I once wrote the Publisher’s Perspective column for a magazine that shared my addiction for turkey hunting and the anticipation of what the “yet to arrive spring season” was to hold for me. In that editorial, I went into detail about my traditional set up and just happened to mention, or perhaps even crow a bit, about how successful that ambush site had been in previous seasons.
During the course of the article, I even wrote the following line: “The biggest problem I have to contend with is getting my season to last beyond an hour or two on the very first morning that I settle into my blind, armed and dangerous.” We all know, or at least we should, that a person would do well to be very careful about what they say, write, or wish for as it may have a very profound effect on the course of one’s personal history. That was to be my fate.
Over the course of the 2016 Spring Turkey hunt, I managed to hit the field a total of thirteen times during the month and a half long season. This was due in part to more than normal rainy, windy weather, required travel time, higher priority family commitments, and writing deadlines that had to be met. Still, that should have been plenty of time to close the deal on a single tom. But alas, it was not meant to be. The sweet honey-hole that had provided such quick results so many times before, just seemed to have dried up. I saw birds only on two separate occasions from my time-tested ambush site. Both early in the season.
On the second day out, I climbed into the blind that had been set up prior to the opener and saw turkeys at approximately a hundred yards around 9:00 a.m.. The sighting consisted of a string of a half a dozen hens being shadowed by two toms. The hens seemed to be on a very important and urgent mission. They moved along, not slowing or stopping, apparently determined to get somewhere as quickly as they could get there.
The clown toms that pursued them would blossom into full strut and parade around admiring their own handsomeness and then shrivel down to normal size and trot off in hot pursuit of the hens that had steadily moved away, seemingly oblivious to the arrogant toms and their strutting sideshow. Once the toms caught up to the hens, they would again go into full strut, flaunt about and then shrivel back down to normal size and take off at a trot to catch up to the females that obviously didn’t give a rip about their Chippendale’s dance routine.
The entire time I watched the entertaining entourage move over the hill directly in front of me, along the edge of the swamp to the north and eventually melt away into the heavy cover on the far side, I tried every call I had in my arsenal and couldn’t even get the toms or the hens to look in my direction. It was frustrating. It seemed apparent to me that both of the toms were operating under the philosophy of “Six birds in front of you are worth more than any number in the bush.” The end result was disappointment. On the fourth day of the hunt, I was joined by friend and ally, Gerry Hammer. We got birds working and gobbling back to us even before they had flown down from the roost. They were responding well to our calls as they loudly gobbled back to each series of calls we offered.
As the day brightened, the birds flew down from the roost and headed across the meadow in our direction. We could see them in the open field, but when they disappeared into the heavy cover between our blind and the meadow, they vanished without a trace, never to be seen or heard from again. Another bummer. This time, however, there were two disappointed hunters.
That was the last time I heard or saw turkeys from that blind. Having limited hearing abilities, there may have been responding gobbles that I may not have heard, but as I said… I did not hear them.
I did a lot of talking with other turkey hunters about what I was experiencing throughout the course of my visits to the blind and believe me when I say, I got plenty of advice, most of which I tried, but the result was always the same… nothing.
After a run of trips to the blind where I was totally skunked, I considered doing some still hunting and going to look for the birds, but my bullheadedness prevented me from doing so. This stand had always worked before and I just knew that it would happen again. I just had to be patient. But alack and alas, I was so very wrong.
The bright side of the trips to and from my sterile ambush site was the photos that were shot on each and every trip. Spring is such a delightful time to be out and about and the balance does not hang on killing a tom, at least not for me. But instead, it is about watching all of the wild things that inhabit the field as they go about their daily routines making the best of each and every moment they are alive.
There is always a plethora of beautiful butterflies, brightly feathered birds and handsome furry mammals moving about ready to be captured in a photo. Each trip into and out from the blind took me past brightly colored wild flowers popping up on the fresh spring landscape. And truthfully, after a long cold winter, a person needs time to wander slowly amid the natural rebirth we call Spring. It is not only healthy for the mind, but to me it is necessary medicine for my soul.
I will have plenty of time to evaluate last year’s hunt and to decide whether or not I will go back this spring to the very same spot I was previously shut down. But for the time being, I have convinced myself that a healthy slice of humble pie is good for me, teaching me that perhaps I should expand my tactics for spring gobblers in future years. If nothing else, to have a plan to fall back on when things aren’t going as planned and the birds are being as difficult as they were this past season. Until next time, please take care, be well and God bless.