March 20, 2007

Got back from SC yesterday evening... hunting was pretty slow... The fellowship and food however were GREAT! The place did not seem to hold the numbers of birds it had in the past or either they were hiding really good! We got a chance to scout a little on Wednesday afternoon and saw a little sign including some gobbler tracks.

The plan was laid for the next morning and I was going to tag along with one of the landowners and film. We found a decent looking spot the afternoon before and we were setup there before daylight. 2 birds gobbling well off the property at daylight but nothing on us and nothing close. We held tight as it's not uncommon for these turkeys to have lock-jaw. Sure enough at about 8:45 after having made another series of calls I thought I heard a turkey spit. I didn't say anything to my partner but waited a moment and called softly again. Sure enough, another answer with spitting and drumming. After confirming it with another call moments later I told my shooter to get ready that I heard one drumming. The turkey sounded to be about my 2:00. The hunter was sitting at my 7:00. The turkey slowly made his way around in front of me at around 40 yards. I could see him occasionally through the pines and he was definately working his way out to a lane where he could approach my strutting gobbler decoy and hen decoy. He hit the lane and strutted right down it to about 20 yards. I kept asking my partner if he could see him, but he was sitting about 6" lower than I was and he could never see the bird. Finally, the bird came right out to about 20 yards and saw something he didn't like (us, not the decoys) and turned and putted and headed back down the lane. Game over... that was my only gobbler encounter all week.

Diablo took the same guy out that afternoon and they had 3 longbeards come out and walk right up to UNO, Jeff's mounted gobbler decoy. They killed 2 of them. I hunted with another guy and we saw a hen that afternoon and heard a bird gobble off the property a couple times.

Next morning the bad weather hit and we hunted a beautiful new spot and saw and heard nothing. That afternoon I got to hunt with Dan-Dan and his Dad. We hunted a favorite spot and saw 1 hen and heard a BUNCH of woodies in the swamp. We had a good time though!

The next morning was pretty cool but the rain had quit. I hunted with Kyle this AM. We heard 1 turkey gobble a few times off the property but not really close enough to work. Saw or heard nothing else... the puppet show however was extrordinary! {Inside Joke for Kyle} Hunting pressure around the small farm seemed to be heavier this year. Headed back to the house for lunch and a nap and Jeff walks out and there is a gobbler and 2 jakes in the field right beside the house. We tried to circle them to no avail.

Kyle and SCBigTen hunted together that afternoon and killed 1 of 2 jakes that came out in the plot. SCBigTen had to wake Kyle up from a DEEP sleep when the jakes came in the field. Jeff and I hunted a blind near where I called up the gobbler the first morning and saw and heard nothing.

Next and last morning it was 29 degrees. We hunted an area that Jeff and I had taken birds in the past with SCBigTen. There was a very heavy frost and we saw or heard no turkeys. We decided to call it a trip and head home.

I want to thank all the guys down there... you know who you are!!! It was a great little vacation even if the hunting was a little tough. When we arrived on Wednesday afternoon the temperature was 84 degrees... when we left at noon on Sunday it was probably 55!

Here's some shots...

March 25, 2007

Well Max and I returned late last night from Florida. Max had set us up a trip with a friend of a friend type thing and we headed out for the 11 hour drive Wedensday afternoon. We arrived late and checked into the Roach Motel in an area about 20 miles North of Orlando. The first morning we headed out to a very small piece of private land but Matt had been seeing a few birds on the place. That first mornings hunt was interrupted by the adjoining landowner riding through the field checking his cows. We headed out with plans on returning that afternoon.

We then headed out to some National Forest land close by and started checking the place out. Matt, our host, hadn't really done any scouting in the NF but had seen some turkeys during deer season so we started in those areas. After a while, and not spotting any turkeys, or much sign, we came into a planted pine area that had been burned within the last 6-8 months. I immediately said "This looks like a good area!" Not much further along we spotted 2 turkeys headed into the pines and could tell they were at least males. We devised a plan and started our somewhat circular approach... I had the gun and Max was toting the camera. As we were slipping up to a good looking setup spot to attempt to call them in Matt spotted the turkeys through the open pines about 150 yards away. They got down and I crawled to the nearest cover and began to call with some contented turkey talk and they turned our way. After getting a better look at them I knew they were jakes... and I had a decision to make whether to shoot one or not. I knew we were on public land, knew I had never taken an Osceola, and knew I would still have another tag for a longbeard later. I also knew that hard-headed Max would continue to make me carry the gun until I either killed or we went home and I wanted him to have a chance as well. The decision was made and as the 2 gobblers closed the distance looking for the unseen hen I tracked them with the gun barrel. At 30 yards I picked the biggest of the 2 and killed him. What a great hunt and that bird completed my slam. We didn't get much footage as Max had to hit the deck when we spotted the birds.

That afternoon it was Max's turn and we returned to the small private land place. As we were approaching the blind we spotted a gobbler not too far away in a grove of trees. He didn't really spook but he knew something wasn't right. I started calling and he drifted away. A few minutes later a hen approached our blind and at about 6 yards she laid down for an afternoon siesta. She laid there for 1 hour and 45 minutes before she was joined by another hen. Shortly before dark they headed out towards where the gobbler was and we slipped out to get a better vantage of the field. Sure enough, the hens joined up with the gobbler and then we watched the gobbler fly out of the field into his roost. His hens were close by. Oh... and we could tell he was a really nice gobbler. The next morning we slipped in as close as we could but were unable to put out any decoys. I did 2 fly-downs and shortly the gobbler flew into the field and piroetted for us for about 20 minutes. Gobbling in repsonse to any calling. Finally the hussy hens joined him in the field and all of his attention was directed to them. We were snubbed... We ended up playing cat and mouse around the field until finally we thought we were headed in the right direction. About the time we were looking for a setup spot one of the hens popped around the corner and we were busted. She was nervous but some soft calling as she was leaving kept her calm enough to not spook the gobbler we knew was right there. I told Max if he wanted to kill the turkey he needed to belly crawl to the edge of the field where the hen busted and maybe I could pull him up the field far enough for him to get a shot. Max crawled out and was disappointed not to see the gobbler. I stayed back and kept soft calling until he finally answered me just down the fence line. Max slipped a little closer and got ready. The gobbler finally came just far enough up the fence line that Max got a look at him and after double checking the range he took the shot... and killed King Osceola! The beautiful gobbler weighed 21 lbs, had 3 beards measuring 10", 7" & 5" along with one spur that was 1-3/8" and the other 1-1/4". What a truely awesome gobbler and Max had completed his slam.

We hunted a bit the next few days without seeing or hearing another turkey. All together we only heard 1 turkey gobble, saw 3 gobblers, and saw 3 hens. As tough as the hunting was we were very fortunate to come home with 2 gobblers.

I want to thank Matt for taking us out and getting us on these birds and also for putting us up after our first night in the Roach Motel and Max for inviting me down on this trip. We had a great time and great fellowship. After our last trip to Florida this one was superb!

March 30, 2007

Headed off to TN to hunt the weekend.  Birds here have been gobbling and the green-up is really early.  Hunting should be good here around the first couple weeks but I think it will drop off dramatically after that.  This is one year where I think our season is going to come in later than it should.  We'll see...  Stay tuned!

April 2, 2007

I made my annual trip down to East TN to hunt with GN last weekend. GN had once again spent a lot of time and effort knocking on doors and found us a couple places to hunt. He had also done his homework and had the plan laid out for the weekend. It was the “greenest” opener that GN or I could remember and we felt the birds would be really henned-up. We were right.

