Feb 23, 2001
Welcome to my 2001 Spring Turkey Hunting Diary. The hunting season for me is still over a month away, but it's time to get some things in order. I've begun to renew my relationships with landowners and hunting friends. I've also started to check on several new spots that I have acquired to hunt. Now is also the time to purchase any licenses, especially non-resident. I always at this time of year either begin to scout new areas and review topography maps of the locations I can't visit. I have begun to look at my logs and review when the gobbling started, peeked, etc. It's this time of year that the anticipation drives me nuts. Why can't it just be here tomorrow!!
This season I will be hunting in Tennessee, Virginia, and maybe West Virginia. I may end up hunting somewhere else too, you never know! The TN season starts on March 31 and then VA comes in 2 weeks later, then 1 week later in WV. I will be making entries to my diary sporadically until the season opens, giving some information on scouting trips, listening trips, and sightings of birds. Once the season begins, unless I am out of town, I will try to make daily updates. I will not use real names or real places in my diary, other than my own name, to protect the innocent. :o) I hope this diary will be entertainment for some of you and maybe someone can even learn something. Entries to the diary will probably pickup about mid-March and continue on until the end of the season. Beginning in March I will start to give my gobbling reports and my thoughts on what the birds are doing. If anyone has any questions or comments please email me!
I look forward to sharing this season with you...
March 5, 2001
Heard my first bird of the year on Saturday AM. He gobbled 2 times at crows fighting a hawk and then 2 more times on his own. Been hearing more and more reports of birds gobbling especially on Saturday AM. This nasty weather might shut them up again for a few more days. People are reporting large flocks of birds with the several long-beards in each flock strutting for the hens. A few more weeks here and the hens should start looking for nesting areas and begin to separate. Gobbling should intensify throughout March and probably really get going around April 1st. It's time to start setting some dates for preseason scouting and getting out to locate gobbling birds before the season. Try to use those locator calls sparingly during the preseason so they will be more effective when it matters most! Saw several birds on a Sunday drive through our hunting area, including a few nice gobblers. I'll make note of these and check back for gobbling later on. More to come, it's getting exciting now...
March 16, 2001
The birds are starting to get going here in Bedford Co. now. I heard 6 birds yesterday morning. Went back to the same area this AM and only heard 1 bird gobble 1 time. Saw 2 big gobblers strutting for about 20 hens also yesterday morning. They were unhuntable birds on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I will intensify my scouting as the cool, wet whether gets out of here. Next week, whether permitting, I will start hitting it pretty hard in the mornings before work to locate birds. I am usually not satisfied unless I have about 15-20 different gobblers located by opening day. Lots of birds are being seen and most flocks are now including a strutting gobbler or 2. I will be heading to Tennessee to hunt starting March 31st for a couple days and my hunting buddy there is seeing and hearing birds as well. Only 2 more weeks! Go to the forum and post your gobbling reports!!!
March 22, 2001
The weather has been pretty cold and rainy for the last several days and I have not been out much. I have been seeing plenty of gobblers strutting for hens and heard of many others. Morning gobbling should be pretty regular now, weather permitting. I think you need to start hitting the areas that you plan to hunt and locate birds. The hens haven't started breaking up here yet, but it should happen in the next two weeks or so. Once that happens the gobbling will reach it's first peek. The hens made it through the winter very healthy after the successful mast crop so the breeding should be on schedule (In years hard on the turkeys (bad winters) sometimes the breeding is delayed). I'm getting excited about the opener in Tennessee in 8 days! I hope to have some good stories from our hunts down there. Just for a little information- I couldn't stand it any longer and found a great deal on a Remington 870 Super Magnum. I patterned the gun with a Star-Dot choke and Winchester HV 3-1/2" - 2 oz. of 5 shot. It patterns great! Almost too tight... I still have my Mossberg 835 and factory choke which I shoot Federal Premium 3-1/2" - 2.25 oz. of 4 shot. I definitely like the Remington better as far as feel and quality. Anyway, see you soon...
March 28, 2001
Wow! Seems like we should be talking a deer hunting instead of Spring gobblers with this cold weather. It's supposed to warm up some for the weekend and hopefully it will stay warm. It has but the clamps on the gobbling here but as it warms the gobbling with take off again. I saw a huge flock this AM with one strutting gobbler and another longbeard strutting about 100 yards away all by himself. That bird would be very vulnerable! I think rain is in the forecast for the next couple days so I won't be out listening unless the weather improves. This weekend would probably be a good time to get out and scout as it is supposed to warm up. A big flock of gobblers that I have been seeing all winter has broken up so the gobbling is going to take off soon... This will probably be my last report until after I return from hunting in TN this weekend. Wish us luck...
