Pennsylvania Turkey Season Wrap Up

Alright, enough with the excuses, here’s how my season ended.  Dave Poteat from Inside Outdoors TV and his camera man, Dusty came to my (adopted)  home turf to turkey hunt.  Accompanying them was Jennifer Lambert from Crosman Airguns.  I met Dave on a hunting trip several years ago and since, have shared camp with him on a number of occasions.  Last spring, he and his co-host Tim Anello came to southern WV to turkey hunt at my Mom and Dad’s.  This year he was with me in Southwestern Pennsylvania on the last 4 days of season.  Although he was aware of how hard it would be to get one shot, I was confident we could get one within range and let Jennifer take his head off.

The cool part about this hunt was that the owner of the company I work for was gracious enough to let us use his personal cabin as a turkey camp, although camp is a pretty loose definition of what this place is.  As far as the turkeys, I hadn’t heard a bird gobble in almost a week.  We were hunting on a good friend and coworker’s farm that is loaded with birds.  I set up a blind in a place birds cross by every day.  They’re done with spring breeding behavior and at this point its a straight up ambush.  No problem.

Not too shabby for a turkey camp.

Not too shabby for a turkey camp.

The first morning they actually heard birds gobble!  Shocking.  They saw lots of birds including one longbeard that just stayed a little out of range.  They sat it out but unfortunately didn’t connect.  We took the afternoon off due to rain and caught up on some much needed rest.  The next day they were covered up with jakes but the longbeard again stayed just out of shotgun range when he followed some hens off in the distance.  A few passing hens that evening sealed up their second day.  Their third and final day started slow.  No gobbling and no birds, but around 9, they started to appear.  A group of shootable turkeys zigged and zagged around the blind and finally offered Jennifer a shot.  What happened?  I can’t tell you.  You’ll have to watch IOTV to find out.

Dave, Jennifer, and Dusty size up the situation.

Dave, Jennifer, and Dusty size up the situation.

Although I knew it would be a tough hunt, I was really happy they were able to come and have their first hunt in Pennsylvania with me.  They’re great company and I think they had a pretty good time.  I was happy to show them where I work and they even came over and shot some sporting clays at our clays course.  It was refreshing to see someone like Jennifer, who is new to hunting, show such enthusiasm for a sport I’m really passionate about.  She really had a baptism by fire.  Hunting late season in Pennsylvania is not easy and it’s not always fun.  She hunted her ass off and came back for more.  Good job, girl!  She’s truly a great lady and hopefully I’ll get another chance to hunt with her again.

Can't wait to put these bad boys to use.

Can’t wait to put these bad boys to use.

One of the most unexpected parts of the trip was when we parting ways Jennifer gave me two new Crosman rifles.  I had a chance to shoot these things in camp and couldn’t get over how cool they were.  Incredibly accurate and hard shooting, these things are the real deal.  On the left is the Benjamin Trail which just started shipping and the Marauder on the right which has a self contained air tank and a rotary magazine.  Very, very cool.  Thank you Jennifer!  I’ll do my best to burn the barrels out of these things.  I hope this is the start of a long partnership.  It is kind of cool because a few weeks before these folks showed up, I saw my Benjamin Sherridan .177 pellet rifle propped up in the corner of my parent’s garage.  I had some epic squirrel hunts with this thing in the woods surrounding my childhood home and that Benjamin rifle made me the marksman I am.  Looks like things have come full circle.

Still Trying

With turkey season wrapping up at the end of next week, I generally spend this time of year resting and recovering from 2 months of craziness.  Getting four or five hours of sleep every night, and then going full throttle all day wears on you.  But I can’t stop yet. Yesterday I took a repeat client, Jon on his second turkey hunt.  We hunted hard and gave it a hero’s effort but by noon, we hadn’t produced anything except for one gobble about 2 counties away.  Deciding to take advantage of the weather, we swapped our camo for waders and hit the trout stream.  Still in turkey country and keeping the shotgun close, we fished a good Fayette County freestone and managed to get into some good fish.  Jon put some good drifts down and was rewarded with the some great fish including an 18 inch male brookie he coaxed out from under a big rock.  I’ve fished this stream for a lot of years and it was the largest fish I’ve seen brought to hand here.  Pretty good stuff.  Some stream side beers capped off a pretty damn fine day, turkey or no turkey.  We will get him next year, Jon, come hell or high water.

