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Slow start to spring turkey season

May 2, 2009
By JON MAGEE, For The Inter-Mountain

Turkey season opened this week with two warm sunny mornings for the hunters, great days to hunt but the hunting was not so great, most people I talked to did not hear many birds gobble, if any.

From the signs I have seen, there are plenty of turkeys in the Bickle Knob area but the birds have not been very vocal when I have been out scouting. Most other hunters I talked to reported the same thing, that the birds have not been gobbling a lot and are with their hens. I found some good feeding areas that the birds were using frequently and decided to start my hunt there on Monday morning.

The bright morning caught me a little of guard and day was breaking as I walked up the hollow to the large flat the turkeys had been using, thinking I could set up and wait for feeding birds if they did not feel like gobbling this morning. As soon as I got onto the large oak and beech flat, I could see fresh scratching in the leaves from the previous day and knew the birds were nearby.

Since I forgot my owl call to locate gobblers and did not want to give away my location to any birds close by using hen calls I stayed quiet. I started toward some thick grape tangles near the head of the hollow on the far side of the flat I was on when I heard a gobble about two hundred yards away, then another.

The birds continued to gobble as I closed the distance as much as I dared with the lack of foliage. I set up across the hollow from the birds with a dense tangle of grape and greenbrier between us with a small creek behind me. With the warm, dry conditions, I thought the birds would go for a drink first thing so I set out a hen and a jake decoy hoping to pull in a tom that may be reluctant to come to my calling.

I was maybe a hundred and fifty yards away at the most and the turkeys were still there when I began calling and a pair of gobblers, one close, maybe eighty yards, answered me immediately but I could not see a thing through the dense underbrush.

The other was on a point about two hundred yards away and both were gobbling every few minutes as the sun rose over the ridgeline.

The closer one I knew had hens with him, I could hear them cluck and purr between gobbles so I toned my calling down not wanting the hens to get jealous and lead the gobbler away. My plan was for the turkeys to be curious and thirsty enough to come check me out or get a drink from the creek and the decoys would pull the birds into shooting range when they saw them. However, as usual my plan did not work out the way I had envisioned.

The furthest gobbler had already gone quiet but the closest one was still in the area and answering my soft calls but I could not pull him away from the hens.

After about an hour of this, the turkeys moved up the hill away from me, I tried to circle around and cut them off but the darn things just seemed to disappear.

It was getting hot, the heat was getting to the birds and me, so I decided to go home and try them again in the morning since conditions were going to be the same I figured the birds would roost in the same area the following morning.

The next day I was in position early waiting for the first gobbler to sound off, like an idiot I once again forgot my owl call to help locate a gobbler on the roost.

On this morning nothing came, I did not hear a single gobbler and they did not seem to be in the same hollow as the day before. Maybe some other hunters spooked them or maybe it was just to warm but I thought I would go set up on the point where I heard the gobbler the previous day. I knew from past years that gobblers liked to strut on the point of the ridge and then enter a nearby field to strut and court the hens and since one had been there the day before it seemed like a good plan. It turned out to be a very good plan, only not for me.

As I approached the ridge, I heard the soft yelps of a hen followed shortly by a shotgun blast as another hunter on the opposite side of the ridge killed a nice mature gobbler. Ah, the joys of hunting in the National Forest, but honestly that is part of why I enjoy it so much, these birds are hard hunted and have seen and heard just about everything.

Gobblers are very challenging to hunt in the best of circumstances and if you can call one in on the Monongahela National Forest, you have harvested one of the toughest birds to hunt in the state.



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