April 2, 2001
here's the scoop from TN. Saturday morning started out with the weather being
okay, cloudy and cool, but not raining. We heard a couple different birds on the
roost and setup on the closest. He gobbled sporadically but never answered a
call. He flew down and went quiet, never to be heard... We then took off for
another area on the mountain and struck a hot bird at 9:00. He answered my
buddies crow call and then gobbled regularly until someone else came in below us
and bumped the bird. That bird was hot and we felt confident when we setup that
we would kill this bird. He cut-off the first call that I made and then cut me
off again on my second. He gobbled once again on his own and then went quiet. I
thought he was on the way, but after about 20 minutes, no more gobbles and no
turkey! We then heard "hen" yelps, but I think they were another
hunter. Might have been a hen, but I felt that the gobbler, as hot as he was,
would have still given us a few courtesy gobbles after he met up with her. We
then worked further along the mountain and got 2 birds to gobble 1 time at a
crow call. We setup and carried on a conversation with the hens to no avail.
While coming off the mountain, we accidentally busted a flock of about 15-18
birds but could not identify any as longbeards. We then went to another location
for the rest of the evening and had 1 hunter come to our hen yelps, and then
later called in 2 hens. No more gobbles on Saturday. Sunday AM dawned NASTY! It
was raining with 20-30 MPH winds and we heard 1 bird gobble (we thought) about
2-3 times. We spent the morning setting up in likely areas and blind calling
with no luck. We spotted a few turkeys in some fields that we didn't have
permission to hunt, 1 field had 3 big strutters and several hens. We called it
quits at about 2:30 when the wind blew our decoys away. HAHA! Not really, but it
was really windy all day.
Not a good weekend weather wise, but we had a good time, good fellowship, and it was nice to be out in the woods. We are going to have at them again next weekend. Hopefully this warmer/nicer weather will get them going a little more for next weekend. Can't wait...
I heard 2 birds gobble this AM in Franklin Co. They only gobbled a few times. A friend reported that he heard a dozen birds gobbling on Sat. AM. I am not at liberty to discuss the location!!! HAHAHA! Warmer and nicer weather on the way for this week... :o)
April 9, 2001
down to TN this weekend again after hunting last weekend in terrible weather.
GOBBLENOW picked me up at my motel on Friday morning and went to an area that he
has taken birds in the past and had scouted some earlier in the year. We heard 2
birds gobbling fair at daylight and went in and setup on them. As we moved down
the ridge towards the birds we heard birds in the trees right around us and had
to just get to the ground because we did not want to spook the birds in the
roost trees. There were at least two big longbeards gobbling pretty hard in the
tree when we were set up and we thought they would walk in. There was a sizeable
flock of jakes that were carrying on something crazy. Once the birds got on the
ground ...we could hear birds walking around just out of sight and were in a
constant conversation with a hen on the ground that might have been with the
gobblers, we thought. About every 10 minutes a fight would break out just over
the hill from us. all of this went on for twenty minutes and we knew those two
birds wee going to just walk straight in eventually... finally it started to
quiet down and our morning problem identified herself. We could hear a hen heat
had crossed from the right side of the ridge, out front and out of sight, and in
a few minutes she walked straight in to GN side of the ridge and stood there for
a minutes and stared right through him at 10 feet, grumbled a little without
putting, and turned and walked back down the ridge...then on the hill behind her
we could see two huge longbeards. GN says they were as big as any he has seen in
Tenn., We were unable to locate these birds again after two other setups, and a
little hunter interference and left the area.
