Each spring gobbler season has a different branding iron, it seems.
What I take away from the recent seasons in Maryland and West Virginia is that a lot of Tom turkeys have forgotten how to gobble. There are hunting companions of mine who claim my level of hearing is the culprit, not silent birds. But, I’ve been told by enough hunters this spring that their experiences were similar, so I know it wasn’t just me. I hunted 24 days, 17 in Maryland and 7 in West Virginia. I heard the mating call of the male wild turkey on only five of those days.
Sure, I wish the turkeys would have gobbled more or that I would have heard more of them, but as long as I know there are turkeys in the same ZIP code as me the lack of noise isn’t really a concern.
Since I have quit running and gunning for gobblers and started sitting and waiting in portable or permanent ground blinds, my success has improved substantially.
One of the things I like about gobblers as compared to bucks is that the birds pretty much move throughout the day. In fact, late morning can often be better than early morning, which is not often the case with deer.
Gobblers may be hooked up with hens right after dawn, but after that frivolity is completed the Toms start prowling the woods. They aren’t frantic, as are bucks during the rut, but they are persistent.
Maybe you haven’t heard a turkey sound all morning, but you send out a little yelp or purr or even some cutts about 10:15 a.m. and, holy mackerel, one gobbles. Or, one simply shows up without making a peep.
If a person only has a few days to hunt, I would recommend running and gunning. But if you have a lot of time I find it better to wait for the gobblers, eventually they will come your way. I have tagged a number of birds a day or four after first seeing them, including one of the three I got this year.
I figure if I have seen a longbeard at 9:30 a.m. walking a bit out of range, but he won’t come to the light calling I’m doing, that the big boy will be in or near that location sometime in the near future, perhaps even the next day.
This tactic is more difficult to pull off, however, on lands where hunting pressure is heavy.
When my Maryland season ended on May 17, the gobblers were starting to become more active than during the early season, likely because a good number of hens were on nests and the Toms were still in a playful mood.
I’m wondering if a detailed, day-by-day examination of the harvest numbers will show an upswing during the latter part of the hunt. But then there are so many other factors to consider. Was the hunting pressure down during the last week? Probably.
As we have said often in this column and on this page, wildlife management is not an exact science.
I know this, when I went onto the mountain on the afternoon of the last day to take down a portable blind, two gobblers were yakking it up pretty good. One was pretty close to me so I sat down, wearing street clothes, and raked the leaves with my walking stick.
When the bird shut up I figured he was on his way and in about three minutes there he was, a boss of a gobbler and only 30 yards away looking for the hen that had scratched the leaves.
I put the walking stick to my shoulder as if it were a shotgun, quietly said “boom” and watched the longbeard walk up the mountain.
In fewer than 11 months we’ll do it again. Thank God we are country boys (and girls).
Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at email@example.com.