Beep! Beep! Beep! The alarm loudly jolts me out of my dreams and I knock the repeating racket off the nightstand. Rubbing my eyes, still heavy from slumber, the trek outside and to put on my camouflage gear begins when I remind myself, “Don’t forget the turkey vest. ” After gathering the necessary shells, guns, and calls, I start the truck, close the door, and plug in my phone in an effort to stay awake on the drive to the woods. While driving I look out my windows gazing upon the wilderness and the vast fields, realizing that at this very moment the birds and I are the only beings awake.
Finally, after 30 minutes of driving I arrive to the spot I scouted all year. I turn off the truck, look at the clock and see 4:30 a. m. glowing in the twilight. Turkey hunting consists of more than just waking up and going out into the woods. A true hunter must learn the bird, their travel patterns, the appropriate calls, and most importantly, the nightly roost. Learning a turkey’s travel pattern truly challenges one’s patience. A hunter must scout all year; and that means getting up early.
Turkeys are creatures of habit. One must understand the birds’ daily activity and know where the activity takes place for the remainder of the year. Learning the bird’s morning routine demands diligence. A sportsman must slowly walk along paths, wood lines, and fields looking and listening for turkey evidence: prints, dropped feathers, and clucks to discover exact trails and destinations. While maneuvering both quietly and covertly is essential, it is also a learned skill and requires persistence, perseverance and, most importantly, practice.
Do not ask me how I know that any misplaced step or sound allows a turkey to spot the hunter, cluck and run. Calling a turkey is both methodical and strategic. A hunter must think like a turkey and actually put himself in the bird’s position. It is the old boy pursues girl syndrome. As a boy, I, too, am struck with this ailment. I tend to go in the direction of the girl I am ensuing. A boy turkey is not different. The trick is to call cleverly enough that the tom believes he is following the sounds of his female.
I have been turkey hunting countless times in my life, and (just like the human boy/girl aspect) it gets trickier every year. I called in a bird this past year, but once he got approximately 60 yards away he just stopped gobbling and strutting; so, I stood up to see if he was coming. When I stood up, there he was (not 20 yards from me) just slowly and effortlessly making his way towards me. The moment he caught a glimpse of me, he was gone. (Hmmm… Is it just me, or is there a recurring correlation between my turkey hunting and my relationships? I was confused and then realized he came in only because I was still there silently making calls, yet I stood up and scared him.
Calling in a gobbler proves difficult most of the time; they will be what most turkey hunters call it “henned up” or just distracted by so many other female turkeys that they pay no any attention to the hunter or the calls. One of the more fun aspects of turkey hunting consists of roosting the birds because one can stand a great distance away and make one simple call to pinpoint their location.
When roosting a turkey listening is essential and allows the birds’ whereabouts to be discovered. This is extremely important, as it allows the hunter to contemplate the appropriate strategy. Owl calls, crow calls, and plain old hen calls can work wonders when roosting a bird. They are turkeys -one of the biggest birds in the woods and want to be heard, so if they hear something trying to take their “thunder,” they will answer right back from miles away.
Turkey hunting proves difficult because the birds do not comply with the strategies and thoughts of the hunter. I have been turkey hunting for 11 years. Sometimes I go into the woods and “wing it,” yet other times I go with a plan. Like any other sport, the sportsman wins some and loses some. No one harvests a bird 100% of the time. Turkey hunting is an art, requiring finesse, slyness, and cunningness to be able to get near a bird. I will continue to turkey hunt for a very long time; I will not stop just because I did not get one the previous year.
Ultimately, turkey hunting to me is more than a fun sport; it is addicting, time consuming, and most importantly challenging. Each day brings a new opportunity that mandates a specific skill set. Sometimes I conquer; sometimes I fail. But like everything else worth pursuing, each failure offers a chance for growth. Like the old saying goes, “Some people live and learn; others just live. ” I like to think turkey hunting provides me a spot in the realm of “living and learning. ”