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Archive for the ‘2020 Spring Gobbler Season’ Category

I almost didn’t go out to hunt on May 23. I had one of my asthma-related, coughing spells early. However, I managed to get some control and decided to head out to see what happenings awaited me.

The first thing I noticed was the heavy fog enveloping all places. I moved up towards a field where I could hear around. I heard a Whip-Or-Will sounding off and I heard the predawn sky ritual of a Woodcock. (Later, I would walk onto a Woodcock.) I was climbing higher when I heard that sound. I stopped and looked at my watch and the time was 5:08 A.M. The gobbler was way off on the opposite of a big basin in the landscape. This basin area had been stripped and reclaimed many years ago, but the outside perimeter has mature trees and the tom was roosting in one of them.

  My plan was to wait and listen for gobblers downslope from my perch site. However, I decided to not listen anymore and go after the gobbler. Eventually, I was in those mature trees and the gobbler was to my left as I set up. I feared getting closer because of the openness of the area. I was around 110-120 yards, at most. I liked the set up…open woods, remnants of an old road below me and a grassy right-a-way behind me. Three options and all I range!

My calls were met with gobbles and I was surprised to hear him fly down early, and even more surprised to hear him gobbling as he walked away from me.  Earlier I thought there may be two gobblers, but I only heard one now. Soon I would know why the silence…a hen!  I heard hen chirps and it was over.

I walked the road in the fog listening and calling to no avail. Eventually, he gobbled at some crows and he was behind me. I had walked past the  gobbler, but he was higher upslope. I circled back around and set up until about seven. I figured the best thing for me would go back to the field and listen as I had previously planned anyway. Maybe this gobbler would open up later in the morning.

I stood and listened until after 8 when  before I realized just how tired I was from the early morning asthma coughs. They knock the sap out of me! I couldn’t see any of the surrounding areas just field grasses.  This was a little eerie not seeing anything. I kicked off the dew and rain from the grasses and laid down in the field and slept off and on until almost 9. After I finally woke up I waited until around 10:30 before moving on. At ten, a lone gobble was heard way off and in the woods below a house. I guess he heard something he liked. The fog lifted fast once the ten o’clock hour arrived.

I began moving around and calling and, in time, I was back in the area where I had heard the morning gobbler. I could not utter anything that worked him up to gobble.  I edged around a curve on the earlier mentioned road, and could see a gobbler with a 6-7 inch beard. We eyed each other before he ran up the road. Was that the gobbler I heard? NO! but was, probably, the second gobble I thought I heard at one time. I moved a little farther and saw a hen running up the road followed by a nice longbeard. It was over! the time was almost 11:30.

  I started in the direction of the jeep calling and listening to only hear nothing. I spooked a turkey that I could not identify as I walked along.  I reached the jeep around 12:30 and decided to go home and take a normal nap.

The rest of the week looks to be very hot and humid. If I get out to hunt it will be for only a few hours.

 

 

 

 

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Good Morning

I watched the weather and decided to go hunting anyway. One needs to remember the forecasters had said all this week were chances of rain and they were wrong. I made a decision if the rains become too heavy I would simply quit for the day.

  I woke up and began to cough due to asthma. I used the inhaler and seemed to have control. I had taken  an allergy pill last evening. I hate to take pills so I wait until I am bad. Those with superior knowledge, like my wife, claim I need to take them regularly to build up defense within my body. So I didn’t sneeze much this morning while in the woods.

While traveling in the predawn, I heard two Woodcocks doing their ritual, sky mating searches. I was introduced to this ritual as a boy. My dad pointed this out in the abandoned field beside the house.  I heard a Whip-Or-Will, also.

I climbed to the highest point on the hill which is a round top field of about 8 acres.  Sometimes after 5:30 I heard my first gobble down over the hill. Of course I headed towards the bird and set up around a hundred yards, or so, from his roost.

Moments later I heard some light hen chatter. Later, another hen was heard. This one actually walked around among the vegetation. I never saw her due to the darkness in the early woods. This gobbler gobbled occasionally at my calling, but others exploded farther out along the slope. I estimated three, possibly four, additional gobblers. I assumed they were Jakes of last year and they were for I would see them later on.