Opening morning found us setup in a makeshift blind that GN had put together on a scouting trip. He figured the birds would be roosted close by and as the sky got brighter he was right… a chorus of gobbles filled the air and we felt good about the situation. So good in fact that I was filming the hunt and we were hoping for the opportunity for a double. We decided in advance to put out the new Primos B-Mobile decoy and he was positioned in a clearing about 20 yards away. We did a couple flydown sequences which were answered with a flurry of gobbling. After the birds flew down they assembled and soon headed our way. We had no idea about the show we were going to get… First a hen, followed by 2 jakes, then some more hens, and then a strutting longbeard, then some more hens, and then 2 more strutting longbeards. It was a turkey parade heading into the small clearing to our left. The lead gobbler closed to 30 yards or closer but we held off, waiting for another longbeard to get into range or in the clear. The 2 jakes and 1 hen immediately went to B-Mobile but they were unsure of the setup and went back into the other clearing with the majority of the turkeys. We felt like these birds were not the dominate gobblers or they would have approached B-Mobile. The whole time we are watching a slew of hens, 3 strutting gobblers, and the 2 jakes. Whenever one gobbler was clear the other gobblers were blocked and this went on for 20 minutes. We watched one gobbler attempt to breed a hen for several minutes. After reviewing the footage I realized that she never raised her tail for him and she was probably never bred. Finally, the whole cast and crew headed back the way they came but sort of circled around to our front but just out of range. We also could hear spitting and drumming from some other gobblers and looked up the mountain and at 50 yards there were 2 more strutting gobblers. This whole group of 5 strutters, jakes, and hens headed off. We sat there a while longer as there was another bird gobbling above us. After some soft calling a hen came into the previously occupied clearing and then the gobbler flew right down into the field off a rock ledge and was following behind. This gobbler must have been a dominate bird as he headed right by the hen and straight to the strutting gobbler decoy. I was filming but GN told me to go ahead and shoot this one so I repositioned the camera and let the big gobbler get one lick in (and what a lick it was, bent the stake 90 degrees, and sent B-Mobile in the dirt) I didn’t want him to tear the decoy up so I killed him right there. What an awesome morning! We then circled around and fooled with the big group of hung up birds until almost 12:00, getting an occasional gobble, but unable to budge them. We left them to try another spot.

After prospecting through another place we decided since the birds were shut down and henned-up that we would spend the afternoon blind calling in a pasture edge that GN knew held birds. We once again put out B-Mobile and found us a good setup and threw out a series of calls. It was 4:00 and GN stated that he was going to take a nap. We were both wore out from the early wake-up and long day and before long we were both dozing off. It couldn’t have been but just a few minutes and I was startled awake by GN saying “Don’t move!! There’s 2 gobblers coming!” They were coming alright… running right across the field to put another whooping on B-Mobile! GN didn’t want his decoy to take another beating so he got the first lick in on the lead gobbler! Wow… what a way to end the day!

Here is a picture from the first day…

The forecast for the next morning was pretty gloomy, but we headed out and were setup before daylight… and it hadn’t started raining… YET! With the forecast the camera was staying in the truck so we were even more set on trying to double… and this is where we got “a little big for our britches” as my Momma used to say. At daylight we had several turkeys gobbling around us and before long a couple hens and a lone gobbler were headed our way. The lone gobbler came by GN’s side and headed to the decoy… he then came by me and GN said… “Kill him” and the conversation started about whether we should or not with the other turkeys just over the ridge and we could tell it was multiple birds. The lone gobbler gets to the decoy and checks him over good making a couple circles around him. We decide to let him go and see what happens… Well, long story short, the group of multiple gobblers traversed the mountain above us and we never saw them. Shortly, either the same gobbler from earlier or a new one, came back into the decoy. We could have killed him too and let him walk off. Then we realized we were pushing our luck and the old “bird in hand” theory came back into play. Meanwhile… it was now pouring rain and we were soaked! We headed to a field edge to setup for a while and got under GN’s tree umbrella. We put the decoys out and started some soft calling. It wasn’t long and a lone gobbler headed out toward the pasture. He presented GN with a good 30 yard shot and he killed him.

We sat in the rain for another 2 hours and had not 1, but 2, bearded hens come out in the pasture. Finally, the rain started letting up and GN said… “You stay here and I’m going to find out what field these turkeys are in!” He came back in 20 minutes with good news that he found them… a field full of them. We headed back to the truck to put on some dry clothes and made our approach back to the field. The field was long and narrow but there was one place where we could get close enough to make a setup without bumping any birds… we hoped. Sure enough GN stayed back to call and I made my way up to the edge of the field. I could see several gobblers, a bunch of hens, and a bunch of jakes all scattered in the field. It was just a matter of time before a gobbler came close enough. They were gobbling, and yelping, and spitting and drumming… it was quite a show. Finally, a pair of longbeards following about 12 hens and 2 jakes made the mistake of coming to about 35 steps. Another gobbler down and the opening weekend was over.

Here’s a pic from day 2… GN,s bird was just slightly wetter than we were!

Once again, I want to thank GN for another great trip down there. We had a blast and were in birds pretty much all the time. It sounds silly to say but the hunting was pretty tough as the gobblers were really henned-up for the most part. We found a couple lonely guys though. We adapted and made some great decisions and killed some birds. One of the gobblers GN killed had an 11.5” beard and 1 1/8” spurs. The weights varied from 17 pounds to 21 pounds. All nice gobblers for sure!

April 9, 2007

Amy, Abby, and I arrived in SC it was pretty warm but a cold front was blowing in… and who would know that when we would leave in 3 days that the temperature difference would be 40 degrees!?!?!

The hunting had been pretty tough down in Diablo’s part of the world since the opener, but we were going to give it the full court press on Thursday AM. We headed out early and tried to slip in as quietly as we could to an area that we could hear a couple different spots, including the “Honey Hole” (you have to like that, right?) At daylight we heard a few fairly distant gobbles and you could tell they weren’t really fired up about things but we pushed on and tried to get a setup on them. By the time we would get in the area, the gobbling would stop and we would setup and basically blind call for a while. Diablo finally heard another bird gobble at about 8:15 and we headed that direction. Just as we were getting into position on a beautiful spot a herd of deer busted and basically trampled the turkey we heard… “Figures!” said Diablo.

We setup and blind called for a while and then moved around a bit through the morning checking different spots and calling up 1 lone hen and hearing another. At 1:30 we decided to grab a quick bite and take “Uno” and UB” to a spot Diablo had scouted and setup for the afternoon. Here’s the view from our blind…

Not long after getting settled in Diablo called up another hen and she hung around the blind for an hour, as close as 6-8 feet. She never made a peep. Finally she drifted away to about 25 yards and Diablo called on his slate and a bird gobbled back in the swamp area. Good sign… Diablo calls again and he gobbles again… closer! Another bird also gobbles back in the swamp and we are thinking we are in good shape. Soon, the hen drifts off right toward the gobbling turkey and sure enough, after a minute or two, it’s silent again…. “Hussy!” Diablo whispers. A while later the same hen starts our way back from the gobbler and we just know the gobbler is right behind. Wrong… the hen comes right back around the blind and feeds for another 30 minutes. We are pissed at her… ;o)

Here she is…

The hen drifts off and Diablo and I decide to call it an afternoon. We climb out of the blind and head over to pick up “Uno” and “UB” and Diablo spots a hen still out in the field (it’s getting late in the evening now). We study her with the binoculars for a moment and then, right in a ditch between us and the hen, we spot more turkeys coming our way and it’s at least a couple gobblers! We duck back down and make a beeline back to the blind and leave “Uno” and “UB” to do the job! Sure enough, in just a few minutes Diablo says “There he is!” and the gobbler appears over the hill headed right for the decoys. Diablo tells me to shoot him and then another gobbler appears and is coming in a as well. All in all there were several gobblers in the group! They closed the distance and Diablo and I decide to try and double. The 2 gobblers get in close to “Uno” and I have to let mine clear before we start the count. 1… 2… Boom! Down goes 2 nice longbeards and a jake that was bringing up the rear was caught in the crossfire. Wow… what a way to end a long day in the woods… we had a great time all day and that was just icing on the cake!

