I was fortunate to be able to be in the woods for 30 straight mornings before first light to be able to witness the sights, sounds and smell of another glorious spring morning.
I wasted no time getting to my chosen tree that morning. I set against that tee not realizing that I was about to experience the weirdest turkey hunt of my hunting career.
I have been able to be in the woods during most of the turkey season. There have been a multitude of gobblers who have net their demise, tons of mistakes and fond memories hunting with friends and family. Many hunts are now but fuzzy memories but many still stand out and are the topic of turkey lore.
As I sat waiting for the first sign of fading darkness my mind was plotting the next location if this didn’t work out. About the first week in April I began scouting. At first I just want to know that there are gobblers in an area. As the days get close to the opening day I narrow it down to specific areas and specific turkeys. During the season if I hear a gobbler I know what tree that I’m headed for. The exception to this rule is hearing a gobbler in the one million acres of public land that encompasses my home area that calls for a different strategy.
At the first peek of early morning light a hen begins a series of soft yelps, joined by another.Ideally, the perfect situation is the presence of gobblers without hens. This morning I give a short series of soft yelps then shut up. The gobblers know where I am. If I am fortunate to have a gobbler fly off the roost first I imitate a fly down hen and then cut and yelp to try to have him strut to my location. If hens fly down first I try to carry on a conversation with a dominate hen, throwing out insults and out calling her. Sometimes all of this works but most of the time the turkey wins.
I wear full camouflage from head to toe including a face mask and gloves. My jacket is of a dark vertical pattern no longer available. My pants match the forest floor. I suggest wearing a dark patterned jacket as most set ups are against a tree. A light colored jacket stands out like a sore thumb. My turkey vest is full of calls, pruning shears, extra gloves, masks and a waterproof poncho. One of the most important pieces of equipment I carry is a Stearns camo seat cushion in a mesh bag. Just try to set still for an hour or so without moving without a cushion.
Just before daylight the far off rumble of thunder could be heard. As it got closer I judged that it would go north of me. At first light I found that I had misjudged and the thunderstorm was rapidly approaching. As the thunder came closer the gobblers began answering it. Suddenly early morning turned to darkness. Lightning was streaking across the sky above me. Thunder was roaring and the heavens opened up and torrents of rain began falling. The gobblers were going nuts, gobbling constantly. Hens were yelping. I had slid by poncho from my vest and tried to cover my chest and gun. Two gobblers were within gun range but just over a rise. Using a mouth call I was cutting and yelping to try to get one to come over the rise. The whole scene was unreal.
I was setting on the end of a ridge facing a woodlot. Behind me was woods to my left and an open field to my right. Suddenly I heard a distant gobble from behind me in the woods. The gobbles began coming closer and I realized another gobbler was rapidly closing the distance between us. I slid the poncho over my knee. Suddenly the big drenched gobbler with a long beard was beside me not 10 feet away. I raised my shotgun knowing that he would run. If he ran straight ahead he would have disappeared into the darkness but he turned and ran back where he had come from. He never made it as the load of number 6 copper plated shot reached his head.
I set there until the storm moved on, retrieved the downed bird and had a squishy return to the car. As the storm had approached I decided that I would be the tallest object out in the open field. I wondered how many turkey hunters had been zapped setting against a tall tree during a thunderstorm.
Later that fall I was laying out in a harvested field of oats hunting geese. I covered my gun with a decoy as lightning sizzled overhead. I wondered how many goose hunters get fried but that is a different story for another time.