I don't know about anybody else, but the beginning of my turkey season was different like I have never seen it. April along the Roanoke River has never been as quiet, or as cold, as it was the first two weeks of the 2016 Turkey Season. I've heard people say there was no change in the way the turkeys acted, and then I've seen the older gentlemen scratch their heads at the lack of activity either seen in the field or heard from the roost. I'll have to agree with the latter. With all that said, lets get onto the good part.
On April 22nd, I had the privilege of taking my Godfather, Brick, turkey hunting. He unsuccessfully tried last year to bag a big gobbler, and after coming very close, he was sure this year would be different. A beautiful morning with no wind came and went with only hens making noise in the woods. After some walking and calling, we struck up one lone gobble from a henned-up Tom that would prove no contest against live Suzies. After a little speckled perch/rock fishing, it started blowing a gale as the front moved in, sending everyone that negative feeling that tomorrow morning would also throw a shutout.
My Godbrother, Whit, and other friends joined us that evening for dinner. It was decided over fried perch and cold beverages that I would take Whit in the morning, and my much wiser and more experienced turkey mentor/cousin, Wayland, would take Brick.
The front had moved through, and the woods were silent once again. After a long wait and no more sticks to play with, the 'Call of Nature' ran us out of our first spot. With new vigor, Whit and I decided to make a break towards a new cut-over at the back of the field we were hunting.
After hearing a gobbler, we sat. We waited. Nothing doing. Walking again (now 700-800 yards from our initial setup), a serious of loud, sharp cutting with a Flextone 'Spur Collector' diaphragm roused three different gobbles from three different Toms in three very different directions. North, East, and South to be specific.
'What do you think we should do?' he said.
'Hell, if I know. Lets just sit right here and see what happens.'
Fortunately, we made the right decision. The northern bird let us know every 5 or so minutes that he was on the way. Covered in wheat to his neck, his bright red head appeared in my binoculars about 150 yards away. He bobbed and weaved in and out of the wheat, looking for his soon-to-be mistress. Whit was ready with his 12 gauge just 20 yards down an old path connecting to the field, but the gobbler made us wait. With no decoys to hold his attention, the old Tom had us shaking like two little children afraid of the dark. Shaking so much that my striker accidentally hit my friction call, sending out two quick clucks. (I wouldn't be able to repeat it if I had too.....) He hammered back at my fortunate mistake with a bone-rattling gobble, and proceeded onward with his Death March until clearing the final tree that gave Whit a green light to send a hoard of #5's into his cranium.
With the bird down, only hollering and hugging could half-way satisfy the amount of happiness and thankfulness we had for such an awesome hunt. Can it get better? It sure can. We came to find out that Brick, Whit's father, had just killed his first gobbler at age 56...with a 12' beard!!! Both birds were trophies(numbers below), but to kill one with your father, or with your son, on the same day is more than special! Thank you, Lord, for another glorious day in the woods!
1 1/2' spurs
15-17 lbs. (est.)
1 1/4 & 1 1/2' spurs
18-20 lbs. (est.)
I travel a lot for work and as luck would have it, most of my traveling comes during turkey season. I missed all of last season while working in Turkey(Middle East). The irony was heart breaking. This year, thanks to my brother and his new bride, I was able to return from Argentina for two weeks starting Easter weekend through this Monday when I head to Tanzania. I have been fortunate to have some awesome hunts with my little cousin who had a bird at 40 yards but was hindered by a pesky pine tree, and of course, my friend, Stack, who bagged a nice bird on Easter Monday.
This morning, I was going to take my mother-in-law who wanted to see what all the rage was about with the sport we all love. Unfortunately, she wouldn't make it and I ventured out myself.
Two sausage dogs and a Dr. Pepper led me to a field where I harvested a nice bird 2 years ago. The wind was high in the trees and making it a little difficult to hear. Nonetheless, when those Toms gobbled in my direction, I thought for sure they were a mile away. I walked to them 100 yards and stepped into the woods on a small ridge up against a swamp. When they gobbled again, I was in their backyard.
Not more than 150 yards away, I set up two hen decoys and turned on the video camera attached to the barrel of my Beretta. They gobbled at everything but me. Soft yelps, some cutting a little later. Nothing. I heard a purr to my right and somehow a hen had snuck into my decoys. She was in a half strut walking circles around them, putting and purring as she carried on.