The two hens and gobbler moved uphill onto the round top field. I saw them, and later, would try a break up. The break up actually worked for the hens flew down over the hill and gobbler ran off in the opposite direction. I walked away planning on coming back later, and that was when the rains began.  I heard another turkey in a tree  but didn’t identify it as male or female. Like I said above, I did see the Jakes. I saw a total of nine birds. Did I mention of the rain falling?

By 7:30 I was about fifty percent soaked. I returned to the breakup site and called but didn’t hear any gobbling. The rains increased. I decided to make a tour towards the jeep and try to locate a tom. I did see some deer and an Opossum. The intensity of the rain was gaining and I was getting soaked. By the time I reached the jeep I was 95% drenched and twenty pounds heavier. I thought it best to quit and go home.

 

 

 

 

‘possum

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I am smiling!

I moved farther south to hunt gobblers in the big hollow.  I needed to be at a specific area way prior to roost gobbling. So I was settled against a big old tree waiting by 5:00 A.M. to hear that first awakening racket. If any gobbler is present, at this spot ,the bird will be a hundred yards or less. I was disappointed with my strategy for I have taken two gobblers at this site acting in the same manner with an early approach. This morning there were not any toms present. This site is one of those areas where a hunter needs to be in place for trying to approach them once the gobbling starts will almost always result in a certain detection.

However, I thought I heard two non-enthusiastic  gobbles way down over the hill. Later, I would locate a gobbler way down the hill in a hollow. Maybe this was the bird.

I moved to higher ground after 6:00 A.M. and eventually heard a gobbler way across this deep hollow high on the next hill. I debated going after the bird. I was imagining he would get with hens soon and shut up. However, he kept gobbling. Off I went.

I was approximately seventy-five yards from my jeep when a gobble exploded behind me and to my right in a hollow. My plans abruptly changed and I moved in and began calling. This was, probably, the source of those two gobbles from earlier. The other gobbler across the hill was still hard at it. I heard hen talk with the hollow gobbler and I decided to go after the talkative bird and return later to this bird if need be. Maybe his hen would be gone later in the morning.

Up the road I went. I had to cross a bridge and headed diagonally towards the high-hill bird. I knew exactly where his last gobble was heard.

I was climbing the steep hill and was almost to an old logging road where I was going to set up and call. Didn’t work at all! The gobbler decided to move along this same road and I bumped into him at about twenty-five feet. Hens were cackling way down over the hill, but there were none with the gobbler.

Later, I returned to the first gobbler and failed to get any answers.  I circled this hollow to a right-a-way line and climbed it. Here I found a Box Turtle and tried to get a photo of it. That little bugger

Box Turtle

would not come back out of the shell. I laid down in the grass beside the turtle and fell asleep, but not a deep sleep. Almost an hour later and he still hadn’t come out. I glanced behind me and a hen was feeding in the grass, eventually, she spotted me and ran off. I climbed to the top of this hill and called to no avail. I returned and the turtle had not moved, but he was looking around. This allowed for some photos.

Oh yeah, I forgot this is turkey season.  I finally moved down slope and called and the hollow gobbler answered my yelps far off. I moved closer. This gobbler would only gobble occasionally. If he responded to my calling once he would not gobble until some time elapsed. I crept in farther and set down by a tree. I hadn’t been at this spot a minute when I could see a turkey moving some eighty yards or so out. The woods here is beautiful, but as fate would have it, there were a number of smaller trees between the turkeys and myself. This would be an issue soon.

I could see a feeding gobbler at times and sometimes a hen. I didn’t, at this time, identify the size of the bird, but hey were coming towards me. Suddenly to my right in a grassy opening popped up a strutting gobbler. My shotgun was pointed towards the other bird’s direction. He was about 42-43 estimated yards away. The Jake and hen emerged and were feeding between the tom and myself. They came closer and closer, but the gobbler just strutted for the most part. I had been able to level my shotgun towards the tom and I waited. As the two turkeys moved closer, the gobbler finally went out of strut and began moving, too.