Here’s the 3 gobblers…

The 2 longbeards…

Me with “Uno”…

And… the new home page photo for VA…

When Diablo and I went out to get our birds we noticed a few more turkeys and a longbeard headed back into the swamp. Amy was hunting the next morning and the plan was laid…

We headed out early again and Diablo and Amy were setup in one blind and I was right beside them in another… and it was COLD… especially for SC! The bird we saw the evening before gobbled on the roost a few times and we thought we were in good shape. Shortly after flydown a hen came right into the setup from the direction of the gobbler and we just knew the gobbler would be with her… Wrong again… she came out and picked around the decoys for a bit and drifted off. The gobbler did too, as we heard him gobble a couple of time heading the other direction. Later in the morning we heard a turkey gobble a few times on his own so we headed that way, but by the time we got around to his part of the world all was quiet. We did bump a jake off the roost at about 9:00. He hunted until about lunchtime and then headed home. Another nice morning but it was COLD and the turkeys were in serious shut-down mode.

Later that night, Diablo and I were discussing the next mornings plan… and the weather… 25 degrees with 15 MPH wind. Diablo had hunted hard that week and we decided to knock off Saturday AM and hang out at the house with the family… good decision! We headed out later that afternoon to get home for Easter… but with the weather it could have just as easily been Christmas!

We want to thank Diablo and his family for having us down and for Mrs. Diablo and kids for watching Abby on Friday so Amy could hunt. The kids really helped out with Abby and she now has a new best friend… Hunter!!

Another great trip to SC and we had a couple turkeys to show for it! Fun times!

April 15

Opening morning as told by Amy...

Well, spring finds us once again chasing after those loudmouth spring gobblers. I have been spring turkey hunting for about 10 years now and I have been extremely lucky to harvest a gobbler each spring but this is the first year I got one opening day.

Friday night Freddy was out roosting birds while I had to work late and then take Abby to MaMaw & PaPaw’s house for a “sleep over”. Things were going great. I got a call from Freddy right at dark asking if I wanted to hear him (the turkey…not Freddy) gobble. This guy gobbled about 20 times in just about as many minutes. With this “loudmouth” turkey being put to bed we came home and went to bed ourselves.

As we got our gear together this morning the rain the weatherman was calling for had not yet started. But by the time we were on our way to our hunting spot, yep you guessed it…the rain started. We got in the woods well before gobbling time and sat up our stick blind (Freddy was not giving me the luxury of taking the pop-up to the top of the mountain).  So here we go across the field, over the creek, over the fence, up the hollow, up the side of the ridge and down to the pines at the edge of a little clearing. All the time I was thinking…we are crazy! It’s pouring! We got to the spot where we were going to set up and got everything organized. We put up the panel blind and Freddy put a lone hen decoy out at the edge of the field.

We sat…and sat…and sat (those of you who have hunted with Freddy know that he really likes to sit in there “back pocket” for awhile before gobbling time…so that’s what we were doing AND getting wet! It was getting lighter all the time…with a little fog settling in at the top of the mountain. Well, “Loudmouth” finally gobbled making me jump as he did. He was 80 yards away in a scraggly pine tree in front of me. About 30 seconds after he gobbled I saw him sitting on the limb. Well, that was all it took…I started shaking and thought great…I have to sit here and be really still so I won’t spook him…but I’m not doing a good job of sitting still. I’m shivering from the excitement building at my first VA spring gobbler hunt this year and a little from the cold rain. He gobbles one more time in the tree and about 10 minutes after we first see him he’s on the ground. He comes on a string to the decoy. Freddy had a higher vantage point than I did so I take his advice when he told me the turkey was heading for the decoy. He strutted almost the entire way to the decoy. He would not drop out of strut for any type of turkey call…he just puffed up a little more. SO, I got the green light to shoot him in full strut. When he turned and was facing me…I decked him.

It was an awesome hunt with my best hunting partner! Thanks Honey…Guys this is really his turkey that I shot out from under him! 

He weighed in at 22 1/2 lbs., had a 10 inch beard and 1 1/8 spurs. Great bird and a great hunt!

April 17

As told by GN:

The hunt on Monday in Virginia was terrific. I told Freddy that I could not remember a better hunt . Basically we were in strutting birds from Fly down till the hammer fell an hour later , and in two different locations. Part of the weather system followed me from Kentucky up to Virginia, and then just sat on us there, as the winds were 50-60 mph on Monday and Tuesday. Freddy had the birds scouted as well as he could, but when that kind of weather system sits in, you can throw daily turkey routines out the window in many cases. We took his best shot at where to set up early Monday and he had the birds pegged, despite the howling wind. We could not believe the birds gobbled in that raging gale, but they did. Before flydown, we eased a bit closer to the gobbling, but the openness of the woods made us leery of going further towards them. As it turns we out did not go quite far enough as the birds flew down, and would not budge our way because it was very open woods and they could see there was no hen out there after 20 minutes and left us.We headed another direction and on the first locator call another bird answered 150 yds away and Freddy knew right where he gobbled from, so we got in there tight, using steep terrain and set up. It turns out there were hens and gobblers in a small field edge and the gobblers were trying to strut and the wind literally blew them off their feet when the birds turned down wind and the gusts hit them in their backs..they sort of had to catch themselves and turn back in to the wind..the hens actually wanted out of the field but the gobblers would not leave it , and they really liked some of the incredible calling Freddy put on them . I managed to knock out a full strutting 19.5 , 10 in beard, 1 in spur two year old from the field edge. Two of his strutting buddies probably thought it was a tree falling when the gun went off. Freddy did everything but pull the trigger on these birds...I was just the executioner for his sentence. Here is us and the Virginia bird.

April 19

As told by Diablo:

Un-named Co., Virginia - Wednesday, April 18, 2007
No wind, overcast skies, temps in the low-mid 50’s at daybreak.

“…Three men bonded together by their passion for pursuing a great game bird. Two men; brothers of the same blood; the other two brothers in the 10th Legion…all kindred spirits…”

The script to our 4/18 hunt actually began the night before when Freddy's brother, Robbie did a little scouting in an area that he knew held a lot of turkeys. As Robbie slipped across the edge of the tree-line he spied two big gobblers and two to three hens going about their late afternoon routine. As he watched them from a distance he could tell that these birds were going to be flying up to roost soon and hopefully nearby…which they did.

I arrived at Freddy’s house that same evening about the time Robbie was doing all his recon work for us. Freddy, Amy and I (and Abby too) visited and got caught up on the events of the recent past and spent some time with a new friend – Mark. Freddy and I were wondering what our plan was going to be for tomorrow morning. After dinner Freddy looked to me and said I wonder why Robbie hasn't called yet…I’d sure like to hear from him. I hope he’s got ‘em roosted, we’ll really be in the game then rather than going into another place cold. After dinner the phone rang and it was Robbie. I could tell by Freddy's grin the plan was being hatched…Looks like we were going to go after that small group of birds that Robbie roosted.

