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First (but not only, I hope) Bird of 2004

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First (but not only, I hope) Bird of 2004

Old 04-12-2004, 12:48 PM
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Default First (but not only, I hope) Bird of 2004

Saturday was the opener, but disappointing. Cold, scattered periods of light snow, windy and very little gobbling. My wife and I set up on our secret spot before dawn, in my Doghouse. There is a roost site about 125 yards east of the secret spot and it held birds. I could hear at least two or three different toms gobbling from the roost, so I was optimistic. I made a few tree yelps and shut up. Just at legal shooting time, I heard a shot. Within about a minute or so, about 15-20 birds all flew from the roost site at the same time, apparently flushed by the shooter. So much for the morning hunting.

In the afternoon, we went to a different spot. As we were moving to the place I wanted to get to, we rounded a corner and spooked two birds--no shot opportunity as they flew off. As we got near the place I wanted to set up at, I spied a gobbler as he spied me, and off he ran, too far away to begin to let me take a shot. We sat there until near evening, without any more bird contact. Then I wanted to relocate to a spot where I felt we would be able to intercept field birds on their way back to the roost woods.

After we set up at the field edge, we waited. At one point, I heard something walking in the woods, which I figured was a turkey, but it was over a hill and out of view. I made a "mistake". I suppose, but a mistake in the interests of safety, as it turned out I should have prepared myself by turning and raising my gun and aiming in the direction of the sound. I didn't, though, because I figured it could be our hunting partner walking to us, and I didn't think he'd appreciate coming into view and staring down a gun barrel. Sure enough, out of the brush pops the head of a tom, 20 yards away. My wife points and says "A turkey!" Busted!! The turkey stares at us momentarily and I tell her to shoot. She says "No. You shoot," so I throw my gun up (which is in my lap and pointed to my left, the tom is to my right) and aim like I would at a duck or pheasant, not using my sights. Of course I miss and off he goes, back down over the hill and out of sight. Day one ends without further encounters/incidents.

Easter Sunday the heathen (me) goes hunting while the saint (my wife) goes to church. At dawn there are plenty of birds gobbling, just none by where I'm set up. It starts to snow, is cold and windy. By 10:00, having heard nothing since dawn, I decide to relocate to another woods about 15 miles away. En route, I encounter a flock of about 30 birds crossing the highway. Some toms are strutting on one side of the highway, a bunch of hens are feeding in their area, and some jakes, which were standing on the highway as I approached, move off the road to the other side. I don't have permission, so I keep driving to where I'm going, but I take it as a good sign, especially since the toms were strutting.

I have a 1 1/2 mile hike to where I plan to hunt. The woods I'm hunting is all steep creek banks and hillsides. I hear gobbling "out of bounds", that is, on a piece of this woods that I don't have permission to hunt, so I decide to set up as close to the edge of the part that I can hunt as adjoins the out of bounds property, hoping to lure the gobbling bird onto "my" ground. It is a little after noon, though, so I'm not optimistic, and wonder why a bird is gobbling at that time of day anyway. It is also cold, snowing and windy.

The gobbling quits shortly after I get set up. I hear nothing until about 3:30, when I hear a hen yelp. I yelp and she yelps back. I yelp again, she yelps, and then a gobbler who is apparently with her gobbles. They're only about 100-150 yards away, so I yelp in response to the hen, mimicking her in volume, cadence, pitch and length of yelping series, hoping to call her tom me, knowing the gobbler will follow. (She's long-winded. Yelps 16-25 yelps at a time.) The gobbler occasionally contributes his two cents worth to the conversation. This goes on for at least 15 minutes, then the hen sounds like she is leaving, taking the gobbler with, no doubt. So I start to become more aggressive, and occasionally cutt, too, wanting to anger the hen and make her come my way. But I guess I drove her away, instead (and with her the gobbler), as she got softer and softer and further and further away.

Around five o'clock I decide to head back to the truck, knowing it is 1 1/2 miles away and all uphill. After I've gone about halfway, I sit for a minute, and hear soft hen calling ahead of me. I wait and listen and hear it again. I wait some more, and decide it is going away from me, so I decide to try to get in front of this feeding hen and see if she is alone. I crawl up a hill and get to the outside edge of the woods and move as fast as my tired old legs will go, trying to circle in front of the bird(s).

