Not so talkative turkeys
Here in the Pennsylvania woods there are few pastimes more anticipated than hunting season. During this time of year, there is but one primary hunting season to be enjoyed: spring turkey. With the end of May came the end of 2019’s spring gobbler season, and like many other hunters, I found myself blessed with some wild poultry for the freezer. Spring turkey season allows hunters almost the whole month to hunt, and, unlike many of the big-game seasons of the fall, the weather is much warmer. Granted, there has been more than enough rain lately, but that’s a topic I’ll just avoid.
Back to turkey talk.
I finally had a day to get out and hunt with my father. It was Memorial Day, and we got up early to beat the rising sun. After all, turkeys spend their nights roosted in the trees. As the sun rises, they fly down and begin to cluck for one another—Tom birds gobbling in response to hens—as most of their mating occurs in the early morning.
Turkeys are fickle birds though, and as my dad and I got situated in our first spot, we encountered our first problem of the morning: quiet birds. The morning fog was still lingering through the valley where we sat, and turkeys won’t gobble when they have very little visibility. They were likely waiting a little longer to come down, or they just weren’t talking. Regardless, it took a bit for the sun to burn away the fog, which made for a pretty neat view. We were seated against the bases of some large hemlock trees, facing a shadowed, arched opening in the forest that spilled into a downhill meadow. The forest floor where we sat was covered in a carpet of soft brown hemlock twigs and several downed trunks. The parts of the trees that began to catch the sun were letting off tendrils of steam, and the sound of the “crick” below bubbled through the perfect still of the morning. After waiting a bit for the fog to dissipate, we gave a few more clucks to see who was up and at ‘em. We felt thankful when they gobbled back. One down at the base of the hill, the other behind us and across the stream. We called again, but, this time, there was no reply. Fickle birds.
Let it be known that late in the season, turkeys begin to get annoying—that’s my word for it anyway. Turkeys will start to locate hens by gobbling and then take an hour or more to show up without gobbling again. In the early season, they aren’t so gun-shy and are so excited to hear a hen clucking that they gobble their heads off and run right in. But Memorial Day is pretty late in the game, and I’m fairly sure these birds had already dodged a bullet or two, or at least been witness to the falling of one of their compatriots. So there we sat, an hour later with no more gobbles, despite our occasional attempts to start a conversation with them. At our vantage point, we couldn’t see the whole meadow below, so Dad had gotten up to peek out. Next thing I know, turkeys are taking off from right in front of us and gliding away. Let it be known that even professionals make mistakes.
We got set on another couple of turkeys. With my humbled father’s ego at stake, we weren’t moving for anything after that first gobble. They didn’t take quite as long to come in as the last group and even clucked a bit as they made their entrance to announce their presence. I lined up my Mossberg and waited for my moment. The first passed just out of sight, but the second came through the window in the ferns where I sat poised. It was over with a bang, and my tag was filled.
Of course, since I spent the whole morning with my dad, I thought it apt to include my son as well. He may not be old enough to go hunting yet, but he got to sit on the turkey’s back when I brought it home and took some pictures with his daddy. I can’t wait for my wife to make her famous white chili from the turkey meat.
Got to love sharing this healthy country living with my wife and son. That’s just the way it is out here.