The Jake spotted something about me and his suspicion became aroused. Maybe my glasses had a shine about them. He was now at about twenty yards. I was becoming concerned he would react and ruin this hunt. Luckily the adult tom moved closer and my sights were aligned. I waited for an opening and BOOM! The shot was thirty-eight steps. I prefer 35 yards or less.

  The long walk back was now the issue. It was getting hot and carrying a big bird can become a chore.

I stopped at the landowner and teased him about his denial of butchering the gobbler for me. He never has said yes to doing that feat.

The turkey had a nine inch beard and weighed just shy of twenty pounds. Both spurs were exactly one inch in length.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Miller, my step-father, holding the gobbler.

 

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Good morning

 

The morning was shaping up to be a nice, and it was. However, the nice morning didn’t equate to much gobbling activity. I heard four gobbles very far off, across a deep hollow and on the top of the next ridge. I believed the bird moved onto a huge field with hens early. A dense fog hung on until after eight o’clock.

I remained in place feeling certain I would hear some gobbling soon and closer. Those gobbles never happened. I remained within  about two acres until almost ten o’clock waiting for a lonesome tom to explode his positioning.

 

Shotgun is getting worried.

On the negative side of life, I have been dealing with asthma issues regularly. I cough so hard at times I feel I about to pass out. Sometimes I expel phlegm from my lungs. Allergies are beginning to cause disruptions in my life, as well. I do the best I can and still manage to climb very steep terrain as needed, I just do it in the best pace to keep from having attacks.

Later in the morning I heard about eight shots at the same place. this was in the area of where the early morning turkey was heading. My theory is someone shot at the bird in the field way out of range and crippled it. the extra shots were attempts to catch up to the bird.

Sightings include: Deer and doe with a little fawn; two hens in field, squirrels, Racoon,  Great Blue heron and many migrating birds.

Fire Pink

 

 

Scarlet Tanager

 

Golden Ragwort

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Hunting turkeys has been challenging so far this spring. I am hearing and seeing birds everyday. However, every time I have moved to a roosting gobbler, so far, hens have been roosting either with them or really close. The norm has been for gobbler shut mouth as soon as they all get together on the ground. This morning, for instance, (May 12) I actually was about a hundred yards away. I could see the birds fly down and in a short time the woods became silent. The cool temperatures and windy conditions made for any time setting to turn into shivering bouts.

Yesterday, May 11, I set up close to a gobbler. At fly-down time I began to hear two hens and then a third. I could see the one hen roosting. The gobbler flew down and all went quiet. I did get a couple of gobbles out of him after he hit the ground until the hens met up with the old boy. I did see another gobbler with two hens at a field’s edge, but on a posted property line.  The one hen saw me and he followed them farther onto that property.

Jack-In-The-Pulpit

This morning of the 13th looked great. The sky was cloudless and the winds were not too bad, however the morning was cold. I truly expected the day to be a good hunting day. I heard one gobble so far away it was barely audible. I know from experience the birds always go to a field which is close to a homeowner’s place. Regardless, he only gobbled six, maybe eight times. Oh well, I thought, the time is only 5: 40 A.M. I expected hearing gobblers directly below me at any time, but the remaining day was gobble-less. I was disappointed. I hung around this site until eight o’clock before moving to an area I have been having fun with turkeys. I arrived on the hill top at 9 and waited around until a little after eleven. NO GOBBLING!

I did see some interesting sights. I saw a ‘coon and turkey eggs. Lots of warblers are in the area now that migrating season is upon us. As viewed above, I found a little fawn snuggled against a tree’s base.

Rain is being forecasted for the next several days. I don’t know how much hunting I will get in over those days.

Lots of photos below.

 

 

Turkey eggs

 

 

Black-throated Gray Warbler

 

Raccoon

 

 

Frost on False Hellebore

 

Bluejay

 

Black-throated Green Warbler

 

Toad eggs

 

Dogwood blossoms

 

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

 

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Scarlet Tanager

Seems to me there was a movie made years ago with this title or close to those words. I felt like such a man this morning. The temperatures in the pre-dawn woods were in the mid twenty degree range. As I walked in the woods the full moon was shining brightly towards the west. Some clouds could be viewed, too. By 5:30 A.M. the entire sky was covered with clouds!