As we were leaving GN had a hunch to check out an area that he had got permission to hunt. We pulled in and proceeded to climb a very steep ridge. As we worked our way up to a corner of a greenfield GN spotted a gobbler strutting. We dropped to the ground and setup, but were unable to convince him to come our way. The birds are very henned-up right now! After trying to locate this bird a while longer we headed back down and long ridge and GN got a bird to gobble deep in the hollow below us, using a crow call. Using the crow call to "keep in touch", we setup on what we thought was 2 birds and worked them for about 45 minutes from the top of the ridge. We could only get a very occasional gobble back to any turkey hen call on this setup. After GN got them to gobble again at some sweet yelps from his slate and a Fred Cox purpleheart striker we thought we had the location pegged, and we moved closer. We hadn't been setup long when we got hens to start answering the clucks and purrs off the slates, very soft calling. Soon 3 hens came right around the ridge to check us out. After seeing no hen, they turned and went back the way they came. They just edged over the ridge, and I could still hear them in the leaves and GN was still calling softly on his slate. I had my gun pointed up the hill toward the scratching sounds when all of a sudden I hear Cluck-Cluck back where the hens came out. I then saw a hen and 2 big longbeards right behind her. As the first gobbler came out from behind a cedar he noticed something wasn't right and started a quick walk down the hill. I managed to get my gun around and make a good shot at about 25 yards. Down he went. GN had already told me to take whatever shot I got and not worry about the chance for a double, as those steep ridge set-ups do not offer much hunter cover. It was an incredible hunt and lasted about an hour and a half. I shot the bird at 3:00 in the afternoon. The bird was a true TN trophy at 23-1/2 lbs., 11-1/2" beard, and 1-7/16" spur. Thanks GN!
We hunted Saturday and Sunday and heard birds everyday, in fact we were on some birds (hens or gobblers) every time we stepped out of the truck in 7 different places, but they were totally henned-up. We climbed a lot of steep, steep mountains. GN could have taken a longbeard that we accidentally walked into on Saturday AM but chose not to. Later on Sat we just missed a flock of birds that moved around a high mountain green field and were gone when we arrived, so we went back there first thing on Sunday. On the way up there we had a long discussion about whether to use decoys as the field is small and both of us were concerned about spooking birds with decoys. We went ahead and put them out in the field. These were the same decoys GN had used on a southern states swing earlier and had killed birds over them so to some turkeys they must have looked ok. We had a great setup on a bird Sunday AM and believe it or not, when the lead hen spotted our decoys at about 15 yards she went ballistic, putted, and flew. She was petrified of the decoys! We fooled with that same gobbler for most of the morning, he would answer crow calls and not turkey calls, and had a band of bodyguard hens right with him until noon when we decided to call it off.
It was a great hunt and we had a wonderful time. I think the message that there are crow calls and then there are CROW calls cannot be overemphasized. Without the crow call to locate and keep tabs on the birds it would have never happened. I want to thank GN again for a great trip and putting that longbeard in my lap. This man truly knows his turkeys and I learned a lot. We hunted hard for 5 days, and the hunting was tough, but we managed to take a nice gobbler…
April 12, 2001
Okay folks... It's just around the corner. The birds have been gobbling good the last several days and I saw a longbeard strutting this AM without any hens. Opening day weather looks promising too. Everyone post your stories of success or failures on the Talk Forum. Hopefully I'll be posting almost daily reports starting next week. Let's all be careful and have fun...
Amy and I roosted 2 gobblers Friday night and Amy and I setup on them Saturday AM. They were a little further up the ridge and I had Amy positioned on my left and 1 gobbler stepped out on the flat on my right at 40 yards but Amy couldn't get her gun that far around. I could have taken a shot but the other bird was gobbling just over the ridge from us. I thought that bird might come up on the flat, but he had hens with him and they wandered off down the mountain. I had located another group of gobblers on the same property and we circled to setup on them in their favorite travel route. Unfortunately, someone was already working the birds (from a bad location) and we hadn't heard them calling until we setup about 70 yards from the birds. It was an uncomfortable situation and Amy and I backed out. We then went to another area and had to run off a trespasser. He evidentially had already spooked the birds as there were hens yelping and a few gobbles to get back together but we were unable to get in a good position to work them. Later in the AM we saw 4 longbeards and then Amy passed on 4 big jakes. All in all it was a good day with quite a bit of action although I was frustrated with the other hunters in the area. I love hunting weekdays!
