Dogwood, Ramps and Gobblers
As I walked along the old tram road I could make out the white blossoms of the dogwoods and the rich green carpet of the ramps along the hillside. It was a perfect morning to be out in the high country searching for a wily old Tom Turkey. The wind was still with the temperature standing about 42 degrees. I had hunted this mountainside above Gandy Creek near Job many times. The gobblers had a habit of roosting on a high knob above the old mountain sods.
As I got nearer to the top some of the sheep in the pasture began to get up and move out of my way. I wanted to get another 200 yards closer to the top when a raspy old gobbler broke the morning silence. I was still on the old logging road and stopped for a moment to locate the turkey. He gobbled again and this time I realized he was actually across the creek and not on my side of the mountain.
I started on up the mountain but only got a few steps when another gobbler answered. This one caused me to drop to my knees. He was close and directly above me. I began to look around for a hiding place and hoped the bird wouldn’t see my movement.
Calling Two Birds
Just to my right there was a small pile of logs. Slowly, and as close to the ground as possible, I moved in behind the logs. When you are taught to hunt gobblers you are told that it is nearly impossible to call a gobbler downhill. In this situation, the bird was about 125 yards above me and just over the lip of the hill to where it couldn’t see me but could hear me clearly. I got settled and, before I could get my caller out, the gobbler rattled the mountain again. This time, the one across the creek responded and so did one just to the left of the one above me. I was pinned down now and the only chance I had was to call the birds down to me.
I was well concealed and let out a soft call on the slate call. Immediately, the two birds above me gobbled back. I waited a couple of minutes and called again. Again, the birds above me gobbled but hadn’t moved any. I felt sure they were still on the roost. This time I just sat there and waited. After three or four minutes the gobblers couldn’t stand it any longer and one of them gobbled. It was obvious they wanted me to respond and to make sure I hadn’t left. I called again and, before I finished the series of yelps, both birds gobbled back at me but seemed to be in the exact same spot with no movement.
This continued for another four or five minutes with no movement from the gobblers. Now the woods were filled with light and I could see the sun about to pop over the far mountain. While I was pondering the situation, one of the turkeys gobbled again above me, but this time I felt sure he was on the ground. I called back and was sure now that both the birds were off the roost and closer to the lip of the flat they were on.
The Gobblers are Coming!
I called again and the birds began to move back and forth on the flat but wouldn’t come to look over. This time I changed calls and started to cut on my old Lynch box call. I heard them again and it was clear they were about to look over the edge to where I was hiding.
Now I dropped the box call and raised my gun, resting it on the log pile pointed in the direction of the birds. I use one of the push/pull calls attached to my gun barrel when the birds are near. In a few seconds I saw the blue-white head of the gobbler above me and in another couple of seconds the head of the second bird.
I pulled the call on the barrel and this seemed to really set them off. Both birds gobbled and continued to come right down the hill. I didn’t call again as it didn’t appear necessary – they were coming! I watched as they weaved their way through the thin undergrowth. They were coming at 75 yards, then 60, then 50. I had picked out a little stump that was about 35 yards away and decided that if they got that close I would try one. On they came as if on a string right toward my hiding place.
In a few seconds the first one reached the little stump and stopped. “Had he seen me?” was a thought that flashed across my mind. When he took a step sideways instead of forward like he was coming, I decided it was now or never. I placed the bead of the 12 gauge Remington pump on his neck, just under his head, and pulled the trigger. The load of 5s from the three-inch Winchester struck him hard and he just collapsed. There was a couple of thrashes of his wings and a little pumping with his legs and then silence. The second bird had taken to the air and back around the mountain.
Spring Mountain Surf and Turf
I sat there for a few seconds until I was sure there was no more movement from the turkey. I became more aware of the sun lighting the dogwoods and the ramps that were now swaying back and forth a little as a mountain breeze started to stir. As I got up and gathered my calls and empty shell, I could also hear the roar of Gandy below me. I walked toward the gobbler and thought of ending a perfect day with a few hours’ trout fishing on Gandy below.
As you prepare for this year’s spring gobbler season, think of spending a day or two hunting and fishing. There is no better time to be in the mountains. There is no better time to enjoy God’s splendor as you savor the birth of our wildflowers, the bursting forth of the blossoms on our native trees and the cool rush of our mountain streams.
Above all, be careful! Make sure of your target. Make sure it is a gobbler and make sure it has a visible beard. If you do these two simple things, and can see that there is no one behind the gobbler, then you, I and all of our hunters will share a safe spring.
Note: the 2013 spring gobbler season in West Virginia runs from April 22 through May 18, with a special Youth Spring Gobbler Season set for Saturday, April 20. Check the WVDNR Hunting Regulations Summary brochure for details.
Frank Jezioro – Director, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources