not a turkey and pulled up at the last minute. You don’t need coffee with excitement like that in the morning.
Incidents like that are a large part of the enjoyment of being in the spring woods chasing turkeys. They are a wary bird but very regal when they come in strutting and gobbling looking for a hen.
Wild turkeys will quickly adapt to their environment and recognize trouble when searching for hens and they seem to know everything in the woods is out to get them, but still they must procreate. They do it by calling to one another risking alerting predators to their location just as they always have, and boy is it fun.