The gobbles carried down to the valley floor as if the toms were spectators in a coliseum cheering on their favorite hunter. With an open tag in my pocket I found the sounds of those turkeys remarkably soothing. So it was on opening day 2014 of Wisconsin’s season B wild turkey season. To use a cliché “Let the games begin.”
Frequently I am asked “How can gobbling turkeys’ sooth and relax you?” There was a time in the beginning when those gobblers fired up my nerves and I would dash from gobble to gobble, seriously, running and gunning to the point of exhaustion by the quiet time of 8:30. I would collapse at the base a tree catching my breath and a bite to eat wondering what I did wrong. Early on a lot of turkeys I killed were more happenstance mainly because I stayed in the woods while most other hunters left for breakfast. Those were heady days of heart pumping adrenaline turkey hunts. But now I take things in more methodically, or at least think I do. I force myself to relax and think.
Somewhere along the line I came to realize there is no rush or at least not usually to get to the gobbler. Instead it is better to take a reflection moment to pause and analyze; where those turkeys are, which direction are they facing, how many are there and are they in the same tree or neighboring trees? Are there any soft clucks, ruffling feathers and wings of other turkeys between me and the noisy gobblers? All this helps determine the most approachable turkeys.
Decision made, I head to the west turkeys moving quietly keeping as many treetops as possible between us as possible. There are no leaves yet and roosted turkeys can see long distances very easily from their roosts. 5:30 finds me comfortably setup with 2 or 3 birds gobbling a welcome to the dawn just uphill about 150 yards. Let the conversation begin – my teaser call makes soft yelps and instantly gets the turkey’s attention. I hear them turn on roost, they are now facing me. The hunter’s life is good.
Should have called more aggressively a group of hens yelp from the field above my toms turn to face them. I call loud and hard they turn back my way making the hens madly vocal. Yelps and scrambling wing beats are answered by my frenzied calling then all is quiet. I could not tell where they flew the sounds echoed back and forth across the valley. Soon it was apparent they’re on
the ground at the top of hill. I put my Tongue Teaser into aggressive mode, chain gobbling erupted and started closing the distance. They were coming down hill fast hitting the logging trail drumming loudly. Red and blue heads passed by in range behind my bead. It was only about 6 on opening day with one tag in my pocket and good weather in the forecast the gun stayed silent as the gobblers faded away. I don’t usually look gift turkeys in the beak but after a long winter of anticipation it was just so early in my season. It felt good to hunt.
Years of wild turkey hunting will train your ears to hear all the subtle sounds of spring. Wild turkey hunters develop a deep appreciation for the season’s sing songs. However, when a deep throated gobble rumbles out and off a valley laser like focus hones in the source.
I crossed the valley ascending the other side as quietly as possible to within 70 yards of the hard gobbling turkey. He answered and moved towards my calls only to hang up. Then all went quiet.
My setup was not as good as I had thought, downright uncomfortable with some serious visibility issues. I noticed if I side-hilled about 50 yards visibility would be much better. Scoped out a course that would keep brush from scraping on my vest and “turkey walked” my way to a much better setup. Unless turkeys start making noise I’ve learned to always wait for the settle to take place after a move.
After a bit of trail breakfast I heard a distant gobble on land I can hunt, he gobbled a few more times as I considered whether or not to pursue. I cast out a long loud audio line to see if I could hook him…
The deep gobble erupted with authority close by from somewhere on my left – time to get ready for the shooting part. As is a common behavior the turkey appeared before I could get ready. A sight to behold as he strutted closer swinging his beard sunlight dancing on bronze feathers. No trees big enough to block his vision so no gun moves for me. Long delicious minutes passed as he strutted, drummed and shook to refresh his feathers for the next display.
While fanned out he turned away from me, the gun shouldered into position. Perhaps he heard something or maybe that 6th sense that speaks of things amiss. As his head rose out of strut a single shot ended my first of 2014 Wisconsin wild turkey season within 3 hours from its start.
As he lay still on the carpet of last fall’s leaves I sat by him slowly stroking those bronze iridescent feathers that even in death catch and bend the light. Appreciation and reflection is good for the soul. That being said–Never look a gift turkey in the beak and if you do – DO NOT do it twice in the same day.