We arrived at the designated meeting spot in the predawn darkness and gathered our gear and boy there was a lot of gear. Since these birds had been working near a beautiful green field the thought was that the gobblers might follow the hens to that same field first thing after fly down and that's where we would be waiting for them. UNO and UB were going along on today's hunt with us. Freddy and I were ready in pretty quick fashion and began to wonder where his brother Robbie was. As time slipped by Freddy knew he needed to make a phone call and it was a good thing he did because Robbie had slept in. To Robbie’s credit he made it to our meeting spot only a couple of minutes late. We were still in good shape for this morning. We slipped out across the pasture and made a decision to set up within 100 yards of where we thought the turkeys were roosted. Uno and UB were positioned on a small rise in the field as of three of us ducked into the tree line in the brush out of sight by 5:45 a.m.

Amazingly just a few minutes after six o'clock the first 2 gobblers of the morning sounded off. I am consistently amazed at how early the turkeys in Virginia and West Virginia gobble on the roost in the morning as compared to the gobblers that I have been hunting for the last many years in South Carolina. The South Carolina turkeys seem to gobble later…630 to 6:45 a.m. in the early part of the season which is consistently 30 to 45 minutes later than these Virginia gobbler's. Amazing. We never made a peep as we continued to sit quietly and let the morning develop. Before long there are as many as five to six different gobbler sounding off to our north and west. The anticipation and excitement was mounting deep in our gut and we knew that it was about time to make our first call of the morning and let these governors know we were here. Our first tree yelps were met with dead silence. Rat's!! Pause… then tree call again. This time those 2 gobblers answered us eagerly. We didn't give them much more conversation until it started to get a little lighter. The two closest gobblers continued to gobble pretty well on their own as did the others on the distant ridges. I glanced to my left as Freddy whispered to me…are you ready for a fly down sequence? I winked and nodded at him then with our fly down wings ready we proceeded to do our best impression of 2-3 wild turkey hens pitching down out of these Virginia pines and hardwoods next to the field. The gobblers must've bought it because they gobbled pretty well at that little sequence. Now it was time to shut up. We heard at least 1, perhaps 2, turkeys fly down before too long. We called again to let them know that we were out there in that field as well. By 6:45 a.m. we were pretty certain that the gobbler's had hens with them and they were all on the ground. Things got very quiet after fly down. Freddy and I called off and on periodically, sometimes softly, sometimes aggressively and never received a single gobble from the nearby gobbler's.  UGH! Here we go again! We decided to shut up and let the morning develop on its own. About this time Robbie mentioned to me that he needs to leave around 7:30 a.m. to go to work I tried to talk him into staying to no avail. Robbie said that maybe if he slipped out of here and left me and Freddy alone to hunt these gobblers that perhaps our luck would change. He seems to think that he's got bad luck when it comes to spring gobbler having. I thought to myself little does he know that's part of the game of this great sport. We ALL have our share of it for sure.

7:00 a.m. came and went - no action. 7:15 a.m. no change. 7:30 a.m. status quo. Robbie begins to gather his gear to head out so he can make it to work. “I hope you have some luck and call those birds in” he said. In just a few short minutes Robbie was out of sight as he walked over backside of the field. Around 7:40 a.m. another gobbler east of our position way off across a nearby creek gobbled on his own. I slate called to him and then box called to him but received no answer. Freddy mentioned that bird was too far off to go chase anyway so it wasn't any big deal. We discussed the possibility of slipping out of this area and going to chase one of those distant birds we heard gobbling so well this morning, or as we call it to play “advanced cowboys and Indians”. Given the recent experiences I've had in South Carolina where I talked myself out of staying put and instead went to play chase only to have the gobbler show up where I started sometimes 2, sometimes 4 hours later, I thought it might make sense for us to just sit tight at least for a little while longer. So we did. In just a few short minutes our patience was rewarded.

A few clicks before 8:00 a.m. we heard the unmistakable sound of a gobbler spitting just off to our right perhaps 35 yards away. Without moving a muscle both of us shot our eyes in that direction and quickly saw the unmistakable sight of a strutting gobbler in aggressive posture heading straight toward uno. I had the gun at the ready and prepared for the show. About that time Freddy whispered that another gobbler was coming out into the field in the same spot. I glanced over that direction and saw another long beard with his head down feeding. The thought of Freddy and me taking a double raced through my mind for a split second. Freddy whispered for me to shoot the first gobbler whenever I could. HA – easier said than done now…The first big gobbler runs in to strut in front of uno, and then begins to circle him from behind. He goes head-to-head with uno and they stare each other down. I had no way to shoot at this point without destroying my mounted decoy. I’m glad I waited! The big gobbler proceeded to smack uno in the face one time with his wing. Then he circles around behind him again and they go beak to beak. The big gobbler smacked him twice more this time jumping into the air giving uno a slight kick is well. As soon as the first gobbler displayed aggressive actions toward the decoy the second gobbler's posture changed as well. He went from feeding mode into aggressive mode instantly and ran in to join in the fun. The second gobbler circled behind with his wings dragging outstretched in sort of a low three-quarter strut tail dropped posture very excited and gobbled! As he gobbled the first gobbler sounded off as well and I think (although the video will prove it) they may have gobbled 2-3 times in unison instantly at that point. It was certainly quite a show! The first gobbler was clearly the dominant one…at this point he started to get really upset. It was quite obvious – it was as if uno’s refusal to move and/or fight back (HAHAHA) got to him. The big gobbler got airborne and really flogged my decoy this time. Wing slaps, kicks, and several spurring attempts were his next order of business. Watching the video later, I was amazed at the power and quickness possessed by a fighting gobbler. This time the big gobbler’s flurry was so intense that when he landed he fell over onto his side. WOW! I think that pissed him off even more. He stood there about 12 inches away from the decoy cocked his head, leaned back a little sideways and then honest-to-goodness got airborne again and did his best rendition of a Jackie Chan side thrust kick right above uno’s left wing. At that point uno couldn't take anymore and the big gobbler put uno down for the count. “He killed uno”… Little did he know but the gobbler helped me out at this point because by knocking down uno, I finally had a clear shot…which I took. Interestingly enough I almost missed this gobbler because as I squeezed the trigger he went to his left again to go after uno one more time. Fortunately my shot pattern caught him barely at a base of the neck and top of his back and he went down for the count and never flinched.

At my shot the second gobbler had no intention of leaving he just went straight up in the air about 10 feet and landed and proceeded to circle the whole proceedings again in still very aggressive posture. I slid the gun to Freddy quickly and without realizing it short-shucked the shell accidentally. Freddie got the gun up on the second gobbler and went to squeeze the trigger. The gun wouldn't go off! He pulled and pulled and bent the trigger double before he realized what had happened. He whispered to me in an intense tone “you short shucked the gun”. UGH! I never looked down because I wanted to keep my eyes on that second gobbler and continue to call to him in aggressive tone to hold him close. In a second or two Freddie got the gun reloaded and quickly drew a bead on the second gobbler. He yelped twice very loudly - then squeezed the trigger. I glanced at my watch, it was 8:05 a.m. and Freddy and I had just taken our first double on Virginia long beards. What a morning! What a hunt! What a memory! UNO strikes again. Those 2 gobblers were so intent and intense on fighting that I honestly think that Freddy and I could’ve stood up in plain view of them if we wanted to. I’ve never seen anything like it. Their attention was clearly on the mounted strutter. They paid UB no attention whatsoever. Poor girl.