I go twice as far ahead as I was behind where I figured the feeding hen was and head back in to the woods. As I re-enter the woods, I come over a slight incline to a clearing and there they are!!! About 6-8 turkeys 35 yards away. They spy me as I see them. I try to snap off a shot, but my gun won't shoot!! (I've forgetten to take my safety off!!) I drop down my gun to see if I can figure out what the problem is and I realize my "new" gun has the safety on top, not alongside the trigger guard like my SBE, so I push the safety off, (I remember pushing on the trigger guard as I raised the gun up) reshoulder the gun and aim at the closest bird, now about 40 yards away and moving. I shoot and he rolls. Then he gets up and starts to run again!! There are more turkeys I haven't seen also running from me, so I swing on one of them and shoot and miss. I then head after the one I rolled, who has disappeared from sight. As I move along a creek bottom, I spy him crouching and hiding by a log, his head up, peering at me. Aiming carefully, I finish him.

A 22 lbs, 14 ounce, 8 3/4" bearded two-year old with 5/8ths and 7/8ths inch spurs. Score one for Team Nine!!

Not a classic hunt by any means, but still a great thrill. Another two lessons learned from this weekend, as well:

#1. Even though you need to be safe at all times in the woods, it doesn't hurt to at least turn in the direction of the sound of what might be a turkey walking and position yourself and prepare yourself to be able to shoot quickly if what you hear actually turns out to be a tom. (Get the gun out of your lap.)

#2. When trying to circle in front of moving birds, you have to know their location. Next time, I'll use a locator call before cresting a hill and stepping into a flock when trying to get in front of feeding/moving birds. If I had done so yesterday, I'd might have remembered where the safety was on my new gun and made a good, clean kill shot the first time because I'd have known, as I crested the hill, that I was about to encounter turkeys. (Also, I would have been able to go out of the woods again and gotten ahead of them and maybe been sitting when they walked to me, so I could make a choice of birds, etc., and maybe even have a little more of a "classic" hunt with some calling.) [I realize this assumes the birds would respond to a locator call, which is not always the case, especially in these woods where crows and owls caw and hoot all the time.]

Anyway, there's the story of my first 2004 turkey. Tomorrow I'm off to Kansas for their opener on Wednesday. Supposedly, there's "turkeys all over the place" according to the landowner. We shall see. Wish me luck!!
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Old 04-12-2004, 01:02 PM
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Default RE: First (but not only, I hope) Bird of 2004

Go Team ten!!! heh, Congradulations Snowdog2!
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Old 04-12-2004, 02:28 PM
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Default RE: First (but not only, I hope) Bird of 2004

Perhaps not as you say, your average "classic" hunt. But I recall an old saying that says something about "a bird in the hand"...

Congratulations Snowdog2, and good luck in Kansas.
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Old 04-12-2004, 02:34 PM
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Default RE: First (but not only, I hope) Bird of 2004

MDManiac--My apologies. I am on Team Nine, not Ten!! Don't know what I was thinking.

A/E--Tx. I agree w/ bird in hand, hence I shot.
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Old 04-12-2004, 03:40 PM
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Still a Great Bird!!
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Old 04-12-2004, 04:16 PM
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Default RE: First (but not only, I hope) Bird of 2004

Thanks for sharing your story with us and Congrats on a bird! It is good that you were able to recover him!
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Old 04-12-2004, 08:02 PM
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Old 04-13-2004, 10:24 AM
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Default RE: First (but not only, I hope) Bird of 2004

Congratulations on a great bird and an outstanding hunt. Team 9 sounds like their turning in some good birds.
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Old 04-13-2004, 12:39 PM
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Default RE: First (but not only, I hope) Bird of 2004

Enjoyed the story, congrats on the bird.
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Old 04-13-2004, 09:38 PM
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Default RE: First (but not only, I hope) Bird of 2004

WhoooHoo! Congrats!!!
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