June 2010
Happy Hunting Ground

Happy Hunting Ground

At this writing, turkey season has been over for about two weeks and now the long wait until next spring has come. I promised you a report on the big, old boss-gobbler I intended to take this year, but alas, no turkey. This was one of those years I didn’t even get to make sure my shot gun would fire. Yep, never pulled a trigger. I got to look down that long 12-gauge barrel, but never got a bird close enough to "take a poke at," as they say.

I ended up spending the last three weeks of my turkey hunting in a secret spot in Butler County, in a place that at first glance would be called a "honey hole." It was a good-sized piece of land with a good population of turkeys that are hardly ever hunted. It’s way back in the woods and you wouldn’t even know it was there even after you went through the three gates required to reach it.

My first morning there, I arrived well before daylight and went to a spot I thought would be promising. As the sun began to creep up, all was quiet and I began to wonder why I woke up at three thirty that morning. Off in the distance, the first crow of the day welcomed the sun in all its glory. No sooner had the crow’s call died away when the first gobbler of the morning sounded off. At that point I figured it was all over but putting him in the frying pan. If I had had to choose a spot to set up and then decide where I wanted that turkey to be on the roost, I couldn’t have chosen better. He was about 60 yards away and I was in a spot where he couldn’t see me. As the sun rose higher, he gobbled more and more. As I yelped at him, he gobbled even more. I had my gun up and was ready, looking for that blood-red head to pop up out of the grass when suddenly I heard him fly down in the opposite direction. Knowing there was a decent-sized flock of hens in that direction, I did not panic.

I told myself patience kills more turkeys than anything.

I heard him gobble down in the hardwood bottom and I decided when that flock of hens came out of the woods, he would be somewhere in the mix and I would send him into the afterlife. I eased out of my hiding spot, got all my gear together and stepped out of the brush. It was getting a little lighter and as I looked in the direction I wanted to go, there stood another human being! It turns out it was a hunter who was hunting an adjoining piece of property and some how crossed the land line and didn’t know it. I hustled him off of the place and figured that not only had he bumped that turkey out of the tree, but the morning’s hunt was blown.

As I walked out, not trying to make a big fuss because I knew I’d be back, I heard that bird again. I decided to set up again as there was still plenty of early morning left.

I tucked myself up between two old round bales of hay and waited and called every so often. Once in a while he would gobble back, but not very enthusiastically. I heard a rush of wings over my head and right in front of me, not ten yards away a young hen settled in and started looking for the companion she had heard from her tree. I really enjoyed watching her up-close for about half-an-hour and she finally gave up and left to find herself a boyfriend and I went on to work.

I felt pretty good because I had just-about convinced myself I had lost whatever little calling ability I ever had (and I think the jury still may be out on that one anyway), but I had managed to call not only that hen, but two others on previous trips and I kept telling myself what other turkey hunters had told me, if you can call hens, you can call a tom.

I had no idea how this particular day would affect the remaining three weeks of the season. I went back time after time only to come home empty-handed. The second morning, I set up in a different spot and had at one time five strutting gobblers in the field and two more gobbling in the woods.

My shot gun has an incredible pattern and I have killed turkeys stone-dead at 40 to 43 yards (and I have witnesses, thank you). Somebody must have told that to these birds because they always stayed about 55 yards out. I snuck and crawled like I was an Army commando, never bumped the birds, but never got close enough for a shot. I came home with scratches and cuts from wiggling through briars and dewberry vines, and I am still pulling thorns out of my body. I had nearly all of my blood drained by "no see ums."

I had a great time.

They say turkeys are not very intelligent; they are just scared of everything. Somebody forgot to tell this bunch of toms they were supposed to be stupid. It finally came down to consistently seeing four gobblers together. They roosted close to one another, they flew down together, they moved together and never left each other’s side. There was always two of the four, which I guess were the dominant birds, that did all of the strutting and the other two would station themselves on either side and do nothing but watch. If they had had little microphones and sunglasses like Secret Service Agents, I wouldn’t have been surprised. The way they watched out for those two big gobblers, I have expected a black limo to drive out and pick them up when it came time to roost. If they saw something they didn’t like, they just kind of herded the two older birds off to another spot and the old guys never stopped strutting their stuff. Do turkeys have "designated drivers"?

When the end of April arrived, although I had seen a lot of these guys, I never got close enough for a shot. I like to think two things: I learned a great deal about hunting turkeys (which I doubt) and those birds will be there next year — bigger and older, and maybe those two "security guards" will be a little addled by the ladies and make a mistake.

Besides, what do you expect from me? I’m a turkey hunter, by golly!

Ralph Ricks is the manager of Quality Cooperative, Inc. in Greenville.