My friend GOBBLENOW came in from TN to hunt with me Monday and Tuesday. Here is the story of that hunt according to him- "THE FAVOR REPAID"
"Earlier in the month , Freddy had come down to hunt with me in Tennessee and we had been fortunate to locate and take a big bird for him. Freddy had insisted that I come up to hunt with him in Virginia and I made the trip up to hunt on Monday and Tuesday. Freddy is a pretty special turkey hunting talent, for those who have not had the pleasure of knowing him. On Monday we went after a bird Freddy had located through extensive preseason scouting. In fact Freddy (without roosting the bird the night before) told me within 40 yards where the bird would be roosting in a beautiful oak flat in south central Virginia. Well before dawn, we were set up next to the same tree , waiting on the first gobble. Freddy said the bird would gobble at 6:08 am... actually it was 6:11. The bird then gobbled from the tree about ten times... we were listening for hens, and hearing none, we did a little hen-fly-down-routine, Freddy gave him a couple of encouragement yelps and we heard him fly down, about 100 yards below us. Then he went silent and we began to wonder a bit after he had not gobbled again in about 10 minutes....it was one of those sinking feelings where you know the bird should have appeared. We decided Freddy would do a short cackle, and when the last note from the five-six note cackle was still in Freddy's mouth, the bird gobbled just under the edge of the hill at about 40 yards...and he had friends trying to gobble with him...in a nano-second four heads appeared on the dim horizon as it was only 6:45 am. Seconds later the big boy found himself occupied with chasing three jakes away at once and trying to strut for the unseen lady at the same time. Somewhere in the middle of this balancing act, he ran his head up to look for the lady at about 35 yards from our tree. That is where he died at 6:47 am. It was over so quick it was hard to believe it had happened. 10 1/2 beard, inch and 1/8 blunt spurs. ..worn down wing tips, but only about a 16-17 pound bird... obviously an older bird past his prime. Great hunt, Freddy, and I thank you...as I said yesterday, I shot it, but you killed it."
Thanks GN for a wonderful hunt and a wonderful time!
This is me with GN's bird...
Later that same morning we struck a bird at about 10:30. We setup and called and couldn't get another response from the birds. We called for about 20 minutes knowing we were close to the birds. After the 20 minutes we were discussing our options and GN says "Don't Move!" Two big gobblers had snuck to within 25 yards and after not seeing the hen quickly disappeared over the ridge. They weren't spooked as we got them to gobble again. We'll get them next time...
Tuesday AM was clear and cool but a front was approaching fast. We heard a few birds with hens gobble on the roost and then shut-up. We decided to call it a day and GN headed back to TN and I to work. The wind picked up and it snowed on and off throughout the day. Wednesday AM it was COLD and WINDY so I caught up on some sleep. Hopefully the weather will be better for the end of the week.
Thursday AM was COLD! I setup on 2 birds that GN and I had fooled with a little on Tuesday AM but they were henned-up. Well, same results Thursday AM, they would answer my calls but went away with at least 7 or 8 hens. Those birds could be fun once the hens start setting. I came on in to work...
roosted a hard gobbling bird last night in a perfect location for a good setup
this AM. I went in early and set out 2 decoys, found a place to setup, and
waited. Way before light I could hear the bird spitting and drumming in the tree
at about 70 yards. Finally he gobbled and he never shut up... he was gobbling
his face off! I made a few soft tree calls and he hammered back at them. I
waited until he flew down and then gave him a loud yelp which he cut-off. He
then strutted into view at about 70 yards, worked his way down the hill toward
me, and that's where it started going bad. All of a sudden I hear another hunter
making some calls on a diaphragm (I have heard this guy before and I know it was
him) He had to know that I was setup on the bird and just kept sneaking closer
and closer to try and head the bird off or spook him off me on purpose. (Which
he has done in the past) I started to get worried that he was going to bump the
bird and ruin my chance. Meanwhile the bird is strutting back and forth at
probably 50 yards. The calling gets closer and the gobbler takes a couple steps
my direction and I rushed my shot. I walked it off at 46 steps but noticed
several shot taking out a few branches between me and the bird. It was early and
I couldn't see the limbs. The bird ran and flew away strong so I don't feel that
he was hurt at all, thank God. That's only the second turkey I've missed
in the last 6-7 years. :-(
I am becoming thoroughly disgusted with the hunter ethics I have seen this year already. I have had more hunts disturbed this year than ever and it's only been a week! What is wrong with these people?! I thought I would be alone today being a weekday, but I was wrong... ARGH!
I may not even hunt Saturday as the woods will be full of these yahoos!
