Angus Tags Out in 2018

Angus is making it look easy.  This one flopped down from his roost and came running over with less than a half-hour’s legal hunting on Saturday.  Angus said he was working a more mature gobbler that was back behind Broken Corners when this fellow flew down from the roost and ran practically up Angus’ leg.  Angus shot him at under 10 yards.

This was a 2 year old gobbler with 1/2 inch spurs and a 9.5″ inch beard. However, you wouldn’t know it.  Angus’ shot gave the gob a quick beard trim.

Me?  I went birdless again this weekend.  What I suspect is happening is the cold weather has held the gobblers back from their normal pattern at the Honey Hole.  In general, by the end of the first week, the gobblers on that ridge have become receptive to calling.  This year, however, I have not had a single gobbler honor my calls.  Nearly every day I have had one or more hens come in, so I know I’m connecting.   There are still 2 weekends left this season.

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Something Snapped

At 1630 ET last afternoon, I looked at the updated forecast and saw the following progression:

Thunderstorms, high wind and rain before sunset
Overnight wind and falling temperatures
Low was to be in the low 30’s
First light: Snow, wind, cold
Changing over to wintry mix and wind
Changing to rain by 1100 ET

Something snapped. I’d just spent too many days this season with too much cold, rain, wind and wintry mix for there to be anything left in me. What’s more, I’d not seen a gobbler, nor had one honor my calls. My son got his gobbler in the rain on Sunday. My other hunting buddy had to stay home with pneumonia.

I packed up, locked up camp and drove out. I was in my bed at home by 2100 ET, and went to work this morning. I figure I can bank two vacation days for later in the season and still get out and hunt this weekend. This is positively the worst Opening Week I’ve had to endure this century.

This is my first weather-related wimp-out.  I’ve turkey hunted in colder temperatures, higher winds, more rain and worse behavior from the turkeys.  However, I don’t remember a time when they’ve all come together like this.  The last time I wimped out was 2011 when I hunted Opening Day with pneumonia coming on. At least the turkeys were cooperating that year.

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Angus Scores in Rainy Opener

Saturday was, hands-down, the best bit of turkey hunting weather I’ve ever seen for an Opener here in SW Bracken County. There was only one thing missing: turkeys.

Angus and I stayed out to 1100. There were a half dozen shots all morning. Maybe a third of what I’d expect. Only one was relatively close. I had one gobbler honor a call shortly after flydown, but that was the last I heard of him.

The other thing missing was SuperCore. He’s down with the New-Mown-Hay. (Pneumonia). This is the first Opener he’s missed in a decade. Bummer. The Shamanic Dream Team just wasn’t the same without him.

Sunday came, and Angus and I donned  ponchos and headed out for another go at it.  It had been a real toad strangler starting about 0300 and it lasted on-and-off until noon.  I went to Midway, where I had two hens hanging out around the blind for two hours.  However, at 0720 I heard one shot, the only one all day, and a little while later Angus radioed that he had a bird down.

His gobbler had hopped down from his roost in the Hundred Acre Wood and run up the hill in front of Broken Corners, dragging a silent buddy with him.   Angus nailed him at extreme distance.  The gob went 22 lbs with an 8 inch beard and 3/4″ spurs.

 

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Where is the shaman hanging these days?

With the demise of the Deer & Deer Hunting Forum and the Turkey & Turkey Hunting Forum, I have been kind of adrift amid the forum universe. With other alternatives like Facebook, there was a lot of overall decline in forum use. I visited a lot of places, but there was not a lot of volume.  Over the past three years, I have put down roots at few places.  I thought I’d give you the list.  If you join, let folks know the shaman sent you.

The 24HourCampfire.com remains my home since 2002. It is by far the best forum out there for folks like us.  It has a few hooligans, but they can be ignored.  There are a lot of good outdoor writers and gunsmiths, big game hunters and competitive shooters here.  If you ask a question, you will get experts answering.

Kentucky Hunting.Net I was active there since 2004, but stopped posting after the place got a bit too mean-spirited. That’s all changed now. If you hunt in Kentucky, you need to be here.

OldGobbler.com This has been my main replacement for T&TH. Good people here– and a good number of call makers. It has lots of turkey hunting knowledge, and it has a great willingness to teach.

DeerHunterForum.com There must have been some kind of kerfluffle at the QDMA forum. The fellows from there founded DeerHunterForum. This is a fantastic resource for food plots and habitat improvement.

CastBoolits  When I started casting lead for my muzzleloader a decade ago, this forum was already going strong. I am now casting for all sorts of rifle and pistol chamberings, and it is still my #1 resource. The stickies alone will keep you reading for months.

Ruger Forum I have a lot of Ruger firearms. This are good people for all things Ruger.

Nice places needing more people:

I have found many good folks over the years on forums. The following are places I endorse, but do not visit regularly. A few extra hands adding to the post volume would really help these places take off.

