The first of May has a special place in the minds of some. It’s the first day of turkey season. As I drove down the road that morning heading for the Stamford area, I glanced up on our hill into the big meadow. There was a tom turkey in full strut and three hens. I didn’t bother going out that morning. I knew my son and grandson would like to hunt him.
When I got home, I found out my son Randy had been out hunting with a buddy somewhere in the West Laurens area. But with the number of other hunters around and the lack of birds, he decided to head up on our hill where he wouldn’t be bothered. He drove up behind our barn and saw the gobbler still out in the field.
There was only one way to get in shooting distance and that was a long walk up the hill and a careful sneak down through the pines. It took a while but finally he was close. With his back up against a fair-sized pine he set up and called on his slate. Yelp, yelp, yelp….
That gobbler immediately answered back, realizing another hen was in the area. Randy waited. After a few minutes he drew the striker across the slate once more in a circular motion. Yelp, yelp, yelp….
Suddenly a hen turkey appeared. She looked around but didn’t see another bird. He waited and then the parade began. Five gobblers appeared in a row, all nice birds with eight or nine inch beards. Randy’s shotgun roared, and the first gobbler rolled down the hill. For some reason the rest of the birds just stood there not knowing what just happened.
That was strange, but maybe those birds had never been hunted. No one has hunted out there in several years that I know of, but I’ve never had an audience after I’ve shot.
Finally the small flock wandered off, so Randy headed back towards his truck carrying the tom. Then he stopped. Further around our hillside he saw another turkey. Using his binoculars, he watched a really big gobbler disappear into the brush.
During the spring you can take two bearded turkeys, but only one turkey per day. Hunting hours also end at noon. Later in the day he got his buddy Tim, and they went on the hill to check out the other area.
The next morning Tim and Randy were on the hill before daybreak. They set up on the edge of the woods where the big long-bearded bird was seen. As the sun rose and birds were gobbling across the road, Randy started to call. He got an immediate response. That big bird was not far away.
Randy called again but in a more excited tone. Just out of sight that gobbler was strutting, dragging its wingtips and gobbling. He was trying to lure in the hen he had just heard. Hearing the hen yelp from Randy’s call, a coyote snuck in right in front of the two hunters. The turkey was coming in at the same time. Tim waved his arms, trying to spook the coyote, but the old gobbler was closing in fast.
Sometimes you’re lucky and sometimes you’re not, but that morning the coyote spooked, and the turkey flapped its wings a few last times after Tim shot. That old bird had a 12 inch beard and 1 1/2 inch spurs. He weighed 24 pounds.
A few years ago the DEC was concerned about the low number of turkeys, but that has changed. There are turkeys everywhere, but if the weather doesn’t change, this year’s poults will pay the price. Cold, wet weather will take its toll. But, that’s Mother nature. She sure is a bit finicky at times.