The sun was just starting to peak over the horizon, turning the pale morning light to a blazing orange. A breeze kicked up and rustled through the treetops only to softly fade away. Songbirds began to play their melodies for all to hear as their chirps bounced from tree to tree and down through the holler. We sat in silence straining to hear that one sweet sound through the din now echoing in the forest; gobble.
It was now halfway through the turkey season and I had yet to fill even one of my tags. It hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Despite being out in the woods as much as possible over the last three weeks I’ve barely seen or heard any turkeys at all. It’s no wonder though that these thunder chickens have managed to stay out of sight and tight lipped. We have been experiencing an extended winter here on the east coast this year that has literally pushed spring back by a few weeks.
As I sat in the woods, all decked out in my spring time camo I noticed the stark brownness of it all. By this time of year flowers should be blooming, buds should be bursting, greenery should be all around and those turkeys, they should be gobbling.
Opening morning, on public ground, turned out to be a gorgeous day, weather wise, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high sixties. But there just weren’t any birds talking. I had seen plenty of sign, feathers, droppings and big ole tracks but didn’t even catch a glimpse of a hen, jake or long beard. I was struggling so badly I decided to enlist the help of my friend Ron, owner of Fureather Frenzied Customs Game Calls. He had already filled one of his tags this season and many of his customers had been able to put the hammer down on some gobblers. It was time to change it up a bit.
Ron and I decided to head to another patch of public ground about an hour from my house where he had hunted previously and saw some birds. As we sat there, straining to hear anything that might resemble a turkey, the sun began to climb in the sky, warming our faces and lighting up the woods. We were in a great spot at the top of a ridge with visibility all around and our backs against a large oak tree. After some frenzied calling on Ron’s part we finally started to hear a gobble here and there, but there were so far off they might as well be in another county. Ron masterfully worked his custom pot call as if to coax a turkey out of thin air when were heard a cluck behind us. Ron slowly turned to see a hen perched atop a log staring at our decoys. After she ran off I felt a sense of relief, an ice breaking moment, where I knew we were in a good place and Ron’s calling was doing its magic.
Sadly, that was the only bird we saw in those woods that morning but it wouldn’t be the only bird we saw that day. On our drive home, with still a full two hours left of hunting until the midday came, we drove by a piece of private land Ron had permission to hunt. It was a narrow strip of land full of fields, dotted with woodland, all bisected by a main road. As we drove through we saw four turkeys, two hens and two jakes, literally 10 feet off the road in a field. We drove by several more times just to make sure there was a legal bearded turkey in the bunch. Ron wasn’t very interested in shooting a jake, but with the season I was having I really didn’t care, I just needed to tag one!
We drove past them one last time as they made their way into a hedge row in between two fields. We pulled over on the side of the road and made a quick plan. I was going to belly crawl across 400 yards of open field, over a slight knoll and down towards them using a turkey fan as my blind. I had heard about this tactic but never much thought I would get the chance to put it into practice. Fanning, as they call it, can be extremely dangerous especially on public land. I was somewhat at ease because this was private property, but camouflaging yourself with the tail feathers of a turkey as you slink across a field just screams to be accidentally shot. As luck would have it I survived the encountered to be able to author this post. Unfortunately, so did the turkeys.
I had meticulously picked my way across that field for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. Stopping every now and then to try and locate the foursome through the gaps in the feathers of the fan. I also stopped far too often because it’s quite physically demanding for a svelte guy like me to be lugging their dead weight across a field, towing their shotgun trying to not make any bonehead moves that would scare the turkey away. By the time I reached my destination of where I had last seen those jakes and hens I saw empty wood. Defeated I back myself out of the field to meet up with Ron who had witnessed the whole fiasco from the safety of the woods edge.
As I had painstakingly (and painfully) crawled my way across the field Ron would give the occasional cluck and purr. About halfway through the field Ron said another turkey, a nice long beard, had come to the top of the field and stood in the open out of my view. When the foursome had seen his tail feathers they high-tailed it out of the hedgerow up to him and ran off into the sunset (even though it wasn’t even noon yet).
With that turkey went my hopes for the day and for the season. I haven’t given up completely but I have decided that I’m not going to try so hard, I am going to take the pressure off myself and just go have fun the next time I go out. If you still haven’t tagged out on your bird, don’t be like me. Get on over to Fin & Field and find yourself one of the best turkey guides out there who will put you on that massive tom you’ve been dreaming about.
If your turkey season has already closed don’t sweat it because Fin & Field also has some of the nation’s best Captains and Guides waiting to take you out on that fishing trip of a lifetime. Hurry up, summer is almost here and spots are filling up fast!
Guest Blogger: Shawn McCardell
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