As some of you are already aware, we captured this whole event on video….well almost, Freddy shot his gobbler just offstage right. I never proclaimed to be much of a cameraman and certainly with all those hectic events playing out simultaneously:
• the first big gobbler down,
• short-shucking the gun,
• the second big gobbler excited and still willing to fight,
• trying to keep the second gobbler in gun range
• reloading a jammed shotgun, and
• a video camera running….
…the last thing on my mind was playing cameraman. I was much more focused on Freddy being able to take the second gobbler.

Listening to the video playback, you can clearly hear Freddy say how much he had hoped and wished that Robbie could've been in on this double with me since he had really put in the work to find these birds. I shared his sentiments for the same reason but would be lying if I said I wasn’t elated to take another double with Freddy. Later on that morning Robbie asked what happened because he heard the two shots as he was heading out of the area. I tried to tell him a tall tale by saying that I had missed the gobbler twice but Freddy couldn't keep a straight face. Robbie sensed that we were stretching the truth a bit and then he heard the real story. He was very happy for us which speaks to his character. He was just as happy to see us enjoy our success if not more than had he been a part of it.

We took our time after the shots and soaked in the moments and as expected took a lot of pix. A gorgeous morning. Incredible scenery. It was at that point that I realized that the gobbler that I shot today was actually the first gobbler that I ever shot off of uno. All the other “victims” fell to my close friends and hunting partners as I watched. Hey this ol’timer actually had a first. Excellent! 

Here we sat, close friends sharing a moment and a memory that will last a lifetime. But we couldn't help to feel blessed and sad at the same time. I need not remind anyone on this board of the tragic events that happened just two days prior to this particular hunt. Monday, April 16, 2007 will be a day that our nation, Virginia Tech, and we will never forget. We said a quiet prayer that spoke to all those sentiments. What a flood of emotion that covered such a wide range of feelings.

That hilltop was quiet for a few moments as we soaked it all in. Sometimes words aren’t needed. This was one of those times.

April 20

As told by SC Big Ten :

I wanted to share a great experience I shared last week hunting with Freddy and Diablo.

Wanting to get a new view of the turkey hunting scene I left my flat swampy surroundings in the Lowcountry of SC and headed up to hilly Roanoke!

Once there I was entertained to hear of the "smack down" the guys had experienced just that morning. I could not wait to see where Freddy had picked out for our first morning hunt! Turns out we were one ridge over from my favorite deer hunting spot "Baghdad Road". We snuck in with plenty of time before sunlight and set up a stick blind where Diablo and I sat side by side and Freddy was set up 10yds behind us with the camera. As we sat there wispering back and forth Freddy announced for us not to move as there was a bird roosted not 50 yds to our right and of course I had to whip my head around to look! As the light came up it turned out there were a lot more than "A Bird" in the trees! We saw one bird swoop in from further back and up into the trees with the rest. At fly down a number of birds pitched out into the small ridge top field we were sitting over where they began to strut and show off for each other. Turns out it was 10 Jakes all together! As we had B-mobil postioned 18yds out with his girl and Both Freddy and Diablo calling it was not long before we had birds moving in on our position. Diablo and I discussed it as they were on the way and I had pretty much made up my mind to just watch the show. Which we did for almost 10 mins, throughout which Freddy kept dropping hints that "there were plenty of birds and that I was welcome to take one if I wanted"! I still had my gun down when the most agressive of the Jakes was in full strut near B-mobil but careful not to move between him and his hen, when Freddy announced from behind "YOU HAVE 3 TAGS AND THERE ARE PLENTY OUT THERE"! With that my resolve faded and I raised the gun and reduced the most agressive bird to possesion! WOW! What a hunt! Plenty of first for me as I am not a very experienced Turkey hunter, my first experience being right under birds as they flew down, my first to see that many turkeys that close and strutting, and even a first for Freddy to see 10 Jakes all together! Great hunt shared with great guys! Afterall it is not the size of the turkey but the quality of the experience that counts! I will hold onto that trophy for the rest of my days.

Thanks to Freddy for the invite and both he and Diablo for sharing their passion for Turkey hunting with me!

Hopefully we can get some of the pictures posted and possibly the video clip as Freddy did his part and caught it all on tape!

April 26

I had a great hunt this AM...

I had to leave for work no later than 7:30 so I just decided to hunt by myself (first time this season) and hit my little honey-hole. I took no decoys and no blind. Just me and the turkeys and a couple calls.

I slipped into my listening spot at about 5:45 and just sat down to let the morning unfold. At 6:05 a gobbler announced his location about 150 yards from me. Good, I just shifted around to get a bit better position and to await the next gobble... and it never came. I waited, and waited, and waited. When it got time, even though the bird hadn't gobbled anymore, I gave a few tree yelps. No response. After a bit more I decided to do a fly down and did one with the wing and one with the wing and a short 5 note cackle. No response. 5 minutes go by and still nothing, so I throw out a series of yelps. No response. Wondering what happened I just held my gound and was going to wait here until it was time to head to work. Several minutes later I get pretty aggressive on the slate, doing some yelping and cutting and I got a response from over the hill! Okay, game back on! After a short period I call again and am greeted with another gobble... closer! Let me digress for a second... I have a hard time hearing stuff walking in the leaves so when an approaching bird is coming in I like for them to keep me posted on their position with either spitting/drumming or gobbling. I was in a great setup and the bird would crest the hill well within shotgun range. Okay... anyway, I'm calling at pretty regular inervals to keep tabs on the approaching gobbler and at his last gobble from about 60 yards straight out I get my gun up. And wait, and wait, and wait. No turkey, so I decide to soft call to get a response. No response. Another little more aggressive call and no response. Okay... I give him a walking yelp and he gobbles 90 degrees to my left! Oh boy... I slowly cut my eyes and ever so slightly turn my head and there he stands at 50 yards with 2 jakes in tow. There is one tree, about the size of a basketball, that he should go behind. When he slips behind it, in full strut and the jakes in plain view, I quickly re-position and when my gun barrel is pointing where I want it I yelp to him. He gobbles! Good deal! He spins and struts and drums for a few moments and then steadily comes right up an old logging road and I squeezed off the shot at about 30 yards. What a rush, what a feeling, what a morning! I got to do it one more time in a classic, old school turkey hunt! 

April 28

As most of you saw and read Diablo and I killed a double off of Uno thanks to my brother's generosity. My goal for the rest of the season was to make sure that Robbie killed a turkey!

Friday afternoon Robbie and I laid our plan for a roosting session. He was to hit one part of the farm and I the other. Finally, right at dark, a turkey answers Robbie's owl hoots and he was actually closer to me than Robbie so I went in close and got a bead on him... a real good bead!  We felt like he had hens with him and the plan the next morning was to get in pretty close and hopefully intercept him before he got to the ladies.

The next morning came and we met really early and started our approach... we wanted to get close, and close we did. Once we got setup we could hear the bird spitting in the tree (it was still VERY dark). As it started getting lighter I spotted a hen not 40 yards from us and Robbie could see another. Finally, the old boy sounded off and we were closer than we really wanted. This was going to be interesting! After a bit, I spotted him in the tree strutting, spitting, and gobbling and sure enough the hens were talking.

To make a long story short... the gobbler pitched down from the limb and landed a mere 30 yards in front of Robbie's gun... I zoomed the camera in and Robbie killed him. As Robbie said "It was a homework hunt. Not a lot of calling and stuff, just being in the right place!" He said when the turkey was gobbling in the tree that "We all had our hopes up... the turkey for one thing and us for something else." The turkey was disappointed! 

