Michael A. Sawyers
They’ve started, you know. The gobbler seasons.
Well, actually, one has, that being Maryland, and two will, one in West Virginia tomorrow and then another in Pennsylvania soon after that.
That being said, I can close my eyes and already feel the physical and mental swirl that is brought on by extended and intense spring gobbler hunting.
Spring gobbler hunting isn’t a bath in a washtub, it’s a total immersion, not an avocation, but a profession, though one in which the pay doesn’t come as filthy lucre, but in the form of memories, filled-out tags and goose bumps.
The memories play tricks. There is the expansive memory of the season that usually begins before the trees are leaved and then creeps forward like a day-old poult, eventually bringing down the curtain about the time high school seniors are agog about their approaching trips to the beach.
Phooey on the beach. Life is a mountain. The best life is on a mountain where turkeys gobble.
Within that seasonal memory are nuggets that bang into the consciousness like pop-up windows on a computer screen or an old MTV video.
POP: The 20-pound gobbler that you bagged in late April.
POP: The sow and cubs that you first thought were four gobbler fans when you saw their backs coming up from the hollow to your left.
POP: A shot a ridge away and then a text message from your buddy. “Killed a big one.”
POP, POP, POP: The coyote howling in the distance, the scarlet tanager that landed on a branch three feet away and the cell phone you used to check in your Maryland gobbler while seated beside it on a remote ridge where it last flopped.
These mental swirls and pops are from only one season. Stack season upon season, swirl upon swirl, tag upon tag and beard upon beard and you become a veteran.
Mossy Oak has a spring camouflage pattern the company calls Obsession. Perfect. Take that, Calvin Klein. I’ve got your powerfully masculine and sensual right here.
One of my favorite Tweeterists, that being Cloyd Rivers, has it right, in my opinion, when he Tweets something such as “Camo makes the ladies swoon.” I cleaned that up a little. Actually, I cleaned it up a good bit.
“Merica,” right Cloyd?
When you kill a gobbler you have a little bit of meat and a lot of feathers. The dead turkey is necessary, though, so that every thing else that led up to it can be appreciated, recounted and embedded in the cerebral cortex of a gobbler hunter.
I’m grateful that most people take time off work for deer hunting instead of for spring gobbler hunting. That means the yelps, purrs and cutts that I hear are likely coming from a real hen rather than from another person in the woods whose intentions mirror mine.
Sorry. Spring gobbler hunting is not a social event, at least not until shooting hours have come to an end for the day.
Not really sorry.
Many of the trail-worn gobbler hunters I have known don’t even reach for the shotgun until the season is at least a few days or a week old. “Have to let the amateurs get out of the woods,” they say.
And they do. Get out of the woods, that is. Many public lands in Almost Maryland become under-hunted or not-hunted two weeks into the five-week season. There is a flurry, of course, at the very end when the season is set to expire.
A hunter, whose calling sounds as objectionable to a gobbler in April as a Snoop Dogg rap song, because numerous hens are available, becomes a woodland Frank Sinatra to those same gobblers in May when their girlfriends have mostly gone to nest. Apparently all callers sound good at closing time; a 2 at 10 and a 10 at 2 if you get my drift.
Croon, swoon and boom.
I have an app for spring gobbler hunting. It’s called a Beretta Model 390 and it is that shotgun to which the majority of my 34 spring gobblers have fallen. The first, however, was struck by pellets projected by an old Ithaca Model 37, 30-inch barrel and all.
It took much tinkering and some cost (modern shotgun shells are pricey), but I figured out the two best chokes and loads for the Beretta.
Using a Hasting choke sized at .682, the shotgun throws a nasty pattern using Hevi 13 and the shot size doesn’t matter. When I use a Primos Tightwad choke with an opening of .655, the Hevi 13 pattern is horrible, but the pattern with Remington Nitro, usually No. 5 shot, is one no turkey head could survive.
I’m going to miss Beretta when the company eventually moves from Maryland because of restrictive firearm laws passed this year in the General Assembly. I guess the respected company will also take with it its 400 employees and the millions in state taxes it paid.
I had one four-gobbler spring; two birds north of the North Branch of the Potomac River and two south of it. That was 2007. I hunted nine days, heard gobblers on eight days, saw gobblers on seven days and also missed a gobbler. Wow.
I am so used to hunting 21 to 25 days each spring that my success was bittersweet. I was glad to have filled out four tags, but sad to have hunted only nine days. The W.Va. birds bit dust on May 6, 7 and the Md. Toms got tagged on May 14, 15. I thought briefly about buying a Pennsylvania license, but then slapped myself and went fishing.
Some hunters don’t like to be in the woods unless the birds are gobbling. As long as I know gobblers are using a certain landscape, I could not care less if they are vocal. In fact, I enjoy bagging gobblers that are silent or mostly so.
There would be a lot fewer notches on my shotgun if I insisted that I would not pull the trigger unless a bird gobbled and strutted into shooting range because of my calling.
In fact, I think my most memorable hunts have been those in which I figured out a bird’s pattern and scored by setting up in the right place, sans calling.
So here we are, at the threshold of gobbler season circa 2013. To those of you with whom I share this passion, may a gobbler never sneak in on your non-shooting side or when your pants are down or both. To those of you who are considering participation, I encourage you to give it a try ... on some other mountain, of course.
Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column will return on May 19.