New York Minute Gobbler
The first three weeks of the New York’s 2012 spring season, by all accounts in my area have been rather odd. Not nearly as silent or anti-climactic as the spring season in 2011, but odd in a similar way. The first and second weeks were filled with “almosts,” including being stalked by coyotes on two separate hunts. After a weekend of cohosting the New York Outdoor Writers Spring safari, the second and third weeks still had some action, but little to nothing after fly down. Late mornings were also quiet.
On this particular hunt, I would take a break from my favorite hunting grounds, and head north to do a video hunt for Forever Wild Outdoors with Ralph Lowry. Ralph and I are staff members on the Adrenaline Team, and we were finishing up a weekend of filming for the Forever Wild Outdoors TV show. The hunt would take place in Jefferson County. I would be the shooter while Ralph handled camera duties. Ralph and I have hunted many times together in the past, and we would be hunting familiar stomping grounds. Unlike the hunting in Cortland County, the gobbler action up north was in full swing. Ralph had tagged out on huge gobblers. Fellow Adrenaline Team members Steve Schicker and Gerry Rightmyer had also harvested huge gobblers on their trips to Jefferson County.
Ralph had scouted the evening before the hunt, and had several gobblers pin pointed in a small set of woods with large fields on both sides. This would mean a very early start, and a close and tight setup. This would be business as usual. I left my home at 1:40 AM to make the drive up, and meet Ralph at 3:30 AM. We needed to slip in quietly in the pitch black, and set up well before the first hint of daybreak. After a forty five minute sit in the dark, we were greeted by daybreak. Shortly after daybreak, we had birds gobbling, but across the street. Waiting on the birds that we had roosted to gobble seemed like forever. Finally, a gobbler and a jake opened up, nearly blowing our hats off. Those first gobbles just rattled. We were within forty yards of them, and didn’t dare make a move. Long story short, the gobblers had hens roosting right with them, and the hens marched them to the field on the back side of the woods. Those hens would have nothing to do with us. After making a big loop around the wood, we found them way out in the middle of a huge field. The field was hidden from any roads, and the birds could spend all day there with little trouble. Not sure where the second gobbler had gone off to.
After getting out butts handed to us, we checked another set of woods across the road where we heard a bird gobbling at first light. After spending an hour there in hopes of firing the gobbler back up, no such luck. We headed back and got the truck. From there we would swing back, searching familiar fields for strutting birds.
In short order, turkeys were spotted along the back field of a dairy farm we could hunt. The farm bordered state land which very conveniently had a set of pine woods next to where the turkeys were spotted. We could make out hens and some red heads, but no long beards or strutters could be seen. Ralph knew the location well, and off we went to see what we could make happen.
It took little time to get back into the set of pines, and once there we had to be careful. You could see out into the farm pasture in places. With a flock of birds in the area, it would be easy to pick us off while getting setup. As we moved into position, Ralph whispered “stop, bird out in front.” I could not yet see the turkey. After a few tense moments, Ralph gave the green light, and I moved up to a tree to sit against. Ralph had the camera rolling, and caught the bird coming into the woods while I was still putting on my gloves and pushing the face mask up. Looking up, I could see the bird coming roughly 70 yards out, and his head and neck were a brilliant bright red. As the bird entered the pine woods, a beard swung out. He was swinging a long beard, and a good one at that. Absolute dumb luck, not only did we get in just seconds ahead of where the gobbler wanted to go, he had seen our movements and came anyway. From all the cow prints, it was obvious that the cows got loose often enough in the area. No explanation how we got away with it, other than the bird associated the movements with the cows being there.
Once the gobbler came into the woods, he turned to my left and would skirt our position just out of range. As the bird went behind a large pine tree, I popped in a mouth call that Paul Walling makes for me, issuing a few soft clucks and muted yelps. The gobbler emerged from the other side and turned inward in my direction. After passing by a few more trees, the gobbler stopped well within range, and periscoped up to look for the hen he just heard. His body language quickly changed, and the gig was up. He did not like seeing a hen not present there and he was leaving. At my insistence, he did not.
The holosight had target acquired, and the gobbler went down with the roar of the twelve gauge. The shot seemed deafening in the piece of woods we were in. Although I knew we had a mature gobbler in front of us, I was in for a surprise when I approached the downed bird. The bird sported some big hooks for spurs. We would later put the tape to him, and found him to have a 10” beard with 1-3/8” & 1-5/16” spurs. Once I picked him up, I found him to be very light for such a grand old bird. He tipped the scales just north of 15 pounds. Not that unusual to find an older bird underweight later in the breeding season.
Fast and furious, the whole hunt went down in a New York minute, or so it seemed. After reviewing the footage, the entire event itself was captured on video, and lasted a whopping 82 seconds from the time I sat down, until the shot. If you had to ask me how we tagged this gobbler, I can only offer the following: we knew which trees to sit against. That would make us semi-professional tree sitters. As to everything else, dumb luck, and a golden horseshoe in our back pocket.
The details are at best a very short story. As much as I might like to lay it out as an epic battle in the turkey woods, it is in fact so incredibly short, it is best described as an adrenaline rush. That works very well for the team and the TV show!
© 2012 Mike Joyner- Joyner Outdoor Media