She left the scene and the boys took her out on a date when they hit the ground 100 yards away. I let them do all the talking until they were on the move. While trying to hold the camera/gun steady, I let out a few yelps with a diaphragm and got their attention. Here we go. I first saw them at 70 yards on the edge of the swamp, one in full strut and the other closing the distance.
At that point, I spit out my diaphragm into my face mask, hoping I wouldn't need it again. The lead Tom got to 35 yards, stopped and broke into a full strut. The back Tom moved up to 60 yards never coming out of his strut.
I waited for about 5 minutes and got some footage hoping they would break for the decoys, but they seemed mighty content with that hen amongst them. Not knowing what the next 5 or 10 minutes might have in store, I fired as his head reached out to take a peek. It was all over. One bird flew away, the other lay in the winter leaves.
It was an incredible hunt and hopefully the footage will turn out like I remember it.
I have one more hunt before Africa. I am taking my Dad in the morning in hopes of bagging his first gobbler. Wish us luck!
9 1/5' beard
My life-long friend, Stack Bell, originally from Windsor, NC but now lives in Carolina Beach, has never been much on hunting or fishing. He leaned more towards skateboarding uptown or surfing at the beach rather than tracking animals in the woods or chasing tails offshore. Last summer, he came with me offshore where he caught his first White Marlin. The Outdoor Game has been full throttle since then. I have always been a addict for turkey hunting and since he now has the fever, I asked if he would join me.
It was Easter Monday with a cool breeze and good fix on some birds. The first place we tried backed up to a swamp. I thought they would be roosted over the swamp. Sure enough, the closest gobbler was about 200 yards across the field over a little branch...where we had just walked past. We scurried back around the field underneath the dark canopy of the tall hardwoods and set out some decoys in the field maybe a hundred yards away from this bird. As soon as we were set, I caught my breathe and got ready to speak soft notes of love and temptation when 4 different hens started yelping, cutting, and cackling right underneath the bearded boss. I was optimistic but experience told me otherwise. A hen stayed in the field until 8:30 and shortly afterwards we picked up and headed to the truck.
We ran into my father-in-law who inquired of the morning and when all was said and done, asked us if we would go dump the rain gauge at the back of the farm.
With the rain gauge cleared and a couple other hens spooked, we had decided to check one more field before we parted ways.
Not 30 seconds after getting back in the truck, I slammed the brakes and got the binoculars. Before I got words out of my mouth, we were in reverse and on a mission. A nice Gobbler in the road about 300 hundred yards away and ALONE.
Luckily for us, he was using this small food plot beside the road as his strut zone. Even better, there was a small cut of trees about 20 yards wide that separated the the food plot from the field we were in.
The wind was blowing maybe 10-15 knts which gave us some room to sneak a little closer. As I forgot to mention, Stack had this allergy thing going on which caused him to cough most of the morning. When we sat down on this bird, he only had two HALL's cough drops left, so time was of the essence.
My first cadence was cut short by a thundering gobble. Ten minutes later, he asnwered again after just a few short yelps. After another ten minutes (and some periodic coughing), he answered once again to some louder cutting. We couldn't see the bird, but from his gobbles, we could tell he was out strutting, moving back and forth with no inclination of coming closer. I put the calls away and we waited.
After twenty minutes, he began to gobble. Every four minutes a gobble. They got quicker and quicker and started getting closer. I sent him a few soft yelps and some scratching in the leaves. He answered and was on the way. About five minutes later, his head showed up. Hesitant but eagerly looking for his ol' lady. Stack and I both saw him and he slowly raised his gun. I couldn't wait any longer and told him to take the shot. It seemed like an hour had gone by since I told him to shoot and when I saw that bird vanish to the ground.
Nobody said a word. We just sat there. Until we both burst with laughter. It'll be hard to top this one. One of my best friends slamming his first gobbler on his first turkey hunt. And I was there to be apart of it all!
Congratulations to my new hunting buddy, Stack Bell!
Best of luck to everyone this year! And if you can, take someone hunting whose never been. The reward is greater than you think!
Bertie County (Roanoke Low-lands)
11 1/4 beard