With Spring Turkey Hunting Comes the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Outdoor Opportunities By COL(Ret.) Grey D. Berrier II

How’s your turkey hunting going so far? With the first week of our 2019 season in the books, I have to say mine’s already been a roller-coaster ride. In fact, as I was thinking about my experiences, a 1967 Clint Eastwood western came to mind, probably because I can best describe it as the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Since opening on April 27, I’ve only been able to hunt that Sat. and then again on Sat., May 4. First, our youngest daughter changed apartments in the Pittsburgh area, so my pickup truck became “Dad’s moving company” for several days, and then the weather didn’t cooperate a few mornings. Waking up before 4 AM to rain and a forecast of potential thunderstorms kept me out-of-the-woods. (Sometimes, common sense does have to prevail.) I hope by the time you’re reading this, I’ll have had a few more days afield hunting turkeys and possibly fi ll my turkey tag, but let me share some details on my first two times out. The Good – Now, most rationale folks would probably categorize their alarm going off at 3:40 AM as “ugly”, but I can’t wait to get out of bed to go hunting. I know I want to leave the house by 4:20 AM in order to drive up to Venango County. It was a glorious morning on opening day, Apr. 27. There was a bright half-moon in a clear sky when I made the 1.5 mile walk in the predawn darkness and the increasing glow on the Eastern horizon almost made a flashlight unnecessary. However, the same walk on May 4 was completely different, due to complete cloud cover and thick fog. Surprisingly, on both Apr. 27 and May 4, I did not hear a single turkey sound off from its roost. I like to use a two decoy set-up when I Spring turkey hunt, employing a laydown hen and a jake. It never ceases to amaze me what other wildlife will come over to check out your decoys. This year’s visitors included: several inquisitive deer, a black squirrel, crows, ravens, turkey vultures, a Cooper’s hawk, a pileated woodpecker, and various other songbirds. However, without a doubt, the highlights of both days afield were lengthy exchanges with gobblers. I never grow tired of hearing a gobbler thunderously sound off in the woods and the anticipation of him growing closer in search of your best imitations is hard to describe. The Bad – In spite of your best efforts to camouflage yourself, set up your decoys, and make your calling sound inviting, sometimes stuff happens beyond your control. Back on Apr. 27, I had that happen with a gobbler who was responding to my calling and had made his way in from several hundred yards off to within 75-yards. Just when I thought he would commit to coming down the hill, I first heard and then saw a live hen about 80-yards out, heading his way. Needless to say, the gobbler went with “the bird-in-hand” and they made their way off through the woods to do what turkeys do during their breeding season and I was left with a case of bad luck. The Ugly – The PA Game Commission’s Hunting & Trapping Digest makes it pretty clear that there is to be no stalking in the Spring turkey season and hunting is to be by calling only. Well, Sat., May 4, I had a gobbler who first responded at 6:22 AM from 400-yards away. He slowly, but steadily, made his way towards my best hen impersonations. Now, it would be flattering if someone said they couldn’t tell my best calling efforts from a live hen, but I’m just not that good. And when the hen sounds never move and she doesn’t proceed towards the gobbler (as is typical behavior in nature), you can be pretty sure that hen chatter is coming from another hunter. Well, at 7:10 AM, after working that bird for 45-minutes and having it get within 60-yards, just below my position, I had another discourteous hunter, a “Stalker” who came to the bird I had been working, take a shot at it. The gobbler flew off and I was steamed. I didn’t bother confronting the other “ugly” hunter, and sadly, that wasn’t the first time that’s happened to me. I can understand why some folks quit turkey hunting because of the failure of others to follow the rules. Here’s to the Good and avoiding the Bad & Ugly! God Bless, Be Safe, and Great Outdoors! ©WBB 2019

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