Ice on spider web.

A breeze would begin about the same time followed by increasing winds. I would witness sleet, snow, snow squalls and even blizzard conditions.

I moved up onto a plateau to listen for gobbles. I heard a Barred Owl. I didn’t try to sneak up onto the area where the turkeys have been often

Morel

roosting. The leaves were very crunchy due to the frost. Those birds were quiet, however, I heard a gobble in the opposite direction. He wasn’t very talkative. I moved in and realized about where he was roosting. I set up. His gobbling didn’t have much enthusiasm. After about half-an-hour I was shivering. I was happy to have put long underwear bottoms on, but I still became cold due to temps and inactivity.

I walked away and he was still on the roost at seven. I went for a warm-up walk to tour and call. While walking I was quick to notice the wilted Skunk Cabbage and Mayapples. Later, as the temperatures warmed some, they were almost all back to normal.

Eventually, I moved into the area I was initially hoping to hear birds. As I approached the top of the hill I saw a hen flying off the top and down the hollow. I figured my approach spooked her.

I found some morels before hearing hen talk. I couldn’t determine if the talk was a real hen or a hunter. I suspected a hunter may have been in place. I left and walked away in case the sounds were from a hunter.

I need to find the rest of this turkey!

I called after I went over the back side and heard a gobbler. I set up and he went quiet. Were the earlier sounds a real hen that went over to the bird? I didn’t know. Were the sounds from a hunter and had he heard the gobbler and tried to walk over? I didn’t know, but my instincts told me to skedaddle and I left to be on the safe side.

I was going to drive south and try again, but elected to call it a day. Snow was falling hard enough to actually cover the ground at times.

I, also, heard a Great-Horned Owl and saw a Raccoon.

 

Wilted Mayapples

 

SNOW!

 

Wild Geranium covered with snow.

 

Old tree with character

 

Wilted Skunk Cabbage

 

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I was in the hollow prior to five on this frosty morning. By the time the gobbler let his position known, I was already closing in. I settled down at about 100-125 yards from his roost. I elected to stay put for I was concerned of being spotted with a full moon still shining and the woods becoming lighter. His first gobble was about five-twenty.

In a little time, I could hear several toms in the same area. I surmised these were the jakes with the older gobbler. I called lightly and a hen began softly clucking close by. Oh no, I thought, here we go again with hens. As the morning moved along I would see five hens leave their roosting trees. One was in the tree next to me. Another was about twenty yards above me. the gobblers would go nuts when I called loudly until the hens and toms got together. All was silent!

Beautiful spring leaf-out.

I moved around trying to get an answer and decided to go to another site I have taken many birds in past hunts. I arrived close to the top around 9:30 when my cousin, Donnie called me. we chatted for about 15-20 minutes. he had heard eight toms, but they, too clammed up. The sun felt so good as I listened for late morning turkey activity . I fell asleep!

Time was moving fast towards the noon-time season quit. I went up and over the remaining hill calling to no avail. I moved down hill and called. I saw movement up ahead. It was a scratching and feeding hen. In seconds I saw the dark-body and full fan of a longboard gobbler. They were about the sixty yard mark. the time was one hour and fifteen minutes until quitting time. I watched for a time before using soft clucks and purrs. the hen would look and go back to feeding. The gobbler only had one thing on his mind and that was the hen. he circled her displaying his full fanned tail. I knw my only chance was to lure her towards me, but she didn’t care much about the strange hen back in the woods.

I tried different calls before  realizing the time was getting short. I gobbled several times. No interest! I began cutting loudly and I mustered three gobbles from the male. the hen was still unconcerned. I took some photos before easing backwards. I could have used the terrain to get a shot, but that is not my style. And besides it is unethical and illegal. I was just thrilled to have had this chance to watch these two birds doing what they do.

