New York Three Minute Double Beard
The day prior to this hunt, I filled my 1st home state tag on the New York Minute Gobbler while on a Forever Wild Outdoors video shoot in Northern New York. After all the pictures were taken, intros, post hunt scenes, and walking out video footage was wrapped up, Ralph and I headed out for a late breakfast. The ride back home from Watertown to Cortland seemed entirely too long. It was May 19th and I was running ragged. Since May 1st, I had spent 14 mornings hunting New York, plus 3 days in Vermont. On top of hunting, working full time, I was also in-training for the Syracuse 70.3 half ironman. The rejuvenating powers of coffee and energy drinks were at their practical limit. I would spend the rest of the afternoon in a zombie like stupor.
Later that evening, Lee and I would take a short drive and check a few spots for any turkeys that might be out. We did end up checking the fields below our lease in Solon. It just so happens, that it is from the same hillside that I proposed marriage to Lee back in May, 2000. As one might guess, we tend to check this side hill quite often. We spotted a huge gobbler strutting with four hens down below the lease in a plowed field. The next twenty minutes were spent watching them until they headed to roost. They typically would enter the woods midway up the hill, but turn upwards and roost up on the lease. I would set up in a likely spot in the morning.
I got myself to bed early, which was due more to necessity rather than proper planning. At this point in the season, the alarm clock is set to give just the exact amount of time needed to get out the door. Plus or minus a minute, no more, no less. Just the same, I would have liked to beat the alarm clock with a hammer when it went off. I would have a mile walk to my spot, and arrived at 4:20 AM. It was a nice morning, very quiet, and I covered ground without any troubles. At first light, I arrived at the top of the neighboring field which our lease butts up against. I figured the gobbler and his hens to be at the far end on the top edge, maybe a little further in, or worse case, not far from where we had seen them enter the woods. Before going out across the woods above the field, I issued a few soft tree calls just to be sure nothing had roosted there. I slowly went across, and lightly tree called again with no responses. The foliage was out in full greenry, and I had good cover to aid my progress. About midway across, the gobbler opened up with a huge gobble. It was the worst case. Not only did they roost where they had gone in off the field, they roosted on the very edge. I decided to stay put to see where they might head to once they flew down. I was two hundred fifty to three hundred yards from them. They like to work the lower fields, so any uphill advantage would be tempered by that. With any luck, I might be able to pull one of the hens up. The night before, the hens fought some out in the field. Play my cards right, and a little squabble might be all I need to coax them uphill.
5:20 AM- gobbler fly’s into the field, down low from me. Soon after, the same four hens fly down, landing 10-20 yards from him. The old boy had a good thing going for him that morning. He gobbled three times, and the hens cut and yelped for maybe a minute and a half. He strutted along with his hens out of sight below a rise, and that would be the last I would see of him that day. While this all took place, a group of jakes and what sounded to be a good bird, gobbled in unison back up the in the woods I had just come across in the dark. They would all gobble again one more time. However they would not gobble at anything I would have to offer them. I decided to stay put, and see how this would unfold. All it would take is for one bird to break and come my way to change things up. I really was not feeling the love at this point. If I wanted to fill a tag I had to keep my head in it. The season had been very strange, and anything could happen I figured.
Forty five minutes had gone by, and all was quiet. Lee was heading into work, and swung by on the road below the field to see what was going on. A quick call phone call and I would learn that the gobbler and his harem had left the field. However, a group of twenty birds were below the pond, further down from me, and off to my right. I got up and moved to through the woods to the far edge just above the pond, and setup in a spot that the birds had been known to come through. First set of yelps on a Mooky Screamer mouth call was drowned out by a big gobble. A minute later, I repeat the call, same deal, except much closer, and coming fast. Gun up! Seconds pass, and I see the lead bird running towards me with his fan up. Hundred yards and closing. Four jakes appear and running right behind the gobbler in tight formation. As the gobbler reaches the top of the field, fifteen hens appear from below, and running much like the jakes. At this point, I had lots of questions, but they’ll wait until after I take care of business first. The gobbler turned slightly, and out popped two beards. This revelation occurred well under thirty five yards, and I concluded my business as I squeezed the trigger. The flock stood around for a bit, and I had not moved. They really did not understand what happened other than a loud boom. The flock moved off soon enough, and I went to the gobbler to check him out. I made a quick call back to Lee, and she was confused as to why I was calling back. It was less than a few minutes after I last talked her. It all happened that quickly. Like the gobbler I had taken the day before, this one was also very light, just shy of fifteen pounds. Great double bearded gobbler with 6” & 5-1/4” beards. Having 5/8” spurs, I estimated him to be a young two year old gobbler. Most likely from a second or third nesting.
I had lots of questions as what I saw that day was conflicting information relative to the entire season, and how the birds were acting. I surmised the birds had the hens close by on the roost, and had circled above me, without giving up a single clue as to their presence. One gobbler and four jakes with fifteen hens during third week of the season posed even more questions than answers as well. I had plenty to ponder as I walked back to the truck with a fine New York gobbler over my shoulder. As it should be!
© 2012 Mike Joyner- Joyner Outdoor Media