Turkey Season Post-Mortem 2017

When I look back at Turkey Camp 2017, there are two things that immediately come to mind and they’re both the weather. The weather was uncommonly warm this season.The harvest in our county was down, and I can only think the weather had something to do with it.

It was a record mild winter. That gave the turkeys a leg up. I am fairly sure we had more survive the winter than average. It also meant things were a little accelerated. However, rather than moving everything evenly forward a couple of weeks like it did the flowers, the warm weather made the turkey’s normal breeding pattern a rather slap-dash herky-jerky affair. I saw hens obviously nesting in March instead of mid-April. I never did see the big flocks build and break up. I seldom saw turkeys in their normal places. There was more breeding action in the afternoons than the mornings. It was all sort of on its head from the get-go.

Home » Turkey Season Post-Mortem 2017 » Turkey Hunt 2017

Near Misses:

Another thing: I don’t know if there was something wrong, but all the turkeys we took in had relatively empty crops and very little fat. I blame the weather.

I tagged out. SuperCore and Angus each got one and left one tag unfilled. Angus had a running battle with one gobbler that lasted over the last two days. We think it was the Virginia Rambler that I connected with in a pre-season scouting trip. You heard his grandfather on one of my Podcasts back in 2012:

Listen to “A walk through Virginia”

This fellow basically took over the role of boss gob from the bird I nailed on the Opener, and was pestering the same crew of hens throughout the season. I tracked the gob for Angus and put him onto him. Angus had the bird  coming to him two-days running, but in each instance, the bird went silent. Angus got up to re-position and came eye-to-eye with the turkey at close range. Patience is a virtue.

Gear:

 

We had no major changes in gear this year, except I started carrying a new turkey purse. It is a Rothco Tactical bag. It did a great job. I’m going to retire the old bag. It was starting to show its age.

The other piece of gear I want to crow about is my knife, the fixed blade Buck #?. I went through two deer seasons and two turkey seasons and it only started to dull up after the first turkey this year. That’s 4 deer and 3 turkeys on one sharpening.

 

SuperCore got a bird this year. He is now using an ATV to get back and forth to his blind. He parks the quad next to the blind and puts a camo cover over it. His gobbler walked out of the treeline at 12 yards. Granted, he was on the side of the blind opposed to where the quad was parked, but he did walk within 20 yards of a parked ATV. If you are looking for examples of whether a parked quad scares turkeys, here is at least one data point.

 

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Biscuits and Gravy in Browningsville

We were down at Mister Browning’s store in Browningsville. We heard there were good biscuits and gravy available on Saturday mornings.  O.D. was there. O.T. and O.P. showed up as well. One thing you have to remember is that it is important to have a fresh set of turkey hunting duds if you plan on going to Browningsville for breakfast in season.  I was tagged out, and Supercore did not want to hunt in the pouring rain.  He dressed. I stayed in my civvies and wished I hadn’t. Folks looked at me like I was some kind of heathen.  They take turkey hunting seriously in these parts.  It had been pouring rain, and everyone in the store beside us was in immaculately clean turkey duds with all the latest camo patterns and logo-wear. Nobody had mud on their boots, nobody had wet hair and no one was leaving puddles on the floor, so there was no way anyone could have come from the field.  No, this was Sunday biscuits and gravy in Browningsville, KY. It was like high tea, but it was just CostCutter biscuits and canned gravy but the coffee was good and you get free refills. Truth is, the biscuits and gravy are much better in Lennoxburg or at Donna’s in Brooksville, but you don’t drive out on a rainy Saturday morning for food. You go for the show.

As we were settling in, talk got to who’d gotten one and who had tagged out.  They asked Supercore. Supercore told them about his gobbler that had taken three shots to subdue.  Folks were approving. I mentioned I was tagged out. That got a sniff and a huff. I figured that was because I was not dressed properly for the occasion, only clean Carharts and a freshly dry cleaned barn coat and the only camo on me was my baseball cap.

“O.P.?” asked someone behind me. “How you doin’?”

“I got five.” replied O.P. He had noticed his partner was lighting up and borrowed a cigarette and the lighter and lit one up before putting the lighter in his pocket.

“Five?” asked someone in the back, “O.P., you’re only allowed two tags for the whole season. How did you get five birds?”

