Turkey Hunting Day Three: Rain, Wind & Cold

This morning I trekked to the woods as the lone hunter in my group.   Both of my partners had work commitments that would prevent them from doing any hunting on this particular day.   And lucky them!   It was a dismal, dreary day full of discomfort for both the turkey and for the turkey hunters.   Actually, the early morning was not too bad with temps in the low 50s and at least the walk to my blind was dry.   But that didn’t last for long.   The rain came shortly thereafter and it actually got colder as the day grew on.

If you read yesterday’s blog you will know that I was commiserating over the possible loss of my lone tom yesterday morning possibly shot by some other lucky hunter.   Here’s the good news…I heard the ol’ boy gobbling up a storm from the same roost tree during most of my walk into the woods this morning.   This created a little extra bounce in my step as I grew anxious to get situated in my blind.

Early on today the winds were fairly moderate and then even when the rain started it was very light through most of the morning.   As I watched a pair of wood ducks wingin’ up the river I thought about how this day was much better suited for being a duck hunter rather than a wannabe turkey slayer.   Still, the confines of a nice fully-enclosed blind with a roof made the stay in the woods fairly comfortable, all considering.

At 6:42am. I heard my first shot coming once again from the next valley over to the east.   I was already working a gobbler that sounded like he was struttin’ in a field on top of a hill about 400 yards away to my south.   The sounds of the gunfire did not deter my bird thankfully…he just kept responding to my calls but seemed otherwise apathetic toward closing the distance between us.   Some turkey pundits have might encourage that at this time it would have been prudent strategy for me to then mover closer to this tom, and I cannot argue with that logic.   However, on a day filled with miserable weather I kept convincing myself that sitting stationary in my weatherproof blind was good back-up plan.   Besides, if you’ve ever hunted from a blind it can spoil you just a bit as it allows much more freedom of movement.

By 8:00am this morning both the wind and the rain picked up noticeably…and with the increasingly inclement weather the gobbling all but ceased in turkey valley.   Then again, hearing the continuous patter of rain on the roof of the blind was about all I could hear during most of this time.   Still, I hung in there thinking that as long as I am out in the woods things can still happen.

Then at about 8:25am I caught a glimpse way out in the field of a moving object.   I brought the binoculars up and soon discovered it was my tom moving off the hillside and across the field being overlooked by my blind.   I let out some yelps and it seemingly didn’t phase him.   Without as much as even a courtesy gobble he walked into the woods down by the river.   I then re-positioned myself inside the blind thinking that maybe if he walks up the river from 150 yards away I could get an ambush shot on my backside, if nothing else.   No more than 20 minutes later…I saw this same dark blob of turkey moving back across the field in the very same path he took to get there.

I quickly reached for my mouth call and let out some moderately loud yelps.   No response.   I did it again…and noticed that he didn’t even look up the field at where my decoys were positioned.   He was almost out of sight so I let out an excited “cackle” that created absolutely no interest from him whatsoever.

I sat there in the blind thinking that maybe it was time to call it a day.   Besides, on a rainy day like this there was plenty I could do back at home.   I started to secure all my equipment in my vest…re-case my gun…and zip shut all the windows in the blind.   I was then reaching down to pull open the zipper on the blind to exit when all of a sudden I heard some distinctive “clucking.”   WOW!   I guess I caught something’s attention.   I peeked through an open slot in the window and there walking towards me was a hen about 10 yards away.   I pulled my camera from the case and attempted to get some pictures again…but on this day it was too dark with the heavy overcast skies…they just didn’t turn out without using a flash.

I watched the hen for another 15 minutes or so…then I grabbed my vest and gun to start the journey back home.   The rain continued all day and the wind actually picked up considerably with gusts nearing 30mph.   Not what you would call an ideal turkey day.   Even so, it was fun to be out in the woods seeing how things respond to the changing weather conditions.   It was also a relief to see and hear that my big tom was still alive and able to fool with me yet another day.

The forecast for tomorrow isn’t much better than today…but I’ll give it yet another try in the morning.   It might not be the ideal turkey hunting conditions as I would like to see them…but I do know one thing for sure.   Even though the weather turns bad the turkeys are still out in the woods…and if I am not out there, too, I stand absolutely zero chance of being successful.