Congrats again brother! You're so generous, it was nice to see you toting a big gobbler over your shoulder!

It was a nice gobbler with really curved and sharp 1" spurs... Here's a couple pics...

May 2

It's a long, painful, and lonely walk back to the truck when you've missed a big gobbler!

I was late heading out this AM so I grabbed the shotgun and ran over to a familiar spot and ran up my ridge to listen. Nothing gobbling so I just started back down using an occasional locater to try and get one to gobble. Finally... I heard it, but could it be? Yes, it was "Cliffhanger", a nemisis bird. I had only heard him one other morning this season and didn't go after him. I called him in for a fried last year and he spooked the bird trying to swing his gun on him. Why the name "Cliffhanger"? Because he lives on a cliff... really.

I didn't have long to hunt this AM so I headed up the hollow below his hangout just to feel him out. He almost unapproachable from his position and he will not come down the mountain... at all. I setup below him knowing full well the outcome, but gave him a few calls and he gobbled enthusiasticlly right back. Okay, it might get interesting. I waited and called again... another immediate response. Okay, he seems pretty interested this AM. Do I have time to climb the mountain and get in his pocket? Sure... why not! He was on a slight finger on the cliff so I thought I would be able to basically go straight up the cliff on the other side of the finger he was on and get really close. My calling had got him exicted and he was gobbling on his own now so I could keep tabs on him. I started the climb... and it's a really steep climb. One where you have to use rocks and trees to keep your footing and have something to hold on to. I keep stealing ground on him and his gobbling is really putting him in jeopardy this AM. I keep getting closer and closer. GOBBLE!! It's one of those gobbles where you know it's time to sit down. I was still a little below him but certainly in his familiar part of the world. Let the game begin...

At the first soft yelp he hammers back right in the middle. Good sign... this shouldn't take too long. 30 minutes later I'm still glued to the tree and can hear him still gobbling and actually hear his wings dragging in the rocky shale on the hillside. I think to myself twice to just stand up and shoot him, he has to be just over the hill. {Boy, as I'm typing this I'm thinking what a great story this would be if I had actually killed the turkey!!!}. Anyway, there are absolutely no leaves on this hillside, but in front of me 10 yards is a fallen log, trapped by 2 trees, and the leaves have accumulated on the uphill side. Just what I need! I carefully slip {seriously, I slip} over to the log and setup in a pretty awkward postion. There's nothing to lean my back on and no way to get my knees up, but I make the best of it. Gun laying over log that's about parallel with the gobbler. Okay, I'm ready, so I do the three swish scratching technique and it's greeted with not a gobble, a double gobble, or even a triple gobble... it's greeted, from no more than 40 yards, approximately 8 gobbles in a row. {I'm thinking now - "Dead Turkey"... that cost me!!}

Okay, one more cluck and purr and a bit more scratching and I hear him dragging his wings and coming. Full Fan coming over the rise... Getting the gun up and what do I hear, from an unseen jake, the alarm call of fear. The jake was about 10 yards down the hill from the gobbler and I didn't see him. As I shifted my gun the jake putted and the big gobbler, now at 25-30 yards, immediately drops strut and turns to walk away. I make a minor adjustment to the gun and pull the trigger. I'm greeted with a huge cloud of dust and debris and the gobbler continues his walk up the hill, a little faster. The next shot had the same result and the gobbler was never touched. He never knew what was going on until I stood up and then he flushes over my head.

Both of my shots cleanly took out some serious bark from:

First shot:
1) A small sapling at about 10 yards.
2) A 4" sourwood at about 15 yards.

Second shot:
1) A rather large chestnut oak tree that must have moved when I pulled the trigger. 

Oh boy... the good news is that the turkey was untouched and that I still have a tag... the bad news is I missed the freaking thing after totally whipping his butt all morning... painful... 

I also want to place total blame on Max, Hody, and Earl. Earl said during a phone conversation yesterday that "if you talk about "it" enough "it's" contagious and will happen to you!" Max and Tim have missed earlier this season and the conversation with Earl yesterday was the icing on the cake... 

Oh well... fun times!!  Glad I got to play the game... but lost in an overtime "shootout"

May 4

Is there anything prettier than a soaking wet, dead gobbler on a rainy morning? Okay, well, maybe…

This hunt started yesterday afternoon as the rain was pouring down. Amy was fixing supper and I told her I was going to run up the road and check a couple fields. Sure enough, field number 1 held a gobbler. Headed on further and field number 2 had a longbeard and a jake in it. I slipped out to try and watch the jake and longbeard and ended up watching them for over an hour. Oh, by the way, when I left I had only grabbed my raincoat. I was in sweatpants and tennis shoes. I was standing there and hoping to watch where the gobbler went in the woods. Instead, the big gobbler started heading my way. I was trying to climb into the bark of the tree, but at 10 FEET the big longbeard picked me off. He never was sure what was going on, but he ran out of the field. Oh well… I decided the next morning to setup on the other gobbler I had seen in field number 1.

This morning the alarm went off early and it was a struggle to get out of bed, and even harder not to go back to bed when I opened the back door to the sound of rain hitting the porch. Ugh… I’m up now, I should just take the tree umbrella and camp out until I have to head to work at 7:00… that would give me about 30 minutes after fly-down I thought. Okay… I’m off!

Head to the spot and sit in the car until it’s almost light. Covered in rain gear with nothing but a hen decoy, a stick blind, a tree umbrella, a seat cushion and a few mouth calls. I get setup in a favorite place and at daylight I hear a lot of song birds but no gobbling. Finally, I do hear a bird gobble… way off the property.

Right about that time, I heard a hen yelp over my left shoulder. I had the hen decoy setup on the edge of the field and was facing her. I answered her soft yelps with some yelps of my own and was pleased when she returned my call. That’s it, she knows I am here and hopefully she’ll bring a gobbler along with her.

After about 20 minutes I spot her slipping along the edge of the field sort of heading my way. Then, I glance further down in the field and spot a lone gobbler. Soon, he’s in the company of 2 hens. I’m watching the gobbler and then remember the hen that’s 50 yards away. I look back towards her and guess what… she’s got company! 2 longbeards standing in the woods right behind her! The hens occupies their attention for probably 10 minutes and I guess they decide she’s not ready or willing. My soft clucks and purrs peak their interest in the unseen lady and they head down the field edge to me.

I don’t think they ever saw my hen decoy in the high grass until he was about 15 yards from it. Not sure whether it made him nervous or something else, but the lead, subordinate gobbler got awfully skittish and made a pirouette. It was time to kill one… I was thinking I’d shoot the strutter, but he was a little obscured and the old “bird in hand” saying was o’ so true.

At the shot the gobbler fell into the wet field and the dominate bird proceeds to run up to him and take a couple shots. He finally realized something wasn’t right and glided down through the field to the other big gobbler. I guess they’ll be buddies now.

Another reminder to myself that you need to get out on those nasty mornings… no gobbling from these birds, but it was still an exciting hunt, with lots of turkeys spotted and a trophy to go home with me. That was my last tag for the season, so it’s guiding and filming the rest of the way for me.

A great morning…

May 12

I was out of pocket all last week, hunted a day or two, and working the rest. Had a up and down hunt with Hody on Tuesday (Man, that was a big turkey! Sorry Hody!) and had a friend in Friday and Saturday. We had a great 3 hour marathon hunt with a nice gobbler Friday morning. His first gobble was at 5:50 and he died at 9:05... that was a great hunt...