“I’m on the new Shoot and Release Program,” said O.P.

“Never heard of it.”

“It’s a new thing. I’m just trying it this year,” replied O.P. “I shoot ’em and if they ain’t up to my high conservational standards, I throw ’em back so they’ll grow up.”

Everyone laughed except for the two youngest hunters. They were taking serious mental notes. These were brothers, but I did not catch a name.  There were in to sit at the feet of the master turkey hunters.  Both were in barn boots, so you knew they had come after chores, but both had on camo shirts that were at least minimally acceptable for the unwritten dress code.

“So you say you got three?” asked the youngest?

“Actually four,” I replied. “My son got one as well, but he’s not here. ”

“Where you huntin’ at?”

I gave them a general description of where we were.

“We’ve been hunting over on. . .”  the youngest started jawing about all the gobblers they’d been into over near  Berlin, giving exact locations and such and suddenly everyone’s ears turned, and it was like one of those old E.F. Hutton commercials.  The older boy shut the other one up.

“Yeah, but they’s all played out.”  said the older brother, staring down the younger.  “We’s seen a bobcat.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” said the younger. “We caught him on our game cam.”

“There was one over by us,” I said. “He was living in a hollow by Bachelor’s Rest for a couple of years. I wonder if it is the same one.”

“Could be,” said O.D. “I heard that one out grouse hunting a few years ago. He’s moved on though.” He put his paper plate down for Babette, his poodle to finish.  Babette always gets the last bite off O.D.”

“I sure like to mount one.” said the older boy. “Sure would!” He was looking at me when he said it, so I figured he was asking for an approving response.

“No thanks,” I replied. “I’m happily married.” That elicited a chuckle from everyone in earshot.

“That’s a good one!” said his younger brother, blowing YooHoo cola through his nose. “Did you get that Oren?  Did you get it?” The older brother just shook his head and took a sip of his  Coke.

About this time the Saturday meeting began to break up. Folks got a refill on their coffee and started heading to the front of the store to sit in the collection of metal lawn chairs. SuperCore and I wished everyone good luck and left.

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Shamanic Tag-Out: Scratch One More

It’s now a little after 0930, on the third Saturday of KY Spring Gobbler Season. I’ve been tagged out for a little more than 2 hours. I woke this morning with the expectation of not even hunting. The heavy storms started around midnight with high winds, driving rain, thunder, lightning and several bouts of hail. I was listening to thunder when the alarm went off at 0430. The skies lifted long enough at 0530 that I suited up and told Supercore I was making a dash for Midway. The way it was thundering, I was fairly sure I was going to get caught in it, but everything held off until I was in my chair with my rain suit off and my feet up. There were intermittent showers. In between dozing, I tried calling with a Toby Benoit Rebel Yell box call. It is a small, high-pitched high-volume call that has kept its sound in damp conditions. I awoke with a start just before 0700 with a sound coming from over by the county road that sounded like heavy furniture falling off the back of a truck. That elicited a gobble from down in left leg creek to my north and west. I did not think much of it, but I cranked the box a little just in case.
A bit later, I saw a hen feeding out about 50 yards from my blind. I threw some clucks and purrs at her and she acted highly unimpressed. I poured my first cup of coffee and settled back to check on the progress of the impending storm. Weather Underground has a very useful app for Android. It has one quirk that I find humorous. When I’m on the front porch at camp, it tells me I am in Brownings Corner. In the back of the house, it registers as Klibat. From the Honey Hole, it tells me I’m in Berry, Kentucky and 200 yards away at Midway it invariably tells me I’m in Milford. None of them are right, mind you. However, I find it funny how Weather Underground interprets the vagueries of the Greater Browningsville Metroplex. WU told me I could expect rain at any time. I took a sip of coffee and saw another hen was now in the field. I threw a call her way. She went into a strut.

