Time when a yodeling goatherder`s thoughts turn to flights of turkey hunting!
Oh yes, as surely as the sun shall shine and the moon shall moon us we on the hillside farm will don our camouflaged leafy suits and head out into Penn`s Woods, shotguns in hand and dreams of Turkzilla in our fey little heads! Now before I get into my story I have to share a picture of Miss Yodeling`s bird from last week. She was able to go on the special youth hunt our game commission has set up to encourage young hunters and help give them extra time in the wood.
Mister went with her and she bagged this very nice fifteen pound jake. She is one of the luckiest hunters I`ve seen although Mister says it`s his exemplary guiding skills that get her the results. I may have to argue that point somewhat. Not that his guide skills aren`t stupendous but she has quite a deadeye.
Okay, so now today is here. Feral is ready. Mister is ready. We gear up and head out the door at 5 in the morning. Across the yard and over the drive we go, trying not to get swallowed up by the bog that used to be called land has become. Thankfully it wasn`t raining this morning (shock of shocks!) and we got to our spot within a goodly amount of time. Goodly for me since I don`t go uphill with any great speed unless a bear is chasing me.
Mister and I got situated as comfy as a couple of Realtree bugs in a rug. Then I was instructed to make sure I could line up on the hen and jake decoys hubby had placed out in front of us. I could but there was some major brush in the way. Dear sweet husband of mine hurried out to eradicate the nuisance and rushed back to my side. I peeked to the left and about five feet from us was a hen! I froze and whispered to my man. He froze. Madame Turkey never gave us a putt, she simply continued on her way feeding and enjoying the rare dry sunrise. How she didn`t see him crashing around I will never know!
Anyway, within a few minutes another hen meanders past, then another, then another. Then two more hens fly down from the roost. One was a bearded hen which is fair game here in Pennsylvania but I declined to take her. As we`ll see later that decision turned out to be a good one. So the girls set to nibbling at the new grass starting. Okay now I thought this here is some good stuff! Six hens within forty yards of me! That can only mean one thing right? Old Turkzilla HAS to be nearby! No way is a tom going to ignore such a harem of lovely ladies! I whispered to Mister what I was thinking, and he nodded. Then I peeked over him on my left and lo and behold to what to my wandering eye did appear but a mature wild tom in full strut.
“Oh sweet jumping juniper honey there`s a gobbler!” I gasped in excitement.
“Just stay calm,” my more experienced hubby whispered. “Give him time to come in,” he added.
I figured that old tom to be about sixty yards out. Too far for me to take an ethical shot. Oh but did I squirm let me tell you! And boy did he strut! Strut and drum, drum and strut but not one gobble. Yet he would not come closer to our decoys which yeah, why leave the real ladies for a dumb old fake one right? As we were keeping our peepers on Mister Man a pair of jakes came in from our left. I am not averse to taking a jake if they present themselves to me. Heck, I`ve been chasing these darn wild turkeys for five years without so much as a sniff!
Those two young whippersnappers made a beeline for the decoys. Do you think they would draw apart enough for me to get a clean shot at just one?! Heck no! I didn`t want to shoot two since that`s not only illegal but unethical. There I sat, two jakes within fifteen yards and had to let them walk. By the time they broke apart they were amongst the hens. Again no ethical shot could be made. Consabbit I thought. Well actually I thought a few worse words but since I`m really trying to keep my G rating consabbit will have to suffice.
Suddenly down the hill comes yet another jake! Four gobblers and six hens now were moseying around in front of us. This now is where it gets pretty interesting. One would think the mature tom would put the buds to those young males right? Uh-uh. Those three jakes made a beeline for that long beard and curb stomped him! They chased that poor tom around and around the field, flogging him with their wings until he simply gave up and ran off with his glorious tale tucked.
“Upstarts,” I muttered to the side.
“Well three on one isn`t good odds for the old boy,” Mister murmured as the group fed and preened around us. We watched in silence as that bearded hen broke from her friends and crept off until she disappeared from view. I strongly suspect she was returning to her nest. I am very glad I made the right and ethical call and didn`t harvest her.
The remaining five hens led the whippersnappers down over a small knoll and out of view. Finally we could move around a bit! My butt was cold and needed a spell of movement to get some blood flowing again. I stood up slowly and engaged in a brisk round of rub-the-tooshy. Some time went by without so much as a peep from the band of turkeys. I rubbed and stretched and gawked about as I tend to do when nothing is going on then-
“Sit down!” Mister hissed and I dropped like a cow patty.
The three jakes had returned minus their group of lovely ladies. I was on Mister`s right. Two of the three walked nonchalantly across the field acting wary but not overly concerned. My tooshy rubbing had gone unnoticed thankfully. As they made their leisurely way closer to the pine tree we were under I had to crane to the left to keep my fiber-optic sights on them. Not a good seat at all if a good shot was to come my way. Of course it did. I pulled the trigger after making sure I was on the lead jakes head.
Not a feather flew. But man alive did those jakes! They took off like Satan himself was after them.
“You missed,” Mister said.”Clean miss too. I didn`t even see a feather knocked loose.”
“Well that stinks! I know I had him right in my sights!”
“Can`t be,” my spouse replied in his usual manner of stating the obvious.
“Well consabbit!” I spat and tossed my empty shell into my pocket with attitude. “I must be flinched.”
“Must be,” he responded and stood up to give the area a once over.
I got up as well just to make sure there wasn`t any feathers he might not have seen. Could be he missed one that got jarred lose right? Wrong. There wasn`t so much as a pin feather to be found although he seemed to think I could find my wad somewhere in the next county. Har-Har-Har. Lord but he is a real riot that man. Out of the blue someone gobbled! And it wasn`t Mister Yodeling either!
“You hear that?” he asked. That`s something we turkey hunters do must be. Ask the person we`re with to confirm that we actually heard a gobble close by. Just in case we`re going round the bend or something you understand.
“He`s just up the hill on the power-line,” Mister told me and then, once again, we dropped back to our damp cold rumps. He called on his mouth call and that old boy lit up the valley. Gobble after gobble after gobble. Heck he even started cutting Mister`s hen yelps off that`s how fired up he was. “Maybe you`ll get another chance. That`s a mature tom,” my hubby informed me. I nodded and grinned like a loon.
“Must be I scared those jakes off when I shot at them,” I whispered as we got settled for another wait.
“Yeah that happens when someone shoots at you,” he commented wisenheimer that he is.
It didn`t take us long to spot a turkey above us poking around in a thicket of pines. We couldn`t tell if it was a hen or tom though. After a few minutes old Mister Longbeard stepped into view. He and his lady love were about seventy or eighty yards away so again no chance for a good shot. Mister and I sat there for the longest time as he strutted around what must have been the lone hen remaining. Finally she led him off and out of sight. I turned my head to look at my husband.
“Thanks for an awesome morning,” I said and I really meant it.
Sure I came home empty-handed but what an experience! I have NEVER had so many turkeys around me in all the years I`ve been turkey hunting. Being able to sit under a tree and watch as nature plays out its dramas is a treat for me and all who enter the wood to hunt. It is not all about the kill.
From seeing a cardinal sitting on a limb with plumage of scarlet bright enough to blind to getting a shot at a jake it was one morning that I will never forget. And you know that next Saturday old Feral will be back under that pine tree!