It was a joy just to walk in the woods two weeks before my season opened. The bad news was the dearth of turkey sign. I spent one day driving the back roads of the nearby National Forest lands. This trek produced a grand total of two hen tracks. Twenty years ago this same area was so covered with tracks it looked like a turkey farm. Where did they go? Hunting pressure? poaching? disease? predation (especially egg eaters e.g. skunks, racoons and opossums)? winter kill (this doesn’t seem likely since everyone knows we have global warming, I personally plowed through three feet of “warm” snow this past winter)? Loss of habitat is probably the more important factor in the decline.
Needless to say, I was not too optimistic when I arrived at my cabin the Sunday before opening day of my season. Then, miracle of miracles! there, in a sandy spot in the back yard, were two large dusting bowls and wing drag marks! My spirits soared!
The next morning I was in my tent blind just off the power line well before daylight. My favorite small hen, very non-threatening, decoy was set fifteen yards away. As day started to break, gobbles rang out from all directions! Where they came from I don’t know, but there was at least five or six Toms sounding off.
My calls were answered enthusiastically and several birds were cutting the distance. It was a little past seven o’clock when a booming gobble blasted out from behind me on my left! Thank goodness I’d left a small window partially open on that side. There he was, not over thirty-five yards away, eye balling my decoy. He didn’t notice the camo’d barrel of my turkey gun slide out of the window. Boom! down he went!, but recovered to go flopping off through the woods!
It seemed like it took forever for me to get out of my tent to run him down. He had stopped, but his head was still up so I quickly administered the coup de grace! He was a heavy rascal: 23 Ibs., with an eleven inch beard and 7/8″ spurs. A two year old.
Plucked bare, he had a number of pellets at the base of the neck, a broken wing and a broken leg. My shot had been a trifle low. This reinforced my knowledge that the wild turkey is one tough critter!!!
My one hour hunt produced more gobbles than the twenty plus days I’d hunted in ’08.