Cumberland Times-News

Columns

March 8, 2014

Gobbler stuff can get crazy

(Continued)

The walking bird

The first gobbler I ever killed was dropped about 30 minutes after I missed the first gobbler at which I ever shot.

This incident, too, was on Pond Hill. It was opening day of the 1988 season, misty and cool. I walked relatively silently along an old logging road and as the sky lightened I made a couple yelps on a slate call.

Whammo! Not more than 20 yards from me, roosted in a tree from which I was obscured by heavy pines, a gobble made me jump. I didn’t know what to do so I sat down in the middle of the road and waited.

The gobbler flew down straight away from me and immediately turned and started walking back toward me. I was so excited that I shot too far and missed.

In fact, I missed three times, continuing to shoot at the bird as it flew.

Sure that I must have at least struck the bird, I began doing a grid search through the woods. The subsurface leaves were still dry and I was making quite a racket. This went on for a good long time and then I heard a gobble very close.

A bird with 1.25-inch spurs walked right to me and I shot it. I’m convinced the gobbler heard me and thought I was another turkey walking through the leaves.

Heavyweight bout

My first gobbler of 20 pounds or more came in 1990 from Hampshire County, W.Va., on property owned by the late Jay Kidwell.

I had called this bird toward me in 1988 and again in 1999, but didn’t get to pull the trigger. The first time, hens with him got a bit fidgety and he refused to come around the corner of the hill that was well within shotgun range.

The second time, I watched him strut on the other side of a downed tree. He was coming to my calls, but when he cleared that tree he flew out of there like he was launched from a trampoline. I have no idea what spooked him.

The day I got the gobbler I was running late and not sure that I could wade the Little Cacapon River, climb the big power line right of way and slip into the woods before flydown time.

But I got there just as the May morning was beginning to brighten.

I used an owl hooter and the big boy went crazy in a not-too-distant tree. So I got positioned and yelped.

That really set him off. After the first bunch of gobbles the next one was muffled so I knew he had flown down.

Soon I could see his flashbulb head moving behind a fallen log. When he displayed his tail fan, his head would disappear. For a while I watched a fan-head-fan-head-fan-head show.

The only thing I can do with a mouth call is cluck. So I clucked and that was enough.

The gobbler cleared the tree and turned toward me. My father’s Winchester Model 50 is a tight shooting old squirrel gun, but on this day it sent #4 shot at a gobbler and it was tag time.

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