Opening day! Got to a spot on the Maryland/Delaware line in an area that is approximately 1/3 wetlands, 1/3 managed timber (loblolly) and 1/3 active cropland. Very flat, wet, and tick-infested (4 known bites so far). Perfect for turkeys! The forest is young oak-pine, with an understory of pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), Briar (Smilax spp), American Holly, and Highbush Blueberry. All indicators of acid soils.....all indicators of good habitats for forest birds like turkeys. I saw or heard warblers, wrens, pee-wee, ovenbird, and our 3 major woodpeckers. And turkeys.
In fact, I had been to this farm several times, and actually watched the turkeys move. Someone has harvested a trophy gobbler on opening day for the last 3 years, on this very farm. This is as safe as a bet as you can get....for a legal, fair, and ethical hunt.
But yet, I never fired a shot. Why? Outsmarted. By turkeys.
When I was walking through the cornfield before dawn, I heard two gobblers calling back and forth. Since turkeys rarely if ever come off of their roost before dawn, I assumed they were on the roost, and out of sight of yours truly. What I now know is that they HAD left the roost, and were on the ground below it, in plain sight of my devious activities. I quickly set up my 2 decoys and hunkered down against an old stump, listening to the cackling of 3 gobblers with 3 different flocks! I called back, which got my target gobbler on the move toward me (from my front). His voice got louder and louder as he (with his hens) drew closer to my setup. My plan was to hijack their feeding pattern and surprise the Old Boy on his way to International House of Acorns. He should have been walking directly at me the whole time. He seemed to be drifting.
(I was set up in the purple circle, about 15' back in an oak and blueberry thicket, facing NE)
Suddenly, he gobbled from about 100 yards to the right of me, still in the woods! I was a little surprised, but I was sure I could work him back out. I called and called, and he called back, and after another 30 minutes, he was behind me. Nothing about my location or setup favored that approach, but I stuck with it. 10 minutes later, for the first time, the call was more faint. The curious gobbler had barely bypassed my setup, just a little too alarmed that something was suspicious about it all (if he only knew!).
The gobblers on the other roost vacated the area as well, and after awhile I could not even hear the hens clucking. Sat around for another 90 minutes hoping for something dramatic to happen, but it was all for naught. Packed up, changed my clothes, and went to work....only to get a call from the farmer 20 minutes later to tell me that the turkeys were feeding in the spot where I had my decoys set up this morning.
I am going to harvest at least one gobbler this spring. Mark my word!
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