Thursday, January 31, 2013

Turkey time is coming fast

As we get ready to turn the calendar from January to February, already my thoughts are leaping forward to April.  April 27th to be exact.  The PA Game Commission has the legal start time for that day listed as about 6:04am, so with any luck, and good weather, by about 5:15am I'll be hunkered under a thick Beech tree, with a stand of white pine along the ridge to my right that could be just thick with roosted turkeys.  This is Spring Gobbler season, and for me this is the season I enjoy more than any other. 

I love the Spring Gobbler season, for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I've had my fair share of success.  I didn't grow up chasing turkeys, in fact my very first Spring Gobbler opener was May of 2002.  However, in the 10 years that have followed, I've called in and shot 3 birds.  In PA you were only allowed one bird per season, until just recently, so starting out as a complete newb in the 2002 season, I'll take my 30% success rate.  In that time I've seen my best friend take a fine Tom that had wandered in dead silent.  And probably had conversations with a dozen other birds while in season.

Just being in the woods during the spring green-up is reason enough to love this season, so this ranks as a strong 2nd in my list.  Traditional hunting seasons tend to occur as fall changes to winter.  So if you hunt several different species, you witness mother nature going to sleep for the winter.  Tender green plants dry up and die back.  Trees change color then drop their leaves.  In the Spring Gobbler woods, hunters bare witness to the exact opposite.  Sprouts push up through the leave litter, and the trees sprout this season's leaves.

The picture of my 2010 Gobbler shows the green-up in all its glory.   Not my biggest bird, but just ask anyone that has chased the spooky Pennsylvania Eastern Turkey subspecies, and they'll let you know each one is a trophy.

This particular fella had answered my calls early, probably with the first hours of legal light, but had taken his time.  My guess was he was a 1-2 year old bird, who may have gotten thumped by an older Tom.  As a result he was cautious in answering my calls, and he took his time picking his way to my spot.  Just as he wandered through the thick underbrush, into the opening I was watching a crow took issue with his presence.  Giving several loud caws, this crow swooped in, trying to run off my Tom.  He spooked, and ducked into the underbrush near the edge of the opening, but I knew what to do.  Knowing if he got spooked, he'd assume the hen he was looking for got spooked too, I let the woods settle then gave a cautious yelp.  Like a teenage boy, thrilled a girl called him back, the Tom rushed back into the opening, still looking for his dream girl.  Knowing he was bearded, and knowing that crow could be back in a second, I didn't hesitate.  The Mossberg 835, sent the Winchester Turkey Load about 50 yds and this fine Tom was getting fitted for my tag.

With a newborn in the house and a new job for my wife, the 2011 and 2012 seasons were a bit light on time spent in the woods.  Now that life has settled down, the 2013 season shows plenty of promise.  It doesn't hurt that I saw anywhere from 3 to 12 turkeys on each of the 3 days I spent hunting in the PA firearm deer season.

Happy Hunting!
Scott M

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