...The hunt had begun coming together a few weeks earlier when JGabel had joined our camp and expressed a desire to try for his first spring gobbler. A few of us agreed to hunt the opening morning up at camp. Eric had confirmed that gobblers were sounding off from a couple different roosting areas on the previous Saturday and felt we should split into different groups to hunt on the opening day. He'd hunt the 1/2 acre clover patch at the log landing on the first ridge and Judd would accompany me. Woodick & Jr would try somewhere closer to the campers. Even though I've been Blessed to be successful on several spring hunts by harvesting gobblers, I sure appreciate the Lord's favor because my abilities as a hunter fall into the "Jack of all trades, Master of none" category. I have to rely on scouting and applying a little "woodsmanship" into getting a gobbler, than on my calling prowness. I had spent some time the evening before ghosting along the ridge searching for a few specific things to help me determine where to set up the next morning. The woods are bone dry this spring and trying to move through woods up here and get ahead of moving birds quietly would be almost impossible, so we'd have to choose wisely and remember the golden rule of turkey hunting...Patience!
I spotted several "scratchings" but two areas of turkey activity betrayed repeated visits by having dusting sites closeby and the cirlcular feeding scratchings were from many different days, indicated by the dryness of the exposed dirt in each. Satisfied that birds would be on the ridge the following morning I headed back to the camper to fire up a blackened skillet and enjoy a meal of sizzling fish fillets & homefried potatoes. Woodhick had a nice campfire going and we got to visit awhile waiting for the rest of the crew. True to form, Eric arrived with his ever present laughter sounding in darkness before his truck door had even closed. Judd was right behind grinning away, adding an air of merriment to the gathering. Words can never adequately describe the enjoyment hunters feel as they sit around a campfire sharing stories, concerns, & life views with folks of like precious faith.
The "Legend of RD" continued as the banter continued after bunks were climbed into with the intentions of actually getting some much needed rest. I think I dropped off to sleep about 1:30ish.
At dawn, Judd & I hiked around the big hollow and out the ridge past Grammy's rock to try for a bird. At 6:20 three gobblers sounded off, 1 behind us, another in front below us, and the last on the opposite ridge in front of us. Almost immediately we heard Eric shoot, 1/2 mile away to our left on eastern side of the hollow. The gobblers near us gobbled several times before flying down but clammed up once they were on the ground. As I leaned back against the oaktree enjoying the sun's rays slowly pushing the the temps into the upper 30's I heard a hen calling from behind us. Judd was 5 yards to my left staring in that direction and hissed a whisper that he could see a turkey. I couldn't see the bird from my location and a few moments later heard birds walking in from the opposite direction.
Looking to my left, a scene was unfolding that was almost magical to experience.... Judd had shifted sightly to his left and his gun was raised. Beyond him I could see a big red head sticking up like a periscope, searching for the "hen" that had been yelping moments earlier. A few soft clucks on the slate were all I dared, but it seemed to do the trick. Two more red heads suddenly appeared behind the leader as they closed in on us. It was so awesome; hearing the leaves crunching with each step, black shiny feathers glistening like sparkling jewels dancing in the sunlight as the morning breeze caused them to ruffle slightly. The brilliant red heads bobbing back & forth with flashing black eyes searching everywhere. At 13 yards away, the leader crossed a log and contiued in my direction while his compaions jumped up on the log and stood together for a few moments. All three were "Jakes" with cigar stub length beards and I wasn't sure if Judd would shoot or not so as they started to ease away I whispered to Judd to take em', in case he was waiting for an indication from me whether to shoot one. This was the "moment " for me. A first time spring gobbler hunter choosing to pass on a sure thing. What an awesome experience to share, everybit as fulfilling as if he'd have chosen to harvest a bird.
I eased over and could see his huge grin through the camo face mask. He said the 1st bird he'd seen before the jakes arrived was a longbeard strutting about 100 yds away but dissapered from view, probably led away by the hen I heard moving in from that direction. We had no intention of leaving and an hour later I heard Judd hiss that a big tom was on his left. I could hear the bird walking back & forth ,but not gobbling and couldn't see it to see what was happening. Eventually I could hear it "spit & drummimg" and catch glimpses of movement through some low hanging pine branches. It just wouldn't close the gap enough to present a shot. Suddenly I heard birds behind us and the 3 jakes came back in clucking and one gobbled before dissappearing again. After the birds wandered off I walked over to find out what had happened. Judd said 2 longbeards had come within about 60 yds and for 1/2 an hour strutted back & forth but there were real hens just down over the side calling to the gobblers. Three hens came over between us & the gobblers leading them away. We headed back to camp to see how the others had made out, walking into yet another group adventure. The afternoon was spent shooting the muzzleloader, bows, & busting some claybirds. The blind squirrel found the nut as I was able to break 29 with 31 shots. As I thought about the time spent with these guys I thanked God for bringing them into my life. Judd's choice on the ridge reminded me about decisions one makes while hunting. If I had one verse from the Bible to describe this hunt, it would have to be Proverbs 24:32..."I applied my heart to what I observed and learned from what I saw."
Thanks Judd! :D
Edited by Phil, 30 April 2006 - 12:53 PM.