Saturday AM I called in a hen that went into full strut and tried to gobble... she had some issues...

May 16

It is with very mixed emotion that I share with ya'll that today, the Gorilla is yet again looking for another home thanks the generosity of one Freddy McGuire! Today was my tenth hunt of the season and until today, I had only one previous encounter with a bird this season closer than 80 yards and that was a jake I called in on a hunt with TScott. Mind you, I've been in the game twice this season, but couldn't seem to close the deal enough to even see the birds that gobbled at everything I threw at them. Today, with an invite from Ol' Three Toes to hunt with him this morning, I felt the tides turning. Freddy and I are batting 100% on our spring hunts together, but have to say with only one spring hunt together under our belt, we've set a mighty lofty level to reach. Freddy yanked the first gobble of the morning from a bird that sounded 1/4 mile away or more with a series of owl hoots. It was the only vocal bird so we headed it's way and along the way, Freddy struck another bird with owl hoots much closer. We closed to within 120 yards and Ol' Three Toes gives me the game plan, parks me by a tree and fades into the background. Folks, I had heard the stuff of legend regarding Freddy's calling and let me say I had the most difficult time focusing on the gobbler in front of me for all the "hen" around me, that "hen" being Freddy. The gobbler was across a hollow from us still in the tree well after flydown. He responded to everything Freddy gave him and the random shock gobbles drawn out by the waking of the day, but he refused to budge from his tree. After a half hour of the silent treatment, more than any gobbler should withstand, Freddy cranks it up and yet the ol' boy answers readily but won't budge from the tree. Ol' Three toes pulls the "hen's are slipping away" trick to draw the ol' man to me, but he doesn't budge. I think Freddy is working back to me up a road, but the sound is getting real close. I move my head and inch or two to look for Freddy and spook a hen that I thought was Freddy, a testament to just how real ol' Three Toes sounds. We chat quietly about the hen encounter and the ol' Boy gobbles from his lofty perch. We settle back in for the wait and see game. The boy stops gobbling and Freddy runs a series of calls that was, well, very agressive. Nothing. When that ol' boy stopped answering Freddy, I figured one of two things had occurred. Either he had flown down to real hens and wandered away or he had flown down and was heading our way. My gut and heart told me the latter was occuring, so I got serious about getting ready. We were setup overlooking a small bench and I had a 30 yard shot to the point where it dropped down into the hollow. If the bird came up the ridge to see the hen, he'd be dead at 30 yards. I hear walking in the leaves coming out of the hollow. Cheek on gun. More walking coming right at me. Flick safety off and watch beyond the end of the barrell. Ten or Fifteen seconds elapse and motion 10 feet to the right of my sight window and there he is, neck extended above the ridgeline looking for the hen. Red and blue head, neck extended, check firm to stock, bead on head, squeeze trigger, BOOM, bird flopping, I'm up and running and as I near the bird, my heart sinks. The softball headed bird BEHIND and BELOW my bird takes flight and sails across the hollow. I've just killed his young Jake sentry and the ol' boy put the slip on me. Now, my heart and head are full of mixed emotions. It's been a great season with gobbling on most every hunt. Lots to time spent chasing turkeys and I now have one on the ground. But, I hadn't killed a jake in 25 years of turkey hunting and this would be my first. Folks, I haven't had alot of jakes in front of me and when I saw the red head, I took the bird. Twelve hours have elapsed since I pulled the trigger and I can say I"m still having mixed feelings about this. The bird is in the crockpot and I'm happy to have him, but I'm dissapointed in myself for pulling a rookie move and not exercising patience to see if there were multiple birds. As Freddy and I sat there replaying the hunt, he reminded me of a thread on the board a year or so ago about the question of whether or not you would kill a jake. He said he remembered me saying that in the beginning of the season I would likely pass, but as the season neared it's end and the opportunity presented itself I would likely take it. Looks like I lived up to my word. So, this season's bird is owed to one Freddy McGuire and a bridge crossed for my 25 year turkey hunting career. I smile and I lament, but I'm glad I've had the experience and friends to share it with.

May 18

Here's the notes from Jeff's actual field journal of the last three days of the season...pix added for emphasis... 

Thursday, May 17, 2007
Another secret VA location

6a-Freddy located 2 with owling this morning - 1 too far - Other N of us
We move quickly out ridge toward him. As we are closing the distance we hear turkeys putting overhead. Just then g2 gobbles maybe 75y ahead down over steep cliff. We steal 15 more yards on him and I get set up wondering if we spooked him too. Amy is set up covering the other direction.

610a-G2 gobbles 60y away on his own. Game on.
For the next 90 min we do diff things to get him to fly down to us.
Soft call-Wing-Combo calls me and freddy-Silence-Freddy walk away calling
Nothing worked. He stayed in the tree the entire time until he finally quit gobbling. we never did hear him fly down.
We decided to ease out around 830a...thinking we might try him again later today or tomorrow.

Calling and walking our way out - Got 2 jakes to answer us with clucks. They were still in the tree too...these must've been the birds we heard on our way in.

Here's the jake in the tree close to 9am! I managed to sneak to within 40 yards of I'm not that good!...his line of sight to me was blocked by a clump of oak leaves. I bet you'd never find an old gobbler making that kind of mistake!

Here's Amy and her three toed crazy man...see what 45 days of 4am wake up calls does to you!! amy looks fresh and relaxed...freddy looks...well, you can see what i mean 

Amy and I hunted together early to mid afternoon trying to locate a gobbler to no avail. I hunted solo the remainder of the afternoon and never got in the game.

Friday, May 18, 2007
Another secret VA location

Thunder last evening - Freddy roosted 2 gobblers on the mountain. They sounded SE of the foodplot. So we decided to start near bottom foodplot. Set up in timber
No gobbling early
We start call 605a
Hen answeres us across creek. not where we thought they would be. Rats!!
2 gobblers sound off across and down the creek 300yds. Not where we thought they were.
They must've got bumped during the night and repositioned.
We got hen really cranked up. Not much gobbling at all.
They were far off too - Heading out by 7a since gobblers don't want to play.

Mountain laurel in full bloom...worth the price of admission!

Arrived at location #2 for today 750a
Freddy spots gobbler plus one as we pull in.
Walk down to barn to double check then back to top to make loop around behind them.
Up hill. Though gap. Followed fenceline down to back side. Crow call. He gobbled...Move closer
Crow call. He gobbled again. In pasture across hollow.
We follow fenceline to break in hill.
Open woods. Fearful to go too far as he could easily see us.

Set up 65y from bottom ditch.
I thought I should slip 25y closer. I regret that I didn't.
Called. He answere readily.
Played the game well.
Gobbled 10x at least.
Then went quiet.
835a hen crosses in front of me 40y
Then I see gobbler at 65y. He's following her. Hen crosses fence into thick brush under hill. Gobbler follows. I watched him thru my shotgun scope but he was clearly too far.
Game over. We hung out 20 more minutes. Nothing. We'll try him again tomorrow. 

Arrived at location #3 for today by 915a
Getting windy
Trolled and called and tried locators.
Didn't have the "right" gut feeling about this spot...Decided to try another spot.

Arrived at location #4 for today by 1045a
Crowed called - nothing.
Fresh sign - tons of it - red hot.
Set up by 1110a blind calling.
Sewer truck crashed nearby...inside joke..."don't ask" 
wind picking up...trying hard to stay serious...naps...
blamed the lack of gobbling activity on the The infamous acorn man!...aka the woods gremlin...
we caught one of these gremlins and i snapped a picture of it is...

1p time to move on.

