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May 5, 2005

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Thereís nothing to this turkey hunting thing! What ever made me believe it was so tough? Maybe it was the hundreds of times I got skunked over the past years, but that was soon forgotten in 2005 as it took me a grand total of about five hours to bag both of my gobblers.

Work and the weather kept me out of the field nearly the entire first week of one of my favorite spring pastimes. I finally found time and the ambition to challenge the frost on that first Sunday.

I had set up a blind the weekend before the season and had scouted several birds. But the best-laid plans quickly evaporate when you press the snooze button one too many times. So my perfect spot was replaced by one closer to home. I gave up my prefab hiding spot complete with a comfy chair, for a seat on the ground in front of a sticker bush on the edge of the timber.

That was as far as I got before the birds started gobbling on the roost. I was walking down the crisscross path in the warm season grasses between the bean field and the timber on the bottom. I was headed for the timber when the owls started talking. When all the racket started I became a bit concerned that there might not be any room left in the trees for any turkeys because they were all full of owls. There must have been half a dozen different hooters. I never even touched my owl call - I had the turkey locator in surround sound. As if that wasnít enough to get the turkeys all stirred up, then the geese started honking as they moved off the pond. Between the owls and the water fowl I had more than enough help locating the seven or eight gobblers in my neck of the woods.

The first bird I heard was right in front of me. He gobbled just inside the edge of the timber line. That made my setup for me. I canít complain, because my seat of convenience turned out to bepretty darn good. I spotted the thorn bush and new it would serve me well, not only obscuring my view if anything sneaked in from behind me, but also breaking up my outline for any approaching birds.

My lateness and the continuing serenade of the awakening turkeys allowed me time to set up just one hen decoy. There just happened to be a little hump at the edge of the path that led out of the grasses, so it was a perfect site for my lone catch. I put out the lone female bait, and scrambled back to my seat to empty all the different pockets filled with my 99 different calls. It never fails, that I buy the latest turkey hunting toys, drag all of them out into the woods and then use the same old slate call every year.

By the time I had all my junk unloaded and set aside so I could fire up my trusty old striker and slate, the bird that had helped me choose my spot, had suddenly gone mute. That made my split-second selection seem questionable as I heard two or three gobblers over the hill and watched a pair of toms glide down into the bean field where I had initially planned to setup.

That was pretty frustrating, sitting there watching the duo strut around in easy shooting distance of two of my former hunting haunts. But to my surprise, not a single hen flew down to join the two boys. That proved to be trouble for them, as my calling quickly persuaded them that the grass was greener on the other side of the field.

But there was one big roadblock, a significant ditch that separated the bean field from the grass field where I sat.

It took the birds little time to cover the ground between them and the ditch. But even my sweetest calling could not lure them across the obstacle. Thatís when original gobbler made a surprise appearance. Actually it was just his voice that came back, but that proved to be all I needed. One gobble from him was all it took to convince the other two toms that they better hurry up and find the talkative lady before their competition did.

A few minutes later I was standing over a 23.5 pound bird watching his partner scurry off into the woods. I was at the check station by 7:45 a.m.

With one bird in the bag, it was a little tough for me to force myself out of bed during the week. But Saturday was a different story. I was up bright and early and headed to the farm. That was until I realized I wouldnít likely have much success without my gun.

After I retrieved my firearm from home, it was once again a rush for me to get to the field.

So there I was, sitting in front of the same old thorn bush in my seat of convenience. The owls werenít there

Saturday, but I apparently hadnít thinned out the turkey population too much, as the gobbling was hot and heavy.

This time there were three toms that flew down into the bean field. Unfortunately there were a dozen or so hens that joined them.

I didnít give them much hope, but I wasnít ready to give in, as I had one bird talking to me from inside the timber, and another off to my right over the hill. But even though they had more than their share of the girls, the trio in the bean stubble kept talking to me on a regular basis.

Ultimately their harem began to disperse, and after a couple of hours of me shouting at them, they had made their way to the ditch. I watched them for a good 10 minutes as they stood on their tippytoes on the ditch bank trying to spot the girls they heard.

Once they finally crossed that roadblock, I new it was over for the leader. He was accompanied by two smaller gobblers, both with six or seven inch beards. But the dominate gobbler was packing a much more impressive beard that easily dragged the ground as he strutted closer.

A few minutes later I was putting the tape measure to that beard, which measured 11.5 inches long. The bird tipped the scales at 24 pounds.

Now the question is, what am I going to do this weekend? Itís been so long since Iíve got both birds, and never this early in the season, I wonít know what to do with myself now.




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