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Dang! That was no hen. The gobbler emerged from the unseasonably tall grass and put down his plumage. My guess is he was the source of the one lone gobble and been on way to me when he got sidetracked with the hen. The hen was now about 40 yards out. The gobbler was trying to split the difference and edged close to my corner of the field. I think he noticed the barrel coming out of the shadow just before I lit him up.
While he finished twitching, I finished my coffee and started packing up. After last year’s traumas, I kept a wary on the carcass. However, there was nothing to fear. He dropped and stayed down. He was a compact bird with 5/8ths spurs and a ten-inch beard. The hen walked over and took a look at him flopping about and then went back to feeding.
When I did make a break back to the house, it was lively. There were thunder and lightning all the way in, and the while I was dressing the bird. I slammed the lid on the freezer and came back out to the shooting bench and found 3 gobblers courting hens out in front of Fountain Square about 200 yards out from the porch. For a moment, they caught my movement and came to attention in profile, looking like the Three Stooges before going back to feeding.
I expect SuperCore will be in soon. Angus was tired from work and slept in. He’s driving out this afternoon for a PM hunt and then will go out tomorrow morning.

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Supercore Scores!

After a long dry spell, Supercore scores on a nice 2-year-old at 0820 this AM. The gobbler came to his calls and trotted within 10 yards of the Jagendehutte. Supercore had to engage in some close-quarters combat with the gob, but eventually got it tied off to the ATV and brought it home.

It’s a 19 pounder with spurs going 11/16ths and a 10 inch beard.

This breaks a dry spell we had since the Opener last Saturday. The gobs have had a bad case of lockjaw. We all were out today. SuperCore was the only one to see one.

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This is Earth. Scratch One Gobbler

I did not make a podcast this morning.  There was not all that much to hear.  On the other hand, this morning ended up being about as perfect a hunt as I am going to have in this life.  It all began yesterday. When I got here to open up Turkey Camp, there was a gobbler and hens out in the yard.  From noon until sundown they were out there.  I had to be careful coming out the door or walking around the side of the house.  I knew it was the same gobbler that kept showing up because he had a distinctive break in his tail feathers.

When happy hour started, they were still at it.  The gobbler had moved off about 400 yards and was in a pasture that was partially hidden by trees.  I heard him fly up not long after.  He gobbled on the roost several times before dark.  I knew where he was, about 300 yards or so from the Honey Hole.

That is where I went this morning.  It was as warm an Opener as I’ve seen here in Bracken County. I had moonlight guiding me this morning. I got out extra early because I knew I would have to walk past that gobbler on my way to my blind at Honey Hole.  I crawled in with about 15 minutes to go before legal hunting.

When I heard gobblers sounding off on nearby ridges, I tried some tree calling with the Shamanic MK I box call. Often times that is enough to get the closer gobblers to betray themselves.  Not this morning.  Dead air.  After the whipporwill folded tent, the area around Honey Hole was as quiet as I have ever heard.  Nothing.

After pretty much opening my kimono and letting loose with every call I had that morning, I went back to the box.  It’s a dark, raspy call.  It is very un-henlike. However, I have found gobblers seem to be particularly entranced with this homebrew Big Mama call.  I did a few excited yelps and got one lackadaisical response from the gobbler roosted in the Cedars to my north– the gobbler I’d put to bed last night.  He did not sound interested. I was losing interest now. It was shaping up into one of those days where the action was not going to start until late morning.

I was prepared already for that eventuality.  My scouting trips had been pretty much a zero every time out. However, long after I’d given up and turned off the digital audio recorder, I’d usually start to hear action. It has been an odd year in that way. I had brought my tablet, and was just beginning to read a memoir of the Marine Commander at Belleau Wood– had not made it a full page– when I heard what sounded like a helicopter in the distance behind my left shoulder.

It was a low subsonic drone.  At first, I did not think anything of it. However, it came again and this time it had a distinct “fffft” sound preceding it.  If I had never heard a gobbler spit and drum before, I would have missed it. As it was, I knew there was a strutting turkey approaching fast and close.

The gobbler appeared in the pasture just as I got the shotgun off the ground and began to swing it over the top of the burlap blind.  He was already past me as I got the scope up to my eye and began to swing his way.  He caught the movement and knew there was a problem.  He turned about and walked straight into my sight picture.  I leveled him at twenty yards with one shot. It was 0700, a couple of minutes before sunrise and less than a half-hour into season. I put down the shotgun and pulled out my walkie-talkie.

“This is Earth. Scratch one gobbler.”