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NOTE: Before I write the enties of the two hunts I am going to state some “skunk” events here at the house. I Walked out very early recently to get the paper. I turned to go back to the door and I froze. A beautiful skunk came walking across the yard and exited down under my deck near the basement door. I knew she had been staying there. Both, Monday and Tuesday mornings as I prepared to go to hunt, Mama Skunk was about eight feet from the door at her den site gathering leaves.  She seems very unconcerned of my presence.

Tufted Titmouse

THE HUNTS

Tuesday,  very early in the morning, I had slowly and quietly moved in Indian-like stealth along a spring seep gulley before angling upslope. I had an area goal in mind to set up for a gobbler. It was dark! I was hoping to be in position, or close to position, at the first gobble. I wasn’t concerned if I bumped off the jakes I don’t want them around anyway for they cause me grief twice already. I didn’t it, but he was farther up the hollow allowing for an advance towards the top. I didn’t feel safe to move into the goal area.

Once towards the top I began to look for a good position to call from. Multiflora Rose is abundant a causing for sighting issues. I began calling and gobbles erupted all over. The jakes were in the same roosting area with gobbler #1. A hen below me flew from the tree after yelping. Soon all was quiet. Soon, I maneuvered higher on the hill. I called and a gobbler was heard farther out the flat area. I readjusted my position again.

Garlic Mustard

Time was short when I realized this gobbler was coming in. I was so confident that I removed my shotgun strap to lesson any chance of it swaying.

Shagbark Hickory

Another gobble followed immediately by a second gobbler and all was silent. More time and the proof of this event was obvilous…Something happened and i believe the jakes may have come up and over scaring the gobbler. Any option could be a hen.

I left the area to come back later. I set up in the cool, breezy conditions only to hear three gobbles across the hollow. I moved to try to pinpoint him better and a hen began yelping. I tried to call her in, to no avail. I set an hour and decided to head home.

**********************************************************************************************************************************This morning, I awoke to rain. I debated to go hunting or not. Three times while in transit I pulled over to ponder what to do. Of course, i ended up giving the morning a try. I donned on my camo rain gear and up the hill I went. This was a different area to hunt.

As I moved up a hill I noticed the winds picking up. I must be nuts! On a went.

I listened for any gobbling, but didn’t hear anything. Between wind and rain hearing wasn’t the easiest thing to do. I began a tour of calling and listening. I later saw a hen. My plan was to transverse along a ridge to the end calling in various spots. I reached the end of the point around eight o’clock and headed to the jeep. I was wet in some areas and damp in others and slightly chilled.

Mayapple growing through a leaf

 

Apple b;ossom

 

Coltsfoot going to seed

 

 

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Longbeard

I was looking into the stars when I decided to try shocking a gobbler. It worked! The time was five o’clock. The bird was about half-a-mile away and in the same area where he was roosted on the first day of the gobbler season. I quickly crossed the road and headed to a spring seep to try to get close. I clucked to hear the gobbler farther up the hollow of approximately 100-120 yards away. However, before I could make a move a hen started yelping and cutting directly above me. I was trying to decide on my next move when a loud thunderous gobble exploded near her. I couldn’t move now. I was in an area with a lot of hazel, but still open ranges of thirty-five yards or more, but bordering a rather open woodlands. trying to move there would risk being spotted. I set down to see what would happen.

The farther gobbler left the roost and began moving away. He quit calling when the closer gobbler along with others began moving. I soon called in a hen. the group worked along that open border eventually moving across the spring seep and going onto the other side. They were jakes, but that one bird sure sounds like a mature bird. Prior to seven A.M. I noticed the winds becoming agitated. This would make hearing and calling more difficult.

  I moved uphill to try to get the first gobbler to answer…no deal! I circled the hollow and had the jakes gobbling again until I tried to move to a better spot and was caught. I was heading back to the other side of the road when I heard a gobbler. he was on a gasoline. I tried to move on him, but by the time I reached the area he had, apparently, returned far enough away to not hear me. Also, the area he went into was heavily posted. This has happened other times to me. They walk the line and turn and walk the line back.

