Vermont Gobbler 105
The May 14th trip to Lake Bomoseen, located in Castleton, Vermont, would be the last out of state stop on the “2012 Turkey Heads Will Roll Tour.” This trip was one that I was really looking forward to, as I had to reschedule this hunt from 2011 due to family health issues. I would be hunting with Nick Smith, who I always look forward to hunting with.
2012 season was a mixed bag up to this point. Texas was a little different, but I had a great hunt there, not to mention spending time with family, and running in the Dallas Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon. I had a good hunt in West Virginia with my good friend Marc Hendry. Weather was miserable two of the three days, but I got to catch up with Marc, and came close to imposing a dirt nap on a smart old gobbler on the third day. The first two weeks of the season in my home state of New York has been the strangest I can recall in twenty years of hunting turkeys. With any luck, the back half of the season will improve at least a little.
Nick had become a multi-state turkey calling champion in recent years, winning or placing in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. I would certainly enjoy listening to a good caller go to work on a gobbler. Two man setups with a point man would also work out well for us. The two of us are easily capable of handling calling chores, and it would be ideal for changing up calling scenarios, which is something Paul Walling and I do quite often. It would prove to be a bad day for a gobbler during the hunt. I caught up with Nick at a calling contest held at the Auburn Bass Pro store a few weeks before the trip. Preseason scouting was looking promising. A few days prior to heading out, Nick mentioned that things had slowed some, although not as badly as it had in my hot spots in Cortland County.
The four and a half hour drive from Cortland to Vermont was very scenic and pleasant. Although running entirely on caffeine and energy drinks, I enjoyed the trip just the same. Nick met me later at Lake Bomoseen that afternoon to go scouting. Our first stop gave us the best piece of information for the next morning’s hunt. We spotted a flock of turkeys at the far end of a huge field that would go to roost in a known roost area. The flock had a mix of hens, jakes, and what looked to be two mature gobblers. We checked another farm, as well as other familiar spots, and then returned to pull out a gobble from one of the gobblers that roosted at the far end of the first field we checked. We had a good place to start in the morning.
Nick and I worked out a plan later that evening. With the likely hood that the birds would just fly back out into the field from the roost, and most likely beyond range of a shotgun. We would split up our positions. I would set up near the roosted birds, but back just a little bit where there was a slight banking in the field which could funnel the birds towards Nick’s position. Nick would set up on a natural point, and place two decoy’s out just far enough to be seen by the birds as they landed in the field. Decoying worked reasonably well on that farm as hunting access is restricted, and only a few hunters are actually allowed to hunt there. In this setup, Nick would do most of the calling, as it was the idea to pull the birds past me, while also funneling them closer to the edge while in route to Nick.
With a late dinner, and being late getting to bed, 3:30 AM came much too soon. The “Mississippi Queen” ringtone from my cell phone alarm blasted me awake in rude fashion. I did actually sleep well, especially given the fact I was excited about having gobblers roosted. Being the middle of the season, I was exhausted enough to pass out once I hit the bed. Nick picked me up at 4:00 AM at the lake front motel, and off we went. We arrived at the farm early as we had wanted to, and was set up before first light. We had a plan in pace, and a 50/50 chance of having it happen fast and furious. I was satisfied that we were going to have some action. Just before 5:00 AM, a gobbler sounded off less than 150 yards from me. He would continue to gobble every few minutes. Gobbling would increase as fly down time grew closer. Nick would do a few tree calls, while I dare only do a few light clucks. No hens were talking. We knew better, as we saw them fly up with the gobblers.
A hen flew out into the field, just beyond a rise, and well past my range. Only one bird was gobbling, and he actually flew down shortly after the hen, but back into the woods. Not sure where the second gobbler was, but I was sure hoping he would fly down more towards my side, and not where the first hen had gone. The bird that was gobbling was sounding off as he circled the field edge, but just inside the woods. I soft yelped at him, and got an immediate response. “All good” I figured. Meanwhile, the jakes, another hen, and the second gobbler all flew out to the same spot. “Damn” I thought.
As with many things, a little patience is required. The gobbler back in the woods would continue to gobble, and I could only assume that he had a hen nearby. Since most of the birds just glided out, instead of flapping their wings to take flight, I could not be sure exactly how many birds there really there. At one point I thought the gobbling tom would come up onto the field on my right and cross within range to go to the other turkeys. As I pondered that thought, the bird gobbled again, but further out and going away up towards a hidden field. I had a new thought just at that moment, but I won’t share that here.
Just as fast as the situation changed, it changed again. A hen popped up over the rise about fifty yards out. I could hear Nick calling, and it was apparent the hen was checking it out. In short order, another hen popped up, as well as four jakes. All at once they stretched their heads up, and I could tell they saw the decoys, which were hundred and fifty yards further up the field edge. The flock began to move in the desired direction. The second gobbler soon appeared while I heard the first gobbler make his last gobble that we would hear that morning. He had walked off, far away from the field. The gobbler out in front of me, gobbled just before he appeared, and once while I was looking at him. He would strut briefly, and then fold back up. Although a good sized bird, and swinging a decent beard, he was clearly nervous about the other gobbler. Not likely the dominate bird there. Made me wonder just how big the other gobbler was. The jakes followed the hens, but stayed huddled up together. They did not gobble at all. The game had changed, and now I had a good long beard out in front. It was looking likely that he would cross just within range. As the hens started to move towards Nick’s position, the gobbler came within range, and put his head up without provocation. I had the gun pointed to where I thought he would within forty yards. I squeezed the trigger as his head walked into the red target ring of the holosight.
The gobbler went down at the shot. Initially, all the birds moved away, but quickly turned and started to come back as he did his final death dance (flapping.) Funny to watch the jakes, and I thought they might come back to stomp on the downed gobbler. They did move closer, but as a pack. Things quieted down, and the flock stayed put, while trying to figure out what was wrong with the gobbler. The gobbler did a second round of flapping, which they sometimes do. At that point I figured I better get to the bird, just in case he got back up. Not likely, but why risk it. The flock finally took off running and set wings as I ran towards the gobbler.
Nick and I regrouped, and then headed out after taking pictures. Vermont requires that you check your bird at a check station. We stopped in a local grocery shop, and took care of the reporting requirements. The gobbler weighed in at 20lbs even, swung a 9’ beard, and had 1” spurs on both legs.
Vermont allows for both tags the same morning, which is handy when you have only a few days to fill your tags. After quick stop for coffee and a bite to eat, we would be back out looking to work more gobblers.
We did eventually get on to a huge gobbler that I had let walk. I had the bird at 25 yards, but unfortunately was 10 foot on the other side of the fence which we could not hunt. The neighbor who owned the property was a difficult individual, and would have caused problems for the farmer we were hunting on. Not worth the difficulties, not to mention doing the right thing. The gobbler was one ethics lesson away from a ride in the truck, no regrets.
We spent the next two days trying to work more birds, but the weather had turned wet and nasty on the second day, shutting the birds down. The last day was much nicer, but the birds did not gobble much, and we finished out with little action. All in all a great trip, and fun hunting with Nick as always!
© 2012 Mike Joyner- Joyner Outdoor Media