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I knew immediately that this was the gobbler hanging around the house yesterday.  He had a broken tail feather that made a break in his fan. He was a 22lb mature bird with spurs that went to 7/8th an inch and a 10-inch beard.

After making sure the bird was dead, I returned to the blind and began packing up.  I had not had any coffee, so I poured myself a cup, and took my time collecting my gear.  At 0730 another close shot came from over my left shoulder.  This was Angus taking his bird.

He had mixed it up with a big mature bird, who had flopped down from the roost and gone silent.  He stayed where he was at the big rock pile on Gobbler’s Knob and kept calling.  Three jakes showed up and began to pester his jake decoy, ignoring the hen decoys entirely.  Angus shot the jake with the largest beard and that convinced the others to leave.  We came out minutes apart.

SuperCore went to the Jagendehutte and saw three hens out in the field.  There are two birds in the freezer and it is not yet noon on The Opener.  This is turning into a good season.

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Turkey Camp is Open!

As of Noon today, Turkey Camp is open!

I pulled into the drive today and there were a gobbler and there hens out in the side yard. I had to work quietly carrying stuff in through the back door, because I had turkeys watching the front door.

Where these scouts? Did they have the house staked out? Naw, that’s crazy. That’s paranoid delusion. Still. . .

As I write this the countdown timer is showing T-minus 18 hours Plus.

I expect the rest of the Shamanic Dream Team to start arriving before sundown. Meanwhile, I’ll listen to Rush, put out the Trump/Pence sign and dream the American Dream.

One bit of bad news: Lily, the Love Beagle, did not make the ride to camp. She’s been making the ride since 2004, but she needs to be inside and kept warm and safe.  I guess it happens to us all.  Angus will bring both Jay and Lily to camp next weekend.

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Mooselette Goes Turkey Hunting

Well, sort of. Mooselette, my #1 granddaughter made it out to turkey camp with her daddy, Moose. We had a chance to go out to the Honey Hole and listen to the gobblers and hens at flydown. It was below freezing, so I brought along an arctic sleeping bag for her to crawl into.

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Afterwards, we came back and patterned our turkey guns. Moose asked to have his mother’s 20 GA Remington 1100 brought out. He had not shot it since was about Mooselette’s age. Mooselette, all of 5 now, had a chance to try it out. Her reaction? Less recoil than she expected.

“So Grandpa,” she said out in the blind, “Tell me again about turkey hunting.”

“What part?” I replied.

“The part about how you can be a really bad turkey hunter and still have fun.”

“Oh,” I said. “That’s right. You can have as much fun having a bad day hunting turkeys as a good day. In fact, you can go all day and not see a turkey and still have fun.”

“But how is that?” she asked.

“Well, that’s because if you are really really successful,” I said, “Look what you’ve got in the end: a big dead bird. Now what?” She looked at me a little odd.

“See?” I said. “On the other hand, you can be out all day turkey hunting and fail miserably and still come home happy.”

I think she got it.

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Honey Hole II

I was out at the new Honey Hole, putting up the blind that I built last year.  It’s made out of the some of that fancy 4D burlap.  I cut a 54″X12′ piece in half and made 2 27″ inch high pieces that I then rimmed with paracord.  Last year, the blind worked great, except both Angus and I managed to shoot into instead of over the burlap– same hole, too!  Go figure.  Anyhow, this year, it’s back up, pretty much as it was.  One thing I noticed was the fancy 4D camo had faded considerably.  I had an old can of stove paint, so I sprayed on an extra “D”.  Now I have 5D camo.

Angus asked me why I spelled it “HUNNER.”  I replied that turkeys can’t spell.

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SuperCore’s Birthday

Supercore, my old boss and hunting partner turned 80. He came back early from Florida for the party. Angus played the pipes.

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A Long Time Coming

Back in 2013, Angus was enjoying his last deer season as a Yute. I had him positioned with his older brother, Moose in a ground blind at Lazy Boy. He was too big for the buddy stand anymore. I was at Campground, about a quarter-mile away. Angus and I both scored bucks that morning. If I remember correctly, that was our first all-buck double-header. I had to stay home. It is Supercore’s birthday today and there is a big party. It gave me some time to catch up on projects. I finally got a chance to get the antlers mounted.

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