Jon with his stud of a brookie

Jon with his stud of a brookie

I’ve got a couple fishing trips to get done and then Tuesday, my buddy Dave from Inside Outdoors TV is coming up to try and smack a late season Pennsylvania gobbler.  I’ve kept really close tabs on the birds and while they just aren’t gobbling much any more,  if Dave can be patient, I think we can probably get one killed.  When we do, you’ll be the first to know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday

SteveHatchertukeys

Here’s the ol Man in 1975 with a big West Virginia longbeard.  That mustache ain’t too shabby either.

 

Dad wraps up his spring in Pennsylvania

Above is a short clip from our hunt this morning.  My dad made it up yesterday and we went out and scouted a little bit.  He’s never hunted Pennsylvania and our schedules lined up with me having two days off so he made the trip to try and end his season with a bang.  This morning was was a chilly 32 degrees but the birds were gobbling and we got one to commit after coming from behind and circling us.  Once in front of our setup, he marched in to 25 yards and without hesitating, Dad dropped the hammer.  It was a very exciting hunt and I really enjoyed being able to put him on his first Pennsylvania turkey.  After all the birds he’s put me on over the years, it was gratifying to begin to return the favor.

The obligatory hero shot

The obligatory hero shot

Success in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvanialongbeard

Getting it done before the rain moved in.

I’ve been pretty busy with work so I was pretty happy to get a day off to go chase turkeys by myself.  I normally hunt on public land up here in Pa but I’ve been hunting clients on some private ground that’s a little closer to our home base.  After finishing with most of my hunting clients for the year, I figured I might as well hunt there myself.  We’ve hit this place pretty hard and I’m going to move on to a new patch of ground for my remaining hunters, but I was pretty sure I could squeeze one more bird out of there.

The turkeys here have gobbled pretty good, albeit a little late in the morning.  I have been out here almost every morning for the past month and aside from a few mornings, the birds haven’t made a sound until they flew down.  Kind of weird.  I know where they roost and a lot of times I hear them fly down, but they will not gobble on the limb.  Their normal gobble time of 6:45 came and went, but I never heard a thing.  Undeterred, I sat still and pulled out my slow and steady tactic of clucking and purring every 15 minutes or so.  I had a commanding view of the area from where I was so I sat tight.  I knew they were out there somewhere, so it made no sense to leave.  Around 9, a bird shock gobbled at a crow about 300 yards away on the neighbors property.  I got creative with my calling and tried to make him respond but no dice.  Back to the clucking and purring.

Around 10 o’clock I heard a distinct sound that was not like the normal bird chirps of the spring woods.  A sound I’d know anywhere…a gobbler spitting.  No drumming, just spitting.  Then I spied the top of his fan over the mayapples in front of me.  Then his head, crown glowing like a light bulb, finally appeared. He was probably 40 yards out just standing there in full strut.  The undergrowth in the mountains has really popped out in the past few days and rather than rush the shot through the thick stuff I just watched him as he moved toward an opening.  Now drumming as well, he just stood there blown up turning left then right.  Behind him were two more long beards, just standing and looking.  What I failed to see was the hen they had with them that kept getting closer to me.  I noticed her about the time she noticed me at 10 yards to my right.  She never spooked but she knew something was askew.  She did that weird head cocked to the side look turkeys give when they can’t make something out and started turning away from me getting ready to make an exit. Knowing I had just a few seconds before she boogered and ran everyone off, I decided to shoot the strutter as soon as he faced me.  I know you’re not supposed to shoot strutting turkeys, but you have to do what have to do.  He turned and the old A5 roared, knocking him flat on his back.  He didn’t even flop.