April 21, 23
killed her first gobbler of the year Saturday. It was a nice jake but he acted
like the real thing. We went and hunted with a friend in the swamps of Eastern
VA. Saturday AM we heard a few birds gobbling on the roost, but none were really
lighting it up. We went to the closest bird and setup with Amy and I
side-by-side and my buddy behind us. We called for probably 1/2 hour and then my
buddy starting cutting really hard on a box and the bird answered him. He didn't
hear the bird over the calling but in just a few minutes I spotted the bird
about 125 yards out and working our way. Only problem was a large creek (30'
wide) between us and the bird! Turned out to be no problem as the bird didn't
miss a step and flew right across. I asked Amy if she wanted to take a jake, and
she said "Yea, I think I will take this one." Amy handled herself like
a pro as the gobbler was closing the distance, keeping her gun on him. As he got
to the 30 yard mark I told Amy to take him when she was ready. I had barely got
the words out of my mouth when the gun went off. Amy made a good shot and got to
her bird. He weighed 13-1/2 lbs., 4" beard. She was pretty tickled with her
first swamp gobbler! The funny part was that my buddy had no idea that the bird
was coming and we didn't have any way to let him know. He had put all his calls
up, stood up, and was ready to come to us when the gun went off. It was a great
hunt and we had a wonderful time.
Later that AM we spotted a big gobbler in a green field and circled to setup on him. As we were nearing our setup spot my buddy spotted a person sitting in the woods (not supposed to be there). He approached the man and was talking to him when a shot went off near the field edge. We then went after the shooter and he had missed. Neither person was supposed to be in there and my buddy was not real happy. Another hunt interfered with- :-(
We hunted the rest of the morning without much action.
Had a great hunt this AM (Monday), no bird, but a great hunt none the less... Worked a nice gobbler with 4 hens for over an hour and they were in sight most of the time. Had one hen at 20 yards but she couldn't drag the other 3 hens and the gobbler her way so she went back to join them. I had the flock at 50 yards several times but they just wouldn't commit to coming any closer to the wood line. They finally fed off to the opposite side of the field and I came to work. Enjoyable morning... (Finally no hunter interference!)
Tuesday AM we had an incredible hunt. 2 friends came to hunt with me and I roosted a bird Monday PM. We setup on the bird early and he began gobbling as if on cue. He gobbled fairly good and I gave him 2 soft tree yelps and waited. After good light and fly down time I gave a cackle and a wing to simulate the hen flying down and he gobbled at that. A few minutes later the bird flew down and started our way. I gave another series of yelps and began to purr and scratch in the leaves. I was about 40 yards behind my 2 friends and I saw one of them tense up and get down on his gun. In just a few seconds the gun went off and he had his first ever Spring Gobbler! I called up a nice longbeard for him on this same ridge last year that he missed. It was a nice bid- 18-1/2 lbs., 11-1/2" beard, and 1" spurs. It was an incredible hunt. This bird obviously didn't have any hens and it looks like that may start being the case, let's hope so.
Wednesday AM I hunted alone and worked a bird for 45 minutes that had several hens with him. Heard a few other birds gobble just a time or two. The gobbling has been really slow the last few days... Hopefully it will pick up as the cold front moves out on Thursday and Friday.
After the last couple days of very little gobbling I killed a nice one Thursday morning... Amy and I got in late last night and I needed an extra 45 minutes of sleep so I was planning on hunting behind our house. I was going to go after the bird I heard with hens yesterday AM. Started down the road a little late and heard 2 birds gobbling. The closest bird was gobbling sporadically and the other one was choking himself with his gobbles. I decided to go after the HOT bird and circled and setup in an area that Amy took a bird in '99. On the way in I flushed a hen off the roost and thought that might be a blessing. I setup within probably 125 yards and waited to make my first call. I gave a tree yelp which he didn't answer. He continued to gobble his face off and I waited until it was good light and fly down time. I made a very short cackle and a fly down with a wing. I made another fly down with the wing but no cackle. He gobbled but didn't really cover it up. The next time the bird gobbled he was on the ground and closer. I gave one series of yelps which he didn't answer. Next gobble was 50 yards out but out of site. About 30 seconds after that I heard a cluck and I answered that with a real soft yelp and cluck. Nothing happened for probably a minute and then I spotted him moving from my left to right about 50 yards out. He got to a spot and turned and marched right to me, but weaving in and out of some trees that blocked a good shot. He got to 20 yards and started to spit and drum behind a 3" diameter tree about 10 yards away. I could see him through the foliage and could easily hear him spitting and drumming. He gobbled twice right in my face from 20 yards. He stood and strutted and gobbled at 20 yards for about 2 minutes. Finally after not spotting the "hen" he turned to go back and stepped out from behind the tree and that's where he bit the dust. It was a great hunt! The bird was 20-1/2" lbs., 10-1/2" THICK beard, and 1" spurs. I have no doubt that the bird gobbled 100 times. Pictures coming soon... (As soon as I finish up the roll)
Well, after I killed a bird Thursday AM I offered to take my brother the next day on a farm near his house that he had been hearing a few birds. We started down the road to where we wanted to listen and ran into another vehicle. The landowner told us no one else would be hunting the place so we got the vehicle information and went to another spot. Not long after we got out of the truck I got a bird to gobble at a crow call and knew where he was probably headed. We made a big circle to try and beat the bird to a strutting area that I have killed birds in the past in. We got there and the bird gobbled just over the lip of the ridge. We setup and never heard anything from him again. We don't know whether we bumped him or he got with hens (a common problem this season!) We'll get him next time!
