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.

 

West Virginia Day 3

 

After 3 days I was able to put a tag on a great West Virginia bird.

After 3 days, I was able to put a tag on this West Virginia bird.

As it turned out, I wasn’t needed at work today so I stayed down south to try and kill that turkey one more time.  The weather called for thunderstorms starting around 10 so I figured I’d at least get to hunt until then.  It was windy this morning but I was close enough to where the turkey was roosted to be able to hear him if he gobbled.  The only problem was he didn’t.  Right after fly down though, a hen responded to my call right about where I figured they were.  She started out soft and progressively got louder.  I matched what she was doing and started cutting at her.  She got aggressive right back and for a second I thought I could bring her around.  Instead, she moved off to the east and that was that.  As the morning progressed, the rain never happened and the sun came out.  The wind died down and it was actually a really nice morning to be out.

I was in the same place I hunted Monday and Tuesday.  And this was the same turkey that gave me the slip two days in a row.  Although I didn’t hear him gobble, I knew that gobbler was with that hen.  I have hunted this spot for a lot of years and I’d seen this kind of stuff before here.  He had hens Monday and Tuesday and they stayed just out of range on their way back up the hollow.  I knew if he ever lost his hens, at some point in the day he would come looking for me.  Every 30 minutes or so I’d call really soft then progressively make each series louder.  At noon, I happened to catch movement out in the direction I got the hen to respond earlier in the morning.  There he stood at 40 yards.  He had lost his hen(s) and here he was.  He would take about 3 steps and stop to look around.  He would stand still as a statue for a minute or more.  Since he was coming close, I just let him keep sneaking.  When he got to twenty yards, I let him have it.

1 inchers

1 inchers

Can I definitively say this was the same bird I’d been trying to kill the past two days?  No.  He could have walked in from somewhere else but I highly doubt that.  He did roughly the same thing every day except today he just got a little to close with his investigation.  But who knows.  The point is patience kills turkeys.  Even if he walked in from somewhere else, he’s dead just the same.  It may not be as fast paced and wire to wire exciting as having one rattle his head off all the way in, but when they’re henned up and not talking, waiting them out produces results.  It’s not always fast, but its effective.  As far as the season goes, everything looks pretty early in my section of Fayette County, West by God.  Not much green in the woods and the birds are just getting in the swing of things.  It’s just going to get better.  I’ve got to work tomorrow so I reluctantly headed back to Pennsylvania.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get down at the beginning of next week to try and fill my second tag.  From the looks of things, I’ve got plenty of time.  

Missouri Success

Pops connects in Missouri this morning.  Use the flash  next time.

Pops connects in Missouri this morning. Use the flash next time.

Because my sister scheduled her wedding in the middle of turkey season like an asshole, it screwed up our hunting plans.  While I’m here in Wv trying to get a bird killed, my dad headed back to the midwest to hunt southern Missouri with a good friend of ours.  Between the storms and bad luck, he finally killed his first bird of the trip this morning.  He has to tomorrow to fill his second tag.  Good job Dad.

West Virginia Day 2

High wind and rain greeted me in the woods this morning.  I heard one gobble at 6:15.  That was it.  One gobble on his own.  Not hearing anything else and lacking another course of action, I set up on a high point where I figured the bird would be loafing around through the morning.  Nothing until 11 o”clock there was a gobble right behind me.  It kind of startled me awake.  I had been clucking and purring periodically through the morning and had called to him right after fly down so I guess he finally came to check me out.  Or not.  Who knows?  He stayed just under the lip of the flat I was on continued on his way like he had somewhere to go.  Twice in a row I’ve been foiled by no more than 30 feet.  I’ve got to go back to work tomorrow so this bird gets a break.  I’m going to try to get down once more before the season is over and give him a go.

West Virginia Opening Day

This about sums up my morning.

This about sums up my morning.

Last night, I drove down to my parents’ house in southern West Virginia for the opener of spring gobbler season.  I’ve lived away from home for about 11 years but I always make it back for at least the first two days of season.  This one is slightly different than years past, however.  I arrived to an empty house.  My mom is in Alabama at my sister’s until tomorrow, and my dad is in southern Missouri chasing turkeys.  The house wasn’t stirring this morning like it has every other first day of turkey season and it was almost eerie.