As I get older, I realize the things my dad taught me about turkey hunting when I was growing up are very true.  Two of his lessons rang true this morning.  1.) They don’t have to gobble to kill them.  2.) Patience kills more turkeys than anything.  I knew there were at least 4 gobblers that weren’t killed on this place.  I was in their house.  It’s where they live and to kill them, you have to live there too.  I wound up with a 21 pound gobbler and one hell of an exciting end to an otherwise mundane morning…all because I sat still and didn’t quit when I didn’t hear anything. Turkeys don’t get the luxury of leaving when the weather is bad or if they get tired of being out there and neither can you.  They just walk around all day.  They’re gregarious animals, and they will investigate sounds of other turkeys.  They aren’t always in a hurry,  but they’ll make it eventually.  Like I’ve said before, it may not be the most exciting method, but it gets the job done when the conditions call for it.  It was a fantastic way to cap my season and I’m looking forward to taking my remaining hunters.  Let’s just hope the birds are a little more vocal.

One more hits the dirt in WV…Still trying in Pa

WestVirginiaTurkey10I’ve been a little busy and haven’t updated lately but I’ve yet to kill a turkey in Pennsylvania this year.  More on that later. Down south, our friend Valerie Vaughn who killed her first bird earlier in the season, had one more tag to try and fill. My dad took her to the same place she killed her first bird about a week before. Nothing gobbling until around 10am one fired up fairly close.  They talked to him a little bit and out pops a gobbling jake. Wrong place for him to be. Valerie put a great shot on him and has tagged out for the year.  Job well done!

As far as the Pennsylvania season goes, I think we’re just starting to get into the meat of it. The first week produced some gobbling but no responses. I only have gotten to hunt 2 full days and the rest have been short hunts before work. All the birds I’ve dealt with have had hens and aside from the occasional courtesy gobble, have yet to have one crank up…until yesterday. As well as being a fly fishing guide, the company I work for also offers turkey hunts and yesterday was my first hunt of the season with a paying customer. We didn’t hear a bird until 7:30 out on a point where they’ve been roosted all week.  I did get a bird to respond and slowly he closed the gap.  When he was about 200 yards out a bird gobbled 50 yards behind us.  One had come in silent and then cut loose right on top of us.  We sat tight and let him go away gobbling.  Once I was confident he wouldn’t see us, I was able to get my hunter spun around and facing the right direction. A couple clucks and he thundered back. He offered a split second shot and when he didn’t see that hen, off he went. A couple more gobbles as he went away and that was that. We had everything but the trigger pull. Like it or not, that’s turkey hunting.

I’ve got more hunters this week and hopefully we will be able to get the job done. I might even be able to get out there myself a morning or two. There’s going to be some changes with the blog soon and I’m going to increase my content output. I’ve got some big things in the works. Thanks for reading and stay tuned. Like these Pa turkeys, I’m just getting started.

 

Tagged out in West Virginia

My dad, Steven Hatcher with his second WV longbeard of the year.

My dad, Steven Hatcher with his second WV longbeard of the year.

Three days into the second week, Dad’s West Virginia season has come to a triumphant close.  He hunted a new spot this morning close to his house where a friend had spotted three gobblers strutting in a field a few days before.  This morning he was able to get within sixty yards of of three gobblers still on the limb.  A couple of soft clucks was all they needed.  They pitched off and strutted right to him.  Job well done ol’ boy.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get down south one more time and chase the two survivors.  Dad has the rest of the week to relax but next week, he’s heading north to stay with me and give these yankee birds a run for their money.  These turkeys up here better enjoy these next few days of peace.

Another WV gobbler bites the dust.

 

Pops getting done in southern West Virginia.

Pops getting done in southern West Virginia.

While I’d rather have been hunting, I had to work today guiding a good client of mine on one of my favorite Pennsylvania freestone streams.  I knew my dad was going back after a bird he didn’t connect with yesterday.  I keep my phone on vibrate in my chest pack and around 9 o’clock I felt it go off.  I didn’t have to look at it to know what it was.  My dad hunted hard yesterday but never heard a gobble.  Things were a bit different this morning.  He told me after taking almost an hour and a half to get into a favorable position, he called a big tom to the gun barrel.  Hunting turkeys in the steep hills of southern West Virginia can be a real challenge, but the old man stuck it out and found the right bird. Fifty seasons under his belt and he’s still knocking ’em dead.   Good job Dad!