On Saturday the hunt that I gave away at our NWTF banquet took place. Marlena Driscoll and her father Preston were the winners of the hunt and Bret Rogers with Gobbler Run production came to film the hunt for their upcoming television show. Well, to make a long story short we chased 2 longbeards from 6:10 until 10:45. We saw turkeys, heard turkeys, and had an exciting hunt all morning. The video guys got some decent shots of the birds as we had them at 60-70 yards a couple of times. They were henned up really bad and just didn't want to play. I wish we could have got Marlena a bird but I think everyone had a good time and learned a little. I hope to do this again next year. I saved these particular gobblers for this hunt and had hoped they wouldn't have any hens... hens, hens, hens!
I had to be at work at a decent time on Monday AM and Amy and I made a short hunt at the house. We had a bird gobbling fairly well on the roost at about 100 yards and he shut up when he flew down. After about 5 minutes of no gobbling I spotted him strutting through the woods about 80 yards away but not really coming our direction. He went into a small field to our left and unknown to us at the time went to hens that we hadn't heard in the lower edge of the field. He never gobbled again on the ground and finally wandered off with the hens and Amy and I wandered off to work...
I just can't wait till the hens start setting! It might really get good! It's been pretty good so far but... VDGIF data shows that hens usually start setting on May 1st and that's tomorrow so hold on to your hat!
The month of May got off to a few birds gobbling, but not very enthusiastically. I heard several birds this AM but very little gobbling between them. Each bird would gobble a time or two and that was it. Got setup on the closest birds (2 together) but never heard them again.
Tuesday AM I got a pair of jakes to gobble a time or two but left them alone. Made 1 other bird gobble 1 time at a crow call and that was that. Heard another bird gobble 3 times but he was moving fast in the opposite direction. It looks like my birds have reached that lull period that some people were going through last week. Hopefully it will pickup again in a few days.
On the 3rd I took a friend of mine from Colorado and his father. We heard several birds gobbling at daylight and setup on the closest and best gobbling bird. We worked this bird until about 7:30 and had him at 70 yards at one time but he wouldn't come any closer. He did not like it at all when I gobbled on my tube, but still wouldn't come our way. We located another pair of birds on the way out of the mountain but I had to get to work.
On the 4th I hunted the same area as yesterday and heard 3 birds but didn't have time to chase any of them as I had to be at work on time. Just scouting mainly for Saturday with Amy.
On Sat. the 5th Amy and I heard a bird gobble when we stepped out of the truck. We had to get above him and took off up and around the mountain. We got setup within 150 yards and he cut off my fly-down cackle but that's when we heard at least 1 hen and 1 jake with him. We worked this bird to within 40 yards but he was just over the lip of the ridge and wouldn't leave the hen to come any closer. We tried to circle them and jumped a deer which went running and snorting through the turkeys... No more action after that, other than the cows chasing Amy, but that's another story!
Monday AM was a little breezy and I was mainly scouting for tomorrow mornings hunt. It wasn't a good sign as I only heard a couple of birds off the property I can hunt. Birds just aren't gobbling good here now and I know they are there. You would think with the hens starting to set that they would gobble a little better! We'll see...
Gobbling is non-existent where I'm hunting now! On Tuesday I did hear 2 birds gobble, 1 was a jake still in the tree at 7:30 and the other was off the property. They only gobbled a couple times. Reports from friends around the state say the same thing. The gobblers are still interested as I have seen 3 gobblers in full strut with hens the last 2 days. They seem to just have a case of lockjaw!
Wednesday AM was very unusual... It is the first time in many seasons that I did not hear a bird gobble anywhere! It was a little breezy and we had some light rain last night, but I heard nothing! I hope they might start gobbling a little better before the season goes out. I would at least like to hear one again! ;o)
Well, my birds seem to have shut down. I hunted with a friend in Bedford Co. on Thursday the 10th and we worked a nice longbeard that still had hens with him for several hours and my buddy actually got within 40-45 yards but the bird saw him trying to get in position for a shot.