I went to the same place on the rim of the New River Gorge that I killed a bird the first day last year.  Three birds were gobbling in their normal places with two close and one far off.  As soon as they flew down, it was pretty clear they had hens.  They gobbled on their own and would not respond to anything I had to say.  I got between one tom and his group of ladies but they skirted the flat I was set up on and made it by unscathed.  Another 10 yards and it would have been game time but it just didn’t work out.  By 8:00 the gobbling had stopped and the rain began.  These birds tend to do the same thing every year, so I covered their return route and stood my post until the 1:00pm quitting time but they never returned.  Guaranteed, they will be back on that ridge top in the morning and so will I.  He may have won the battle, but the war is still up for grabs.

Flash Back Friday: The time I met Willie Robertson

408005_10100556480615439_1564654177_nMy wife and I got invited to the Golden Moose awards in 2012 by a friend of mine.  We watched the awards show and drank enough whiskey to float a battleship.  When the award show was over Zac Brown was going to play.  We were making our way toward the front for the Zac Brown show when Willie appeared.  I knew him from the duck men dvds and I’d watched Duck Commander on the outdoor channel.  Emboldened by the whiskey I asked if I could get a picture.  No problem at all.  He even gave me the moose to hold up.  And then we watched Zac Brown rip it for about and hour.  Not a bad evening from what I remember.

Killing Easterns

My dad and I on the West Virginia opener in 2013.  Fayette County double.

My dad and I on the West Virginia opener in 2013. Fayette County double.

While ambushing turkeys from a blind is sometimes what you’ve got to do, actively pursuing a gobbler through big timber in the mountains is truly what it’s about.  When I think of turkey hunting, that’s what I think of.  All you have to do is move close enough without scaring him and then seduce him within shotgun range.  Simple.

It sounds easy.  Sometimes it is easy.  More often than not, though, turkeys can be a real pain in the ass.  I was extremely fortunate in the respect that I grew up around some really fantastic turkey hunters.  They aren’t on tv, they never wrote books, and they don’t promote anything.  Nobody outside my community even knows who they are, but they’re turkey serial killers.  They’ve forgotten more about turkey hunting than a lot of people know.  And I’m not talking about midwestern or Texas birds that truthfully, aren’t terribly hard to kill.  We’re talking grizzled eastern birds that live in some of the most rugged terrain in the east.  I’ve spent my entire life watching masters at work.  And this is what I’ve learned from them in its most condensed form.  It’s basically nothing more than a set of guidelines and a very simplistic approach.

Do your homework.  It seems pretty rudimentary, but a lot of people don’t scout at all before season.  You have to know where the birds are going to be if you plan on shooting one in the face.  For whatever reason, they may be doing a different thing than they were last year.  Get out there and listen to what they have to tell you.  Try and pattern their movements.  Figure out where they roost and then where they go when they hit the ground.  It won’t be exactly the same every day but a general pattern will be present.  And whatever you do, leave your turkey call at home.  Don’t be that guy that goes around and gets every longbeard in the country cranked up before season, just because you like to hear them gobble.  You may not believe in making them call shy, but you’re wrong.  Imagine if an attractive sounding woman seductively called to you from around a corner and every time you went to look, she either wasn’t there or it turned out to be something you perceived as a threat.  You’d probably stop doing it out after the first or second time. That’s how it works with turkeys.  Just listen at gobble time and wait until you’ve got a gun before you start whispering sweet turkey nothings.

Rule Number 1 Stay above turkey.  Rule 2 is don't forget Rule 1.

Rule Number 1 Stay above turkey. Rule 2 is don’t forget Rule 1.

Setup is key.  Always maintain the high ground.  Aside from a pronghorn antelope, wild turkeys are some of the spookiest creatures you’ll ever encounter.  Every predator in the woods wants a piece of them and their senses have evolved accordingly.  They will often get to the highest point they can to check out a situation instead of just blundering into it.  If you’re downhill of him, he has no incentive to come to you because he can see there’s nothing down there.  I’ve seen a turkey stand on a high knob just out of range for over 2 hours and try to find out where I was.  When he never saw a hen materialize, he went on his way.  Stay above him at all cost.