2p eating lunch on the mountain which is precisely where we started today's hunt...we were thinking about a plan for this afternoon.
Freddy fooling around with old box call he had in the console of his truck. Yelping loud on it.
Turkey gobbles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We couldn't pinpoint it very well due to distance and the high winds and the fact that we were sitting in the cab of his truck! We loaded up and went chasing. Heading up ridge to secluded clover patch...thought he might be there...he wasn't. We never could locate him again. Rats. call this the 2p courtesy gobble. We hunted east to the prop line. Calling and walking. Down the ridge and W out the creek bottom. No gobbles.

315p decided to climb into the pop up blind in the creek bottom until we feel like heading out...clearly better than not being in the woods at all.
hear walking in leaves behind us...can't pinpoint source...

340p lone hen in lower foodplot.
Killed tick
Hen entered W of us from behind.
She's feeding away.
Hen and groundhog got less than 2' away from each other. Funny.
still hear walking in the leaves behind us, then hear squirrel barking...decide to dismiss this as non-target species... 

410p hen still feeding in food plot.
Hope gobbler is tagging along with her.
Still hear walking in the leaves behind us.
Took pix of hen as she headed our way.

Then took video of her. silver camera spooked her. She flew across the creek just a little ways.
I told Freddy..."now that was a really stupid move on my part!"
Here's the video clip...not great quality, but better than nothing...

for some reason, just after the hen flew off, freddy looks back over his left shoulder across the creek....maybe because i kept saying I was hearing footsteps.
Then Freddy whisper yells..."Big gobbler" ..."Big gobbler" ..."Big gobbler" ...15y behind the blind.
I tried to see out freddy's side. No good.
Tension races to fever what!?
I told freddy to zip front window closed as I unzipped back window with care (yeah hands were shaking pretty bad at this point).
As I eased the window down a bit, i saw the gobbler just standing there less than 20 yards away - ALERT - his head red colored...looked like a fall gobbler head color. I settled the crosshairs on him as i was shaking the wall of the pop-up because my foot got hung on something underfoot...and squeezed the trigger. shooting from an awkward position enabled the scope to bite my nose pretty good. i saw the gobbler fall and then saw the 2nd gobbler walking up the hill.
maybe these 2 boys heard us calling down the ridge and out the creekbottom and were coming in quietly to see what was happening. freddy said that a gobbler or 2 had moved into this creekbottom so we did our best to sound like 2 content hens walking and feeding our way to the plot...then we went quiet to make the gobblers hunt us. evidently they did. we just wish they would've gobbled a bit.

we walked over to the gobbler and couldn't find him at first, then we looked in the creek ...Freddy said..."There's your gobbler...". Long beard, Nice worn spurs - very heavy...presumably an old mountain gobbler.

notice the missing tail feathers...this gobbler had been previously shot at, at least 2x...2 tail feathers shot off, notice the secondary coverts...most of those missing too and this section of his wing was still bloody from being shot before. he also had scars on his legs...fighting?

the food plot farmer and the fruits of his efforts...lots of edible greens and a beautiful VA mountain gobbler...

Not much i can say at this point that i haven't already told Freddy...except that i am blessed to be able to call freddy and his family my friends. their generosity is matched only by their graciousness and appreciation for the outdoors. I know the hard work that went into all the habitat enhancement he and his friends put on the ground on that mountain, and i had the good fortune to be the lucky one that took the first gobbler from that area subsequent to all that work. as i told freddy...all i did was pull the trigger on this one...this was a therapeutic trip for me personally, physically and spiritually as i found myself thinking often of my friend Max H who died on 5/10/07. I wonder if that was him walking behind us trying to tell us something...knowing him it probably was.

what a fitting end to another blessed and rewarding season...i'm tired and exhausted and in much need of sleep...all as it should be...

May 19

The last day always approaches fast. I have the same feeling every year… sad that it’s ending but being ready for a break. The last day was always a celebration though.

The last morning I had promised to take a brand new turkey hunter out for their first turkey hunt. There was a lot of planning sessions and we had to go over what gear and items they needed to bring. We spent a lot of time getting things ready Friday night and went over the rules again about what the do’s and don’ts of turkey hunting was. We turned in a little early and I’m sure neither of us slept well.

The alarm woke me at 4:30 and I struggled to get out of bed. Knowing that I just had to do it one more time helped and knowing that I had a newbie counting on me helped a lot. I gathered our gear and got things ready in the truck. Amy and Diablo were also going along on this hunt. They were hunting in one pair and me and my buddy were the other. I gently woke up my buddy and we all got ready to head out for the 20 minute drive to the farm.

We’ve hunted this farm a couple times this season and there’s been a bird working in a couple different areas. We decided to take 2 popups and just put them in the likely areas. I knew that my buddy would have a hard time sitting still so that was the best alternative for us, and Diablo and Amy were going to setup in the spot we’ve seen the gobbler so often. We arrived just in time and parted ways with Amy and Diablo at the truck. It was still early and we got to our spot undecteted and setup the blind. The horses and donkeys on the farm greeted us as we got situated.

It started getting light and we finally heard a bird gobble behind us. Very cool when my buddies eyes lit up up and they said “I just heard a turkey!” The bird gobbled pretty good and pretty much on and off at a distance all morning. Diablo and I were communicating with the Blackberries and keeping each other up to date on the happenings.

About 7:00 I could hear the birds getting closer to our position. I just knew that they would end up in front of us or Amy and Diablo before the morning was over. They kept coming and gobbling better and better. Diablo started calling and the birds started heading their way. I then realized that it was 2 gobblers! I finally saw one of them cross the hillside above us and could tell by their gobbling they were closing in to Amy and Diablo. My buddy was a little distracted but finally picked up on hearing the birds when we just knew Amy was about to shoot. The shot never came as the birds didn’t quite get close enough and the gobbling slowed.

My buddy had about they could stand so we decided to get out and head back to the farm house to load some wood and check on the animals. We hung around there and waited for Amy and Diablo to come out of the woods about an hour and a half later.

We didn’t kill a bird that morning… but it has to rank up there as probably my best hunt of the season if not my entire life… I never made a call all morning, I didn’t even have a call. I didn’t have a gun, and neither did my partner. I was pretty distracted from the action, as was my buddy. The turkeys were just part of the show, as the farm animals really drew as much attention. We had some great conversation, about a lot of different things. I was asked a lot of questions, and answered them all best I could. We only hunted until about 8:00, as my partners patience was running out. Our list of gear included “Maggie” a stuffed doggie, along with crayons, coloring books, and lots of snacks! When the turkeys came by within sight of our blind, my new hunting buddy was asleep… in my lap. 

Here are some pictures from Abby’s first ever turkey hunt…

Headed Out...

Camoed up...

We spent a fair amount of time coloring...

Snack Time...

She was napping when the turkeys walked by heading to Amy and Diablo...

Some calling lessons from Diablo...

The hunting day is over...

Some of my favorite quotes from the morning...

When I got her out of bed at 4:45 - "Daddy, where are we going?" Me: "Turkey hunting baby" Abby: "But turkeys don't wake up in the dark!"

When we got setup in the blind - "Daddy, where is your gun?" Me: "Daddy's already killed all he can. I'm going to shoot them with the camera" Abby: "How can you shoot them with the camera?"

While we were watching the horses and donkey - "Daddy, have you ever seen a donkey wear a dress?" Me: {Laughing}

When she started getting sleepy at 7:00 - "Daddy, I want to go see what Mommie's doing!" Me: "It's time for a nap!" 

Great, great morning!!!