I crossed the road and began moving and listening. I heard a gobble. I realized where he was located and moved in close. Suddenly, I heard a loud noise as of metal slamming together and something like a car door. I had never called yet and the tom went quiet. What was going on? I soon went to see if another hunter had driven up a close gasoline road. Nobody was there, but I check some kind of metal door at the well and it had banged in the wind.

I searched an open area and saw a hen feeding. I began to make a circle in the area trying to stir up a gobbler.  I came upslope in an area with lots of

Spring Beauty

young maples and called. I moved higher and spotted three jakes feeding where a lot of low leafed-out plants were present. While standing I clucked loudly and called two in towards me. I am sure the third one was there, but I just didn’t see him. They eventually spotted something and stood and stared at me trying to figure out  I was. I walked towards the jeep  planning on quitting whenever I reached the vehicle.

While moving I would see two more turkeys. I got a photo of one longboard, shown above. One of the issues I have is sometimes wishing I had my camera in hand instead of the shotgun. Sometimes it is the opposite. That doesn’t matter to me at all. Either way the day is a success.

As Saturday, I heard a Barred Owl. I saw a number of deer, too.

 

 

 

 

Young ferns

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The first day of the 2020 Spring Gobbler Season was, indeed, an enjoyable morning afield. I hadn’t scouted at all the area I chose to hunt. I wasn’t sure of the amount of hunters I may encounter. Interestingly, I never heard  or saw a hunter and this was the first day.

The first gobble I heard occurred at 5:15 A.M. I know this for I struggled to view my watch in the darkness. I continued to go uphill and soon I was across a hollow from the gobbling bird. If this had not been the first day I would have moved closer to the bird, but I know sometimes another hunter who I have met on several times hunts the top of the hill.

After some time additional gobbling occurred near the first gobbler. I could hear other gobblers very far off in the distance.

Early sunshine and Spicebush density.

Eventually, I began moving towards the gobbler after he had left the roost. I moved cautiously knowing if I heard what might be a hunter’s calls, I would reverse the movement.  As I moved I quickly realized the gobbler was moving uphill towards the flat area. Much of this woodland area has Spicebush  growing  making for some dense cover, however, once one begins upslope the woods become much more open. I could see the rim of the flat and decided to call and see what the turkey would do next. Moving closer could end up with those unfortunate meetings. The tom loved my calling and was gobbling a lot. Suddenly, off to my left and hidden by the Spicebush density was explosive gobbling and close! Now I had a dilemma: where should I concentrate my viewing. I worked the eyes under the face mask.

The gobbling included young birds for sure, but one seemed very loud and deep. The bird above me was still gobbling well. In front of me and to my

Early Dogwood blossom

left I saw movements of turkeys. WOW, all five gobblers were Jakes or first year gobblers.  They worked uphill and, as soon as they, maneuvered up and over the hill’s top the other gobbler fell quiet. My theory is these five gobblers  may have been bossing the single two-year old bird around causing him to shrink away into the distant woods.

I worked to the top to try to stir up the single bird, but had the jakes gobbling again. Shortly, I could see the fan with the longer tail feathers.  I enjoyed the show, but  quit calling and they drifted out-of-site. I moved again and in time they five birds came in again. No adult birds! I decided to walk away and see if I could stir another bird at another area. I did find a few morels on the walk.

I carried some Ramp stalks and a few Virginia Bluebells with me and I planted these eat some varying lace hoping they survive, thrive and spread in future years.

Rabbit

Getting back to the hunt… I crossed the road and circled the hill not hearing any gobbling. Just before ten o’clock I called prior to entering a field. In seconds a hen appeared and took off on a run. I stepped ahead to see a nice longbearded gobbler. He had little concern for that blob at the field’s edge as he turned and followed the hen. As I was heading to go I saw two more jakes with a hen.

I called it a day for I needed to go to my mother’s and mow a steep a bank and trim.

I saw a total of nine deer, two squirrels, two rabbits and ten turkeys.

 

 

 

 

 

Morels

 

Virginia Bluebells

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