Turkey Woods Incentives
The first 3am morning always goes well. The gear has been pulled out ahead of time and the excitement of the first hunt of the spring provides enough momentum to push through the sleep-deprived muddle. The woods are still dark with night when you arrive but birds are awake and everywhere. The most prominent, at least to me, is the wood thrush. Nothing else sounds like it. Its song is delicate, sonorous and intricate. Listening to it while watching the woods shift from darkness to light, the bright green of new leaves waking up to the morning is almost enough to make one believe in hidden realms and that magic is real.
Most of this goes away by the fifth morning, the third if they are consecutive. By that time a sleep deficit has accrued and the desire to shoot a turkey has difficulty competing with the comfort of a warm bed and a leisurely morning. I also have a terrible time sitting on the ground for long periods, even with the aid of a seat pad. My legs tend to go numb unless I shift periodically. If the hunting action is slow, sitting still and staying in the woods is even harder to do.
That’s how the first few weeks of the season have been this year. I hadn’t seen or heard any turkeys in my primary hunting spot, nor had I seen any evidence of them. I tried another spot and saw a lone hen, but no evidence of turkey activity other than that. My enthusiasm was rapidly waning. But, on a Saturday morning, I went out to hunt my usual spot anyway. I didn’t really want to, but I had promised the land owner I would dig her some wild leeks. Given the weather I wasn’t sure how much longer they’d be around, so I figured I better get while the getting was still good.
I got a late start that morning and arrived right at shooting light. I wandered around for a bit, calling occasionally. At 6:25 I heard a gobble way up the mountain. I moved up slope and grabbed the best tree I could find. A short while later I hit the call. No response. A few minutes later I saw movement way up the mountain. It was turkeys. As they got closer I could see red heads. They moved behind a fold in the terrain and were out of sight for several minutes. As seems to happen all to often, they popped back into view 30 yards away with no cover in between. There were 5 or 6 of them, all jakes, and there was no way for me to shoulder my gun. They stopped 15 yards away and gobbled in unison, trying to figure out what had become of the hen they heard. They began to shuffle off, still in range. I thought they were all behind cover when I made my move to shoulder the gun. Unfortunately one of them saw me and spooked, in turn spooking the rest. I tried calling them back in but they were having none of it. A few moments after I lost sight of them I gathered up my gear and headed for a patch of leeks.
I walked out of the woods that morning with a sack full of leeks and renewed incentive to hunt. An acquaintance of mine likes to say “you can’t hunt what isn’t there.” Now I know that the turkeys are there.