Keep your calling minimal.  It isn’t a calling contest, so don’t treat it like one.  Less is more when working a turkey.  In the hunters’ world, it is a common perception that the gobbler is supposed to come to the hen.  In the turkeys’ world, however, it is the exact opposite.  The hens are supposed to come to him and more often than not they do.  If he responds to your call, he knows exactly where you are and at some point in the day, before he goes to roost, he will make a trip by the spot he heard you call from and check it out.    Depending on his options it might take a few minutes, or it might take several hours.  But you can rest assured he will be there at some point even if he has long stopped gobbling.   Sit your ass still and be patient because this may take all day.  You’ve got to match your calling to what he is telling you.  If he triple gobbles and cuts you off, drop the call and get your gun ready.  If he plays coy, you might need to step it up just a little bit or just keep reminding him you’re there every half hour.  The only time I really find it acceptable to call a lot and aggressively is if I’m trying to pick a fight with a mouthy dominant hen he has with him.  He goes where she goes, and sometimes her desire to find you and kick your ass will get her lover’s beak blown off.

Here's a WV bird from 2004.  This was the first turkey that literally took me all day to kill.  6 hours of boredom and frustration  but the last 5 minutes of the hunt got really good.

Here’s a WV bird from 2004. This was the first turkey that literally took me all day to kill.  The season previous, I would have walked away from this turkey 5 times.  I toughed it out and after almost 6 frustrating hours, he messed up first.

Don’t quit.  Ever.  I know it sounds pretty straight forward but it’s one of the single best pieces of hunting advice I’ve ever been given.  The only reason you should ever give up is because the hunting season has ended.  It’s pretty easy to get discouraged and want to stop.  I’ve hunted several days in a row and never even heard a turkey.   I’ve gone back after taking a beating for the better part of a week and for whatever reason, gotten on a bird and killed him 20 minutes after fly down.  They’re not always going to be receptive and sometimes they do things that defy logic.   But if you just keep going, you’ll eventually get one to play ball.  Most seasons are at least 4 weeks long.  That’s more than enough time to get on a killable bird if you don’t give up.  The concept of not quitting is two fold.  Don’t walk away from a turkey to go find another one.  Like I said before, if he hears you, he knows where you are.  It might not be the most exciting thing in the world, but sometimes you have to wait him out.  People walk away from  a lot of killable turkeys because they aren’t patient or they think he’s gone and not coming.  You know better.

I ain't tellin lies.

I ain’t tellin lies.

No one every truly has these birds figured out and anyone who claims to is full of shit.  You’re going to run into birds you can’t kill.  Period.  You’re going to have situations where a bird does something it isn’t supposed to do, but it does it anyway.  Cusswords and confusion will abound.  The good part to all of this is you’re also going to get on a turkeys that want to commit suicide. You will eventually get on one that can be killed and then it’s your responsibility to do your job and not booger him up.   Stay above him, keep your calling to the minimum required amount, and don’t quit.  The law of averages will take care of the rest.

Oklahoma and Kansas photos

Dad with a nice Rio

Dad with a nice Rio

3 generations of the Smiths from Kentucky

Scott, Natalie, and Lang with some good Oklahoma Rios 

Mr. Burt and his son Lang

Mr. Burt and his son Lang

My first bird from the Kansas trip

My first bird from the Kansas trip

 

Bird number 2 from Kansas

Bird number 2 from Kansas

Both of Dads Kansas birds.  Glad I was able to be with him when he connected.

Both of Dads Kansas birds. Glad I was able to be with him when he connected.

Retro pants.

Retro pants.

 

 

Self filmed Kansas gobbler

I’m still trying to find time to get photos uploaded and a writeup done but I’ve been a little more busy than I had planned.  I did manage, however, to get a rough edit of my second bird from yesterday.  As you know, I’m a pretty terrible videographer but I was able to get the kill shot on camera.  What you can’t see is the jake and hen that were about 3 feet in front of my makeshift blind.  It got to the point where I couldn’t move the camera or adjust the zoom without being busted.  Luckily he was in frame.  Enjoy.

Kansas Day 1

Success in the sunflower state.  Out of ten guys in camp, we killed 9 birds.  I was lucky and tagged out today.  Killed one at 1:10 and the other at 7 on the same farm and got the second kill on video at 15 yards.   My dad missed one this morning and our buddy John from Indiana had a double this evening.  My phones dead, as well as my camera so I’ll get pics and video up tomorrow since I now have nothing to do.

Success!

Success!