Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
One of the things I enjoy most about fall turkey hunting is just how ridiculously loud the flocks often become at right at daybreak. This morning’s hunt was no exception.
The outing actually began last night when my son Matt called to remind me that we both had fall turkey tags and that the weather forecast looked promising. He thought that squeezing in a crack of dawn turkey hunt would be a good idea. Sounded good to me. The season was slipping way too fast; and it was time to hit the woods before fall turkeys became winter turkeys.
When we met at about an hour and a half before sunrise this morning, the star studded sky provided an unneeded reminder of why my two favorite hours of the entire day are always the last hour of night and the first hour of light. Miss the sunrise and you’ve missed the day; or at least that’s my spin on it.
We had already decided to sit together this morning – carrying in a single ground blind and four decoys. For location, we decided to set up where a recently harvested bean field butted up against an oak woodlot.
As the stars eventually began to fade, I soon spotted a roosted bird in the top of a nearby oak. As the sky began to color, the bird — a hen — roused and began to preen. Before long, I caught a glimpse of a second bird flexing its wings. After that, a mixed chorus of soft tree yelps began to greet the dawn. As the yelps slowly grew louder, I decided to join in. Within minutes, the woodland was rocking with the sound of rising turkeys – an always exciting way to begin a hunt.
The birds had plenty of options of where they could head, so I didn’t hold back on throwing in my two cents worth. I thought our very best chance would be right at fly down, and I wanted to make sure that the turkeys knew where we were and that we were eager for company.
It was still about half dark when the first birds pitched down. Although some of them lit pretty close, they had landed inside the trees and I couldn’t see much through the low light and thick understory. But as we increased the volume of our yelping, the turkeys showed a corresponding increase in their sound as well. Before long, there was so much noise that we could barely hear ourselves think; and we were lovin’ it.
Birds continued to come out of the trees, a few landing within twenty yards or so. We were suddenly surprised by the sound of yelping from directly behind. Two hens had slipped in undetected and were now standing about 6 or 8 feet away. Meanwhile, two more hens and three jakes emerged from the woods just to our left. We were now becoming surrounded by turkeys with plenty more on the way. Apparently aroused by the continuing clamor, one of the jakes ripped off with a nice in-your-face fall gobble. Awesome!
The closest hens quickly marched into the decoys and began talking to the plastic. Next, they moved toward the jakes, stopping directly in front of our blind at about 8 paces. I wanted Matt to take the first shot, but he held his fire on the hens.
Everything stood frozen in time until, a minute later, the three jakes moved forward toward the decoys. Matt slowly drew his bow and let fly. The arrow hit home with a resounding whack. The turkey jumped, ran about three steps, and fell over dead. The slain jake immediately started thrashing, and you already know what happened next. The rest of the turkeys went nuts over the development and came running to see what was happening.
We each had two fall turkey tags, and I urged Matt to “reload” and try for a double. He finally did, drawing a bead on a second jake and sending the arrow on its way. There was a second whap as the missile found its target. Although I quickly grabbed and nocked an arrow, the rest of the flock had had enough and decided that the dense cover of the woodlot was better place to be.
Didn’t matter though. A magnificent fall day was just beginning, and we had two beautiful, young-of-the-year Thanksgiving turkeys on the ground. As far as I’m concerned, it just doesn’t get much better than that!