Friday was pretty quiet with 1 bird gobbling on property I can't hunt. I was sick as a dog and didn't feel like chasing one anyway! ;o)
Saturday Amy and I heard a bird gobble a few times across the road from where we starting hunting. We hopped in the truck and drove across. We got out and I crowed and nothing... went up the mountain and crowed and nothing. I circled a little bowl up there and came out on a beautiful little patch of woods and told Amy we just needed to setup and blind call in there for a few minutes. I was clucking and purring with some really soft yelps and after about 5 minutes a big turkey flew off the roost (7:00 AM) 100 yards below us and landed within 60 yards just over the hill. I kept telling Amy to get her gun down the hill but she thought he was higher and wouldn't move. We could hear him walking in the leaves and dragging his wings. He popped his head up about 30 yards and I shifted a little. Amy didn't have her gun around and when he hopped up on a log at 30 steps I pulled the trigger and he flew away. I don't know what happened except that I was turned to my extreme right and may have pulled off left when I shot. Amy just wouldn't move her gun down the hill and I wasn't in the mindset to shoot until it was almost too late. Bird flew strong, but it stinks, can't believe I did that. Now, funny thing... The bird was in the tree 100 yards from where I parked my truck and Amy and I walked within 60 yards of him in the tree on the way up the mountain!!! But we made that circle above him and he just assumed we were gone I guess. (He never gobbled again) I know he saw us park and get out of the truck (I misjudged by one hollow where he was.) Amy and I saw 4 other longbeards in a field, and a gobbler with 2 hens about 1 mile up the road from our house. Life goes on...
Monday AM a friend of mine from NC came up to hunt. We heard 1 bird gobble a few times on another property and that was that. We did see 2 jakes in one group and 3 in another as we were prospecting for gobbles. The birds just are not gobbling and I am hearing that from just about everyone. Weird...
May 15, 16,17
On the 15th I heard 3 hens that I got into a very heated discussion with them expecting to rouse a gobble from a bird but it didn't happen. No gobbles this AM!
Wednesday morning I had an incredible hunt. I didn't tag a bird, but that is beside the point... I didn't really care! It was drizzling rain this AM so I setup on a field edge with several decoys and waited for light. At gobbling time I heard nothing so I just started calling softly. After a while I cranked it up a bit and got a response from another ridge field. I picked up my decoys and headed that way. Sure enough, I closed the distance and he gobbled again at another series of cutts. I knew where they were likely to head so I made a circle and setup on the field edge. I couldn't risk putting out a decoy (wish I could have!) and just setup on the field edge. After a few minutes sure enough I could see a big gobbler strutting, and another, and another, and another up the field edge at about 100 yards. Only 1 of the gobblers was strutting constantly with the others joining in on occasion. 4 longbeards... heading my way! I actually start trying to pick out the one with the longest beard (which wasn't the strutter) They are gobbling every minute or so and I am just yelping, clucking, and purring softly. All of a sudden another bird gobbles over my left shoulder out in the field. Immediately all 4 drop out of strut and look that way. Next gobble from the other bird is closer to them and they head in the woods about 80 yards from me. (Open woods and I can see them fine) They are just standing there stone still and then I see a BIG gobbler strutting right to them, and another, and another, and another! 4 BIG gobblers strutting toward the other 4. I thought "Oh Boy... here comes a BIG fight!" They started chasing each other in circles, and gobbling for a minute and then start a single file line and head my way on the run! The lead bird gets about 60 yards and veers back out into the field. I can see their heads and sometime their fans as they are running around in the field. The train never get closer than 50 yards and all of a sudden the lead bird takes flight and flys across a fence and all the way over to another ridge on someone else's property and the rest follow... Game Over for me! It was an exciting hunt and one I will never forget. Most of the time you don't even have to kill a bird to have a great hunt. How exciting can it get!
On Thursday I hunted in the rain with a friend for an hour or so. No gobbles this AM! After the incredible hunt yesterday we setup in the same field with no action whatsoever!