2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Turkey Hunting Day Two: An Eerie Silence Befalls The Woods

When you’re successful and you bag a big tom turkey part of the satisfaction derived from that experience is realizing you “played the cards right that were dealt to you” in this strange hunting game.   On the other hand, when things don’t necessarily go your way in the turkey woods it sometimes leaves you wondering and playing the “what if” game instead.   Indeed, turkey hunting can offer either the sweet rewards of success or the bitterness of knowing you might have just missed a prime opportunity while you dwell on your regrets.

This morning when I entered the turkey woods by my side was my hunting pal, Mike.   It started out as another fine turkey hunting morning…with a few changes from yesterday.   Today the temps were about 10 degrees warmer…the winds were blowing about 10 to 15mph (yesterday was perfectly still) and the sun that shone all day yesterday never broke through the thick clouds today.   In fact, by mid-morning a gentle and persistent rain fell over the turkey woods that made the whole rest of the day quite gloomy by all accounts.

At first things sounded even more promising this morning than they did yesterday.   Yesterday I did not hear any gobbling until the big tom was already moving in on my location.   Today, in contrast, I was hearing gobbling likely from the roost long before sun-up.   My anticipation climaxed as I fully expected the events to unfold with this bird’s behavior acting the same today as in the past.   That’s where I am now perhaps regretting my mistake.   Should I have relied once again on luck directing this ol’ tom my way from his roost perched a good 1/4 mile down the ravine?   Or should I have aggressively started calling early on while this bird was still in the roost once legal shooting hours began?

My philosophy while turkey hunting has always been to let the birds fly down from the roost before doing any aggressive calling.   After today, however, that thinking might have to change as I think a hunter sitting another valley over might have out-smarted me.   What I suspect was happening was this early gobbling activity was as a result of another hunter’s calling…and when the bird flew-down it already had ideas on where it ultimately wanted to go.   Instead, I was waiting for it to fly-down and start struttin’ out in the field a good 350 yards away like it did yesterday.   Once a visual was had…I would then start directing its attention toward our decoy spread with my calling.

It must have been about 7:00am or so when the turkey woods fell silent from any detectable gobbling.   Then by 7:40am I heard a single gunshot blast from what sounded like the next valley over.   My heart sunk…and I soon realized that if that big turkey jumped down from the tree and decided to head east along a fence-line (rather than north toward me) this could spell big trouble.   It would also explain why his gobbling was no longer detectable by me.   The whole scenario started to make sense in my mind…perhaps his early gobbling was as a result of some other hunter who influenced his initial travel plans for the day.   Maybe had I started aggressively calling he might have chosen to come my way instead.   Could it be that my philosophy to error on the side of doing too little calling might have back-fired on me?

Of course, I may never know for certain…but these were some of the thoughts going through my mind as I sat there listening to a woods suddenly silent from most turkey sounds.   Oh, sure, we had the obligatory hens who clucked and purred their way through our decoys as they have done so the past two mornings…but no other signs (or sounds) of any male turkeys to be had today.   Silence in the turkey woods is a scary proposition for the hunter.

I firmly believe that on this small farm there has only been one resident tom prime for the taking.   That’s not to say other legal birds may not occasionally move through the area…but it was this very vocal bird on which I was hanging most of my hopes for achieving turkey hunting success.

Keep in mind my goal for this turkey season was not to just kill a nice bird, but also to do so on my own farm.   Had I wanted to seriously kill a turkey I have other prospective locations that might have increased my odds for success…but that was not my ultimate goal.

Tomorrow morning I will be back in the turkey woods trying to keep the faith and hopeful to hear lots more turkey noise than I heard today.   Perhaps the big boy eluded the spray of lead and is living to gobble yet another day.   Perhaps the sound of the gunfire I heard was at a turkey I didn’t even know existed and my longbeard fell silent only because he heard the report of a nearby gun.   I guess one can always hope for something positive.

When I walked to the woods today I figured the only competition I would have for the tom’s attention would be versus a slutty ol’ hen who might give my ol’ boy a little shot of tail and distract him from my calling.   Honestly, I never seriously expected to hear a gunshot or to have hunters in the adjacent woodland valley.   I was foolish not to make those assumptions and will not make the same mistake twice.   I’m just hoping that it’s not already too late.

Yes, today I left the woods with my dauber down wondering if perhaps some other lucky turkey hunter might not be walking home with my bird.   If this game of turkey hunting was so predictable then it wouldn’t be so challenging and so much fun.   While I share the excitement in what could be another hunter’s achievement…I silently mourn the possibility that this same person might have unwittingly dashed my dreams during this turkey hunting season.

2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.