The Baitshop Boyz

GreyBeard Outdoors

Paco Kelly’s Leverguns

I occasionally get asked why I don’t start a forum, and the answer is that I have.  My longest ran 10 years.  This weblog has seen 2 tries at it, and both failed for lack of participation.  That’s fine by me.   The truth of it is, that I prefer to let somebody else do the management side of it these days.  However, if the demand was there, I would be glad to put up another forum.

 

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Turkey Camp 2018

I just thought y’all would like a pic of a truly beautiful day at the Thoughtful Spot. It’s on the cusp of Spring Gobbler Season. It’ll probably hit 70 today. There are gobblers gobbling like crazy.

It also shows off my new panorama viewer.

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PODCAST: Return to the Honey Hole 2018

There is something that seems darn near miraculous in the way an old turkey hunter can stroll out in the thin light of pre-dawn, over a ridge socked clean in with fog and come up a half-mile further on, set up next to an old log and wait, to be rewarded a quarter of an hour later with hearty gobbles from a host of turkeys that he left almost a year before.  At least that is how it felt to this old turkey hunter, guided by nothing much more than a lot of faith and wee bit of moonlight peaking out.

It has been a couple of years since I had a good pre-season podcast.  I had a bit of trouble with the recorder here and there, but mostly I just did not have a lot of cooperation from the turkeys.  Last year, I heard nary a hen the whole season.  This year, miserable cold rainy weather has kept me home.  I was out once early in the month, but nobody was home.  This time, it was different.

Podcast — Gobblers at the Honey Hole

hint:  Click on the podcast link. or Right click to save the MP3 file for later listening

I decided to go to the Old Honey Hole.  The big tree fell over, but there is a nice log still there on which to rest my back.  All told, there were probably a dozen gobblers in earshot, and after a long bit of coaxing from his brothers down in Pity Creek, one gobbler started sounding off about 75 yards down the hill.  He stayed there until Nine, along with some recalcitrant hens that made their faint voices heard about halfway through the recording.

After things quited down, I went over to the New Honey Hole, a couple of big trees further down, and set up the blind.  Season starts in two weeks, and we are due for more snow and rain next weekend.

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KYDFWR Proposed Changes

The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission met March 23 in Frankfort and made multiple recommendations related to deer, waterfowl and migratory bird seasons. It also proposed changes to some nonresident license and permit fees. Additional information about these recommended changes is provided below. The commission recommends hunting, fishing and boating regulations for approval by the Kentucky General Assembly. Legislators must approve all recommendations before they become law.

If you fish or hunt in Kentucky, there are some big changes brewing:

  • Non Resident licenses and tags are going up– waaaay up
  • There are a bunch of Zone changes for Deer
  • Antler traps may be banned
  • An antlerless only modern gun deer season in Zone 1 counties for the last weekend of September
  • Bag limits for deer are changing –from 2 to 4 without additional tags– still only 1 buck
  • The additional antlerless tag will allow up to 15 deer to be taken per tag– up from 2.

 

Read it all here:

 

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A Turkey Hunter Takes a Fearless Inventory

I finally stopped procrastinating and put together a log of the turkeys I’ve killed over the years. There were some surprises. For instance, I didn’t realize that I have averaged filling 1 tag /year since I took my first bird. That is a huge thing considering the number of years I went dry, because I didn’t have enough time off work to make a decent go of it.

Other surprises:

  • I have only bagged one gobbler in May.  It makes sense. Most years, I’m tagged out, and though I’ve done a lot of hunting in May, it’s usually been as a caller for my sons or SuperCore.
  • I’ve now taken more birds at Flydown as opposed to the afternoon.  Mid-Morning is still my most productive time, but I now  average one bird pitching down to me off the roost per season.
  • I’ve killed more mature gobblers than jakes.
  • My average successful shot is 20.53 yards. That doesn’t count the number of times I’ve missed a bird at 5 yards.  If you count those, I’m at 17 yards for an average shot.
  • Half of my birds are taken on Saturdays. I’ve only taken 2 birds on a Friday.  I’ve only taken 1 bird on a Sunday.
  • If I miss a bird, the chances of not filling any tags that season goes up dramatically.
  • If I take a bird on The Opener, I usually fill both my tags. The one exception was 2011, where I developed pneumonia on the The Opener and had to go back to town by mid-week.

My Average Gobbler:

  • 20.23 lbs
  • 9.9 inch beard
  • .85″ spurs

My average Gobbler is shot:

  • Before Friday afternoon of Opening Week
  • Before 0900 in the Morning
  • With the following weather conditions:
    • Temp: 56.6 F– that’s warm for the Trans-Bluegrass in April
    • Barometer: 30.03″ Steady to Rising
    • Dewpoint: 47F and Falling
    • Wind: Calm to 5 MPH
    • Clear to Partly Cloudy

One of the big takeaways from this is an affirmation of my belief that taking a bird at Flydown is the mark of an advanced turkey hunter.  As I’ve gotten more experience, the number of roosted birds that will pitch down to me has increased.  Part of this is due to learning to stick it out and not to give up. Part of this is becoming a better caller and learning to read the birds. However, my admonition to beginners has been proven out: you stand a lot better chance of bagging a bird if you concentrate on hunting after the gobbler has flown down and had some time to spend with the hens.