Pennsylvania opening day and West Virginia Success

This morning I awoke to a partly cloudy sky with temps in the low 50’s with no wind.  That’s gobbling weather in Pennsylvania. As I made my way to my listening spot, I heard one of the birds from the day before.  He continued to gobble on the limb and for a second I thought he might be suicidal.  On the ground though, it was clear that he had a hen or two.  I could only hunt until about 8:30 and had to be out of my camo and ready for work at 9.  This turkey was definitely killable and I contemplated blowing work off, but responsibility took over.  “You’re 30 years old,” I said.  “You can’t go getting fired over a turkey.”  As trivial and stupid as it sounds, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about taking my chances with a no call no show.  But instead of trying to mess with the bird that might take several hours that I didn’t have, I sat in silence and listened to where they went as his gobbles trailed off.  I sat tight, hoping the other bird I heard the day before would come blundering up on me, but no dice.  The plus side is I made it to work.   The turkey doing all the gobbling will still be there Monday and as of right now, I’m off.  We’ll see what happens.

Valerie Vaughn and my dad with one mighty fine West Virginia gobbler.

Valerie Vaughn and my dad with her first spring gobbler.  Good job guys.

While I was screwing around, my dad and our buddy Valerie were in southern WV on a mission to get her first turkey.  They chased a couple birds around last year but never quite connected.  This morning Dad and Valerie texted me the above photo a few minutes apart.  They were able to get him within 25 yards and then had to watch him strut and gobble for almost a half hour before he cleared some trees and offered a shot.  When he did, Valerie turned out his lights.  Congratulations Valerie!  Job well done.

 

 

 

It ain’t a Lynch but…

Turkey season starts tomorrow morning in Pennsylvania.  While I’m not going to be able to give it a full days effort tomorrow, I’m going to hunt hard until I have to go to work at 9.  I heard two birds this morning where I plan to hunt and I hope they gobble in the same place tomorrow.  When I was getting my stuff ready I pulled out a couple calls and tested them out making sure nothing got wet hunting in WV.  When I was putting my box call back in my vest I noticed the writing on the bottom was starting to wear.  Not wanting the cool little story written on the bottom to be lost, I wrote it down.

Docsboxcall

My dad gave me this call in 2003.  He bought two of them off of their maker; a guy he met while hunting in South Carolina named Doc Wheddle who at the time was hunting his way across the country on a quest to kill a turkey on public land in 49 states.  Dad knew how I coveted his Lamar Williams box call.  I loved the way it sounded and the checkerboard patterns gave it a unique look (they also have a function) and Doc’s calls were built in a similar way.  He set both of boxes on his desk and told me to pick the one I thought sounded the best.  I made my choice and have carried this call on every hunt ever since.   Since then, I’ve used it to lure a lot of turkeys to their demise.  Its a little scuffed up  and and doesn’t sound exactly like that whiney Lamar Williams call, but it’s a killer in its own right.

DSCN0226

 

On the bottom:

The maple inlays and beautiful old growth poplar body of this call were cut from salvaged timbers of a civil war era home built in Monroe County, Indiana.  Its base and lid come from an ancient walnut tree which overlooked the White River in Owen County, Indiana.  The design of this call was inspired by the incomparable work of Mr. Neil Cost and it was crafted in honor of his legacy as the  premier call maker of his time. #40   3/26/03   Doc

Doc certainly made a fine call and since then has accomplished his goal of killing a turkey on public land in 49 states…twice.  He also wrote a book called Turkey Tails and Tales from Across the USA.  You can check it out on Amazon HERE.  It’s a really good read and gives some good insight into what makes a hardcore turkey hunter tick.  Doc is a really good storyteller and the book is a very entertaining.  It’s almost like a compilation of stories like you’d hear in an old time deer camp.  Very cool.   I hope the turkeys are gobbling hard tomorrow and I’ve got a little of Docs mojo left in this box call.  Good luck to everyone in Pa tomorrow!  Make a narrow target and keep your head down.