Sunday, June 1, 2014

Last-minute success

As we entered the final week of the spring turkey season here in PA, things were lookin' a little slow. Nobody had had much action since Ron dusted his second bird to open week three. Then, on Memorial Day weekend, we stirred the pot up at camp again. Our buddy Smitty tagged a nice two-year-old, and the ol' man came through again with another late-season afternoon hog of a longbeard. Joe had one dead to rights, but a misfire turned his hunt into a catch-and-release expedition.
17.5lbs, 9-1/2" beard, 7/8" spurs
23lbs, 9-1/4" beard, 1-3/8" spurs
I, on the other hand, was already lookin' into some new recipes for tag soup (the recipes I've tried before never taste very good for some reason).

Then, a groundhog assassination turned into an unlikely gobbler scoutin' mission on Wednesday after the mornin' milkin' at the farm, and things were lookin' up. I rounded up the necessary permission to get where I needed to be, and I had all day Thursday to go after 'em.

I got into the field early Thursday mornin', and after changin' my set-up a few times in the dark, I finally settled in for the long haul. A few minutes before six, a bird opened up in the woods on the other end of the field, about 400 yards away. He gobbled thirteen times in the next half-hour, then nothin'. With heavy eyes, I finally succumbed to a month's worth of short nights around 0700. When I came to a little while later, a hen had magically appeared in my decoys. She hung out close for about an hour, alternatin' between eatin' and preenin'.
Hard to see, but the hen is puffed out while preenin',
just in front of my left-hand decoy.
When she moved outta sight, I decided it would be a good time to stretch my legs, and I quickly figured out that she wasn't as far outta sight as I thought she was. With a few alarm putts, she headed off into the timber. Turns out that was prolly a good thing to get rid of her.

About twenty minutes later, I heard a gobble from the far side of the field. I hit him right back with an aggressive yelp and some cutts, then grabbed my binoculars. The bird had just crested one of the rises in the field about 300 yards away, and I quickly saw the long rope swingin' from his chest. Had the hen still been there, she prolly woulda headed right for him and led him off, but my decoys weren't movin', so he slowly started headed my direction.

After takin' his dear sweet time closin' the distance, he disappeared into a swale about 75 yards way, and never came out. I had long since prepped myself for a shot, and after five minutes I was just startin' to wonder what the hell happened when all of the sudden a jake walked outta the timber to my left and half-strutted into the decoys. That did the trick... That ol' longbeard mean-walked outta the swale and directly at the jake, ready to kick some ass. Grandpa's Mossberg 835 and the Hevi-Shot Mag Blends beat him to the punch, droppin' him stone dead at 40 yards.
Them Mag Blends are expensive, but damn, they perform.
Most birds flop around as they expire... not this one.
Old Indian Trick: binoculars make a good makeshift
camera bipod in a pinch.

This was my first Adams County bird, and the second bird I've got with Grandpa's turkey gun. I definitely felt Grandpa huntin' with me through that gun as I carried it this season. This will definitely be a special bird for the memory bank.

As an added bonus, I hit up the same area the next day after work, and after bein' set up for only a few miuntes, I called that same shittin' little jake in again. I ain't much for shootin' jakes, but with only minutes left in my season, I decided he looked pretty damn tasty.
13.5lbs, 4.5" beard (two strands to 6"), 1/4" spurs
I thought I was waitin' until the last minute, but Matt had to go and one-up me. He ain't hunted much this spring, and his six- or seven-year streak of harvestin' longbeards was on the line. Well, he made it up to camp for the final weekend and promptly put down a helluva nice longbeard. I ain't heard the story yet, but knowin' him, it was excitin'.
20.5lbs, 10" beard, 1" spurs
I gotta say, we usually do most of our damage as a camp in the early weeks of the season. It was definitely a change of pace this year by gettin' half of 'em in the last week. We took a total of ten birds, (and had a fair share of misses) includin' eight longbeards, a jake and a bearded hen. Definitely not a shabby season!

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