Turkey season starts this weekend and for the first few weeks, the woods will be flooded with hunters out looking for the Spring Gobblers; the first few weeks are not long days in the woods in Virginia since the hunting day ends at noon in April. Turkey season does not elicit the same feeling that deer season does for me. Deer season for me is like Christmas to a little child. I love deer season and all the opportunities that it brings for a long season in the woods with my friends, swapping stories and tracking down those big bucks we see on the game cameras.
However, hunting turkeys tends to be a group hunt with my friends. We usually set someone out in the direction we think the turkeys will arrive and someone will sit further back and call. Last year was the first time I successfully called in turkeys on my own. My buddy and I were busted on our way to set up so we backed off down a trail and set up. We faced the direction we though the turkeys would show up and sure enough, one lone bird came in from the other side (off to our right). From my angle, I couldn’t see a beard, which makes the bird legal in Virginia. I was willing my hunting buddy to look right and I was slowly reaching for my gun, but that young bird had its eyes glued on me. Finally the turkey clucked and my buddy looked right as the bird spooked and flew.
So like any other hunter, we said, let’s go get on the other side of him/her and try and get another look. So we made our way up and around to a field about 200 yards from where the turkey had flown down to and set up. This time we used “Henrietta” to help us. Henrietta is a female decoy turkey. My uncle dubbed his Henrietta and it stuck. After all, it is an appropriate name. The sun was up and I was getting sleepy at this point. So I stayed back along the gate of the fence and my buddy sat on the edge of the field. I started calling. Then I dozed off. Then I called. Okay, I am not sure how long it went on like that but I know when it stopped, when my buddy squeezed off a round at a big Tom far out in the field. My buddy has never shot a turkey and he was very excited and thought that the gobbler would turn and run away. The bird was out at about 80 yards. I yelled, “That was too far away, get out there.”
My hunting buddy takes off across the field carrying his shotgun like he was a soldier in a life or death struggle in some far away land. I have never seen him run before so I think I was laughing as I walked along…I was laughing until he threw his gun up to shoot. Then this bit Tom takes flight. Boom. Down goes the turnkey and the last thing I see is my buddy running down the bottom of the swale giving foot-chase to the turkey. I was laughing again, trying to scream for him to stop. He couldn’t hear me.
What my buddy didn’t know was: that Tom would have crossed the field and worked his way closer along the cedars on the far side of the field, and that the Tom may have crossed the field again, trying to get a better look. This year our odds are better, well at least I am going with that though. My buddy has learned his lesson and knows that patience will get him his trophy. His first big game was a bear with a bow and his first buck was an eight-pointer. I have always told him it is just not this easy…seems the turkey has proven me right so far.