Just about the time I think I’ve figured turkeys out, one or two or three do something that either amazes me or leaves me dumbfounded — or both.
The season that is about to end provided perfect examples.
The last week of March, I spent a morning hunting in Orangeburg County with a fishing-guide buddy, Rob Bennett of Charleston. In the space of two hours, I saw how smart and how dumb turkey gobblers can be.
We slipped up on what we thought were at least two gobblers on the roost in a stand of pines, eased out and set up at what we thought was a decent distance and listened to them gobble a dozen or so times — every time Rob yelped, in fact. Finally, at about 7:30, one by one, they pitched down in the opposite direction, three of them.
Had we spooked them? Had they spotted us? We were about 75 yards from their roost; we thought we were about 100 yards away, but apparently, the first time or two we heard them gobble, they must have been facing the opposite direction.
Once they left, we slipped out to an old woods road and tried to outflank them in the direction they were headed. At 8:20, five hens that were roosted next to the road in the pines all flushed from the trees within 20 yards of the road. What were they doing still on the roost at 8:20? Your guess is as good as mine, but it proved those gobblers were pretty smart. Even though we were close by, on the ground, plaintively calling, they flew down in the direction where they knew their hens had roosted.
About 90 minutes later, we wound through the woods to a big field where Rob had killed a bird a week earlier. We stopped just inside the woods line, pulled out the binoculars and scanned the field. At the far end, 300 yards distant, were a handful of turkeys. My guess was one big gobbler, one smaller gobbler that might have been a jake and three or four hens.
We set up one row of trees back in the woods, about 75 yards off the corner of the field. The binoculars revealed that the turkeys were moving in our direction before Rob scratched out the first yelp on his glass call. A few minutes later, I could see one of the gobblers about 10 yards off the woods line. To my amazement, he left the hens and began to gallop in our direction — and “gallop” is not an understatement. He stopped 40 yards out, lifted his head to show his long beard: the last thing he did before the copper-plated No. 4s arrived. Why did he leave hens in an open, big, safe field to come investigate some shameless hussy he couldn’t see? Maybe once in a while, one is just stupid.
We won’t even discuss the two Rob killed the next day when he stumbled onto them while they were trying to chest-bump another gobbler through an 8-foot tall, chain-link fence that’s part of his property line. Now that’s stupid. Of course, the next one we meet will be too smart for either of us.