I hammered Friday AM in Franklin Co! I think it might be the same bird that I missed earlier in the year as he was roosted in the same place. Yesterday I setup on the same field edge with decoys and patiently waited and nothing happened. It was rainy and nasty again this AM but I was determined to go. I setup in the exact same spot as yesterday, put the decoys in the same place and waited. After decent light I just started throwing out some very soft yelps and clucks. I had decided that I was only going to call soft and easy. About 20 seconds after about my third yelp, a bird gobbled down in the hollow below the field. I was in between the bird and the field but he was a little further down the ridge. I decided not to call anymore at all as these birds have been hammered pretty hard. He gobbled once more on his own and then the wind picked up blowing the rain out of the trees and making a terrible racket. Evidently he didn't like that and flew down, because in just a few minutes after the wind gust I saw him through the woods at about 80 yards. He marched out into the field and then went out of site over a rise in the field. I shifted my gun between where I last saw him and the decoys. Next thing I know he pops up at 30 yards heading for the decoy, and not looking very happy about the jake breeding the hen. He went behind a large tree and I shifted my gun right at the decoy. He walks, feathers ruffled, right up to the jake and I shot him at 15 yards. He didn't even come close to flopping! It was a really nice bird! 21 lbs. (I thought very heavy for this late in the year), 10-3/4" beard, 1-1/8" spurs. I decided I was going to sit there until 6:45 because I had to get to work this AM and I shot the bird at 6:37. Pretty awesome hunt even though just 2 gobbles... I had out 3 decoys, 2 hens and a jake. That bird was not at all happy about that jake breeding the hen!
the bird and the setup... (The clump in between the decoys is the dead bird,
right where he fell)
May 19 (Last Day)
Not much happened on the last day. Amy and I heard I bird gobble 1 time off the property we could hunt. We setup in several likely spots and blind called for an hour or so at a time with no action. It was very foggy at first light, but turned out fairly pretty. We did spot a jake in a field but didn't go after him.
As they say on Loony Toons "That's all folks!"
My Season Summary...
I would have to say that to sum up the season in one word, it would be
"strange". The first 2 weeks of the season the birds were on fire and
coming to the calls. We (myself and friends I was calling for) took 5 birds and
missed another. It could have been better if not for several cases of hunter
interference. Then the next week was marginal at best with birds gobbling some
but shutting up on the ground. Then the last 2 weeks were ever so slow with
hardly any birds gobbling. We did manage to take 1 more birds and miss another
in the week. I have no explanation for the shut down in gobbling as I saw
gobblers with hens right up to the last day. The birds were there, just not
talking. In my 16 years chasing these critters I have never seen so little
gobbling the last 2 weeks of the season.
Here is some of the data from the VDGIF survey that I filled out: (All these include jakes as well)
Birds gobbling - 84
Called in - 24
Gobblers seen - 55
Gobblers taken, missed - 8
The weather was good most of the season except for the last several days. Hopefully this rain will end and hold off until our newly hatched poults get old enough to handle it. I'm sure the game department is going to take some heat for limiting the number of birds taken in the fall since the birds were henned-up bad this year. I think we are fine, the population is growing, and next year it could be a different story. I saw quite a few jakes this year which is a good sign for next year!
All in all it was a good season. I got to hunt with friends (new and old), I made lots of new friends, we were reasonably successful, and I HAD A GREAT TIME DOING IT! It has definitely been a strange season, hopefully next year will be more on track as in the past, but it's always interesting and always a learning experience! Of the 30 days that I hunted, I took people 15 of those. I enjoy my time out there and enjoy sharing it with others. I know people in our community that will kill 4 or 5 birds for themselves and not take another person to experience what they already have. Why must people be so selfish and not willing to share with others what they have? If they could experience the good times I did this Spring, or see the excitement in friends and families eyes as they take a bird, or the ultimate of calling in that first gobbler for someone. The birds that I have helped others take in the last several years mean more to me than the ones that I have taken. Those hunts are the ones that you will remember and cherish forever! I called up a gobbler for my good friend this year, his first. I think he summed it up in this story- "Some moments are better shared with friends"
I want to thank each and everyone of you again for taking part in our forum. You are a great bunch of people and with any forum you always worry about having some wacko come in and create trouble. We haven't had that and we've kept our discussions clean and informative. Thanks! Now, with that being said, just because the season is over doesn't mean the forum will stop. If we keep hanging out and chatting, next season will be here sooner! So let's keep the conversation going. We have lots to keep up with over the summer including poult reports and information on the cookout! That should be fun!
Congratulations to all of you that scored this year and to all of you that learned something and had a good time. To those that didn't score, I'm sure you learned something and had a good time, best of luck next time!
End of Diary