Just so y’all know, here is the list of fields I included in my log worsheet:

  1.  Date of Kill
  2.  Beard length
  3. Spur length
  4. Weight
  5. Timd of Day– Not exact time, but I differentiate Flydown from Mid-Morning, Afternoon, etc.
  6. Distance of shot
  7. Day of Week
  8. Days into Season
  9. Temperature
  10. Wind Speed
  11. Wind Direction
  12. Cloud Cover
  13. Barometric Pressure + Rise/Fall
  14. Dewpoint + Rise/Fall

Some hunters have index cards.  My method up until now has been to include the basic info in my weblog entries.  From the date and approximate time, I can get the weather info from WUnderground.com.

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What’s It Going to Be Like on the Opener?

I’ve written before about my love/hate relationship with long range weather forecasting. I can’t really believe it, but I can’t help watching. It goes back to my earliest days, reading the Farmer’s Almanac. It never seemed to be right, but everybody said it was accurate.

I have to say that trying to predict the weather in April and May in the Trans-Bluegrass is a daunting task. I have seen everything from. . . well, I’ve seen it. I distinctly remember the forecast one day in April reading, “Intermittent Hail.” Sure enough, every few hours hail fell from the sky. No rain, no thunderstorms–just a dose of hail every now and again.

With a month left to go before the Opener, I’m starting to look seriously at the forecasts. The National Weather Service puts out two products worth mentioning.

NWS Climate News

and this one

NWS Seasonal Outlooks



These both read differently than the normal maps. They show the predicted deviation from normal temperatures and precipitation. If there is a dark green bullseye over your area, it does not necessarily mean a lot of rain. It means a strong change of above normal precipitation. It could be a just a drop over the average, but by golly you’re going to get it! No color means an even chance (EC) of it being above or below normal.

So what’s in store for the Trans-Bluegrass? According to the latest, The Opener on 14 April is going to be above normal temperatures with slightly above-normal precipitation.  A normal Opener for us is a low in the mid-40’s and a high in the mid-60’s with an ever-present chance of rain all during Opening Week.  That’s a revision from just a few days ago. Previous to this the forecast was for below-normal temps and above normal precipitation.

That brings up a good point about how to look at these long range forecasts.  They are not stone tablets from heaven.  They are just the best guess coming from the best scientific minds the government has hired.  Those guesses change over time. Only by watching these things long term will you get a feel for how accurate they are in your own circumstance.

As the Opener gets closer, I start looking at the 10-day forecasts on WeatherUnderground.com.  I have come to rely on WUnderground.com almost exclusively.  For one thing, it seems to be about the most accurate.  For another it delivers everything consisely, without a whole lot of Climate Change gobbledy-gook, LGBT Awareness  and Left Wing Politics.   When I’m afield, I have WU on my phone both for radar and the hourly forecasts.  If it says Cats-n-Dogs at 11, I know I should start watching the sky at 10 and start heading in at 1030. I’m up on the porch sipping my coffee when the rain hits.

 

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What’s Ur Goto Call, Y’all

From KentuckyHunting.net

KYBirdman said:

As some of us feel the Ky. turkey population may be declining. I feel if I release my go to call the population may be in grave danger.

I hear you Birdman. It’s a dark and somber time for sure. However, think of it as a historical thing. Someday someone may want to know what a real KY turkey hunter used. We owe it to posterity

Me? If you’d asked in my first 15 years of turkey hunting, it would have been my Quaker Boy Grand Old Master that Dick Kirby put in my hand. At the time, I had no idea who he was. I wandered in as he was packing up from one of his appearances back in the early 80s. He was out of his own tapes so he had me buy a couple of Ben Lee cassettes to go with it.

However, times change. Eventually the ultra-raspy sound of a barnwood box call from Mountain Side impressed me so much at a Cincinnati Outdoors Show that I started using it. That stayed my favorite until I made the Shamanic MK I a couple of winters ago and gave it a try. Two seasons, two birds later, this is my GOTO Box.

L to R Barnwood by Morning Side, Shamanic MK I, Quaker Boy Grand Old Master

For a pot call, there are two that I keep coming back to. The first is a Heirloom Double Barrel slate and crystal that Brian Warner gave me as a sample when I started to pro-staff for his company. The other is a Shamanic slate over glass I made back in 2007. One or the other of these is always with me.

The Double Barrel:
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The Shamanic Scratchbox

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While not my GOTO call exactly. I have to mention my Quaker Boy Easy Yelper. Call it my last resort. I can’t purr with a mouth call. I can with that little pushpin call. I position it on my right side so that my right hand can drop down and find it. There have been many times where it has saved the day. I can add a second cluck in conjunction with my mouth call. I can also let out an aggressive purr to a hen that is coming too close.

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Quaker Boy Easy Yelper

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