Thursday, June 9, 2016

Spring Gobbler 2016

As always, the turkey season up here in Pennsyltucky always comes and goes entirely too quickly. As a group, most of us hunt just about anythin' that's in season, all year 'round, but we purty much spend eleven months outta they year preparin' for the month of May.  I read a quote outta Ray Eye's Turkey Hunter's Bible that purty much sums up my feelin's on the subject...
"You want to hear it one more time, another gobble, so even when you don't get the one you want, you hunt out the morning. Marshall McLuhan, famous for his studies of human culture, claimed that language is man's richest art form, something that distinguishes us from animals. If that's true, then it would be on a technicality. Because our words will never compare to the gobbler's voice, when the measure is our emotional response, and the way it keeps us in the woods after we can't even see through them anymore. A gobble rings all the way through, unhooking the part of our brain responsible for reasoned thought."
Of course, the hardest part for me is whittlin' down the calls I plan to use. I've amassed a bit of a collection over the years, and if I tried to carry 'em all in the field, I'd prolly have a stroke. After much deliberation, I narrowed it down to some of my favorites.
As always, the season began with the youth hunt durin' the last weekend of April. My little buddy Dax, who ain't so little anymore, is on his last year of a youth license, so in our sixth year of goin' after 'em, we had one last shot to try to tag a bird. Lo and behold, after a good soakin' at first light, a trio of jakes walked right down the hill to us, and Dax made a good shot to take his first spring gobbler.

As we were takin' pictures and gettin' our stuff collected, we heard a shot down the hill where my brother was set up with his youth hunter. After five years of gettin' skunked up there, we managed to double up within 15 minutes, and still be back to the cabin before breakfast! Made for a very memorable mornin' for our young hunters.

The regular season started off quickly, with Tater puttin' his tag on an aggressive jake right off the bat.

And although the season seemed to progress rather slowly after that, we still managed to pick away at 'em.

Ron took a nice longbeard durin' the first week.

Matt, who has a 9-month-old son and was gettin' ready for a hitchin', knew he wasn't gonna get much time to go after it, so he was more than happy to put down this jake, which wound up havin' two beards.

Cousin Danny, Dad and I spent most of the second week upstate goin' after 'em. We hunted our asses off, and had plenty of action and tons of close calls, and toward the end of the week, Danny finally managed to put his tag on a jake.

I came home to work for a few days, then headed back up for another week. Again, I hunted hard, had birds close, and in general had a helluva good time, but the huntin' was just tough. I generally don't shoot jakes much anymore, but when a trio of 'em walked up on me and sounded alarm putts at me for the next hour, my nerves were purty much shot. When one stuck his head in an openin' at 40 yards, I let 'im have it.

A few of the other fellas came up for the weekend, and although we all had action, Joe was the only one to tag a bird, a beautiful longbeard that his guide got on video.

After headin' home that Sunday and workin' Monday mornin', I pulled into the driveway, and came rollin' outta the truck and blew a crow call just for grins, and I'll be damned if a bird didn't gobble behind the house. A mad dash to get my huntin' stuff together commenced, and I snuck down into the back corner of my woods and got set up. An hour and half later, I finally coerced him into the woods and made my shot. Turns out it wasn't my best shot, but I still manged to get my hands on him. After puttin' dozens of miles on my boots and about 1,300 miles on the truck huntin' em elsewhere, I managed to take a fine longbeard 50 yards out my back door.

That same morning, Ron finished his season with another fine longbeard, in a hunt that was almost a duplicate of his first bird of the year.

Memorial Day weekend found me back upstate huntin' with my family. Saturday, I went out with Dad and Jesse, and although we came close, we couldn't get Jesse on a bird. With a demandin' job and three youngn's runnin' around he doesn't get to go out very often, so it was nice to spend a little time in the woods with him.

Monday, I headed out with Dad and Joe. Our initial setup didn't pan out, but a bird was gobblin' across the valley so Dad and Joe headed over to see what they could do. A short while later, the guns went bang, and Joe's season was over with another bruiser of a double-bearded longbeard, while Dad tied his tag on a nice jake.

Overall, it was a tough season, with birds really bein' difficult and not workin' to a call at all, but we still managed to get some meat in the freezer. I spent as much time in the woods as I ever have, and enjoyed every second of it. I had a ton of action and countless close calls, and managed to luck into two fine birds. Of course, the scenery along the way is a big part of why we run ourselves into the ground for a month straight.

With the season out less than two weeks, I'm ready for next season already...