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May 3, 2013

Turkey season has ups and downs

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The Daily Star

---- — Turkey season arrived without any fanfare the other day. If I hadn’t seen some hunters coming out of the woods with a nice tom, I guess I would have missed it. I don’t hunt turkeys anymore.

As I’ve mentioned before, I saw my first wild turkeys back about 1971 on the county road near Arnold Lake. Sometime after that, a season was opened and Bob Palmer and I decided to go hunt them.

This was a new game for us and we knew nothing about it. In fact, we went out on a pine and brushy side hill, spread out and hunted them like we did partridge. Needless to say, we never saw nor heard a bird that morning.

It was a couple of years later that I learned how to call and hunt these wary birds. A friend from Deposit took me out one morning and called in a bird on the first try. But back then, hunting turkeys was relatively easy.

I was driving down a back road near Milford one spring day and saw a large tom and a couple of hens in a meadow. I went back the next morning before dawn and walked to the top of the hill. After hearing a gobble off in the distance, I yelped back.

Within seconds, that old tom came running in with his neck stretched out gobbling. He stopped at 20 yards and my 12-gauge put the 23-pounder down. He had a 10.5-inch double beard. Not bad for my first tom.

A few years later, with several more birds to my credit, I was hunting over toward Otego. I had seen a boss bird cross the road a couple of days before, so I decided to hunt him.

I worked my way down the hill from the road and set up along the edge of the woods. Again, as the sun rose over the hill behind me, I heard a gobble.

I answered it and waited. Before long, that bird sounded off again. This continued for better than a half-hour. I’d work my slate call and he’d answer but wouldn’t come in any closer.

I tried a Lynch box call and got the same result. I finally figured he was with some hens and wasn’t going to play my game. Later that morning, I learned that the farmer just down the road had a turkey in a pen up next to his barn. I’d been hunting a tame, caged bird.

One morning, I was working along a ridge top when I heard a chorus of gobblers across the valley. It took me a while, but I headed down the hill, crossed the highway and closed in on the group of toms that I had heard. They were easy to find as they sounded off to everything from dogs barking and trucks braking to crows cawing.

I moved in closer and set up near an opening in the hedge row. I picked up my call and made a soft yelp. From that moment on, there wasn’t a gobble to be heard. That group of birds just shut up and disappeared. I tried hunting them several times with similar success. I put out decoys, but they avoided them. I never got one of those big toms. They were too smart for me.

Over the years, I got so I didn’t get up a 4 in the morning and stumble around in the dark. I learned that I could call in just as many toms if I started around 9 in the morning. I don’t know, I guess I lost the urge to play around with those birds like I did years ago. My interests have taken a different path.

I’m sure if I went out and started working a big tom, my heart would start to pound once more as he came in strutting and spitting. It’s those few moments that make the hunt worthwhile.

What’s Happening?

The Dave Brandt Chapter of Trout Unlimited will sponsor its annual Introduction to Fly Fishing Course at the Hanford Mills Museum in East Meredith from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. May 11. The course includes classroom and hands-on experience on the pond. Bring a bag lunch and your own equipment. Loaners are available. Cost is $40. Sign up before Wednesday by calling Marge Harris at 607-263-5767 (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) or Dave Plummer at 607-563-1978.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.