My alarm went off at 4am. I had just worked a 50 hour week, I was tired, but I had turkey on my mind. I’ve been looking forward to turkey season since deer season, if you ask my colleagues at work, and although I was tired I still got up and got ready for a day of hunting.
We arrived at the game lands just before first light and there were lots of cars already there. It seemed like we weren’t the only ones ready to try our hand at bagging a bird. We finally settled on a spot to park and an area to go explore. It was a cool damp morning that reminded me a lot of mornings at summer camp. We walked through a field to get to the road we were going to walk up to get to our first possible hunting spot.
Outside birds were starting to chirp, the dampness in the air mixed with the smell of earth and I felt calm and ready to start hunting turkey. We hiked a road into the field where we ended the 2017 turkey season by bumping a few birds and briefly seeing a nice tom. By the time we got to the top of the field we couldn’t hear much over the sound of the trees blowing in the wind. Tyler tried an owl call to see if the turkeys may respond in the roost but had no luck.
Instead of hunkering down in the field we continued to press on into the windy forest. We decided to take a trail we’ve seen but never followed up to some fields we’ve seen on maps before but never explored. This trail was pretty obviously not one that was used often, there were thickets of rhododendron that we had to push through until it finally dumped us out on a forest service road.
We started following that road uphill to the fields. Tyler was calling on the box call but we were having a hard time hearing anything over the wind and the creaking of the trees all around us. Anytime we thought we heard turkey sounds it turned out to only be the trees around us. We weren’t defeated yet though. It’s been months since we’ve hunted together and I forgot how fun it is to hunt with him.
We explored a few roads off of the one we had been dumped out on continuing to call as we went. Looking for signs of turkey, and other animals too, we kept our ears peeled hoping to hear a distant gobble.
We finally arrived to a set of fields all interconnected with each other, similar to a set of fields we call “Autumn Fields.” We came into the field and looked around and didn’t see anything so we continued into the field walking the edge to see if we would find any sign. As we rounded the field edge we bumped two bearded birds. As frustrating as it was to bump birds it made us come up with a game plan quick. The birds hadn’t made any sounds as they were leaving the field and they flew to roost in trees just off of that field edge.
We walked away slowly and into a field connecting on the other side. Tyler set up the hen decoy, we got comfortable against some trees in the brush, and waited. I was really starting to have fun by this point. Compared to the 2017 season, I was already doing better. I didn’t see a bird in 2017 until the last day of season and I had already seen two on the first day of 2018 season!
We sat, called, and made soft sounds for about 45 minutes. At one point I saw one of the turkeys fly off into the woods down to my left, we hadn’t heard any noise so we decided to pack up and keep exploring the fields. As we walked around we busted the other bird who had continued to stay roosted from when we initially busted them out of the field.
It was beginning to warm up significantly and we decided to head back down the new trail and look at another field closer to where we started. We walked in quietly from the road, stopped to get calls back out before getting to the field entrance about 100 yards away and that’s when we saw him. A large tom was flying in from the field into the woods, his long beard pressing against his body in the breeze.
At that point, getting even warmer, we decided to hike back down to the car to strategize and refuel. For the afternoon, Tyler wanted to try a blind hunt in an area we call “Turkey Top.” It was getting even warmer at this point, summer like weather, and the thought of sitting in a blind in the sun didn’t seem too appealing to me but I agreed. After all, the first day of turkey season only happens once per year.
We got up to “Turkey Top” and set up the blind and hunkered down for a few hour sit. It was pushing 80 degrees at this point and it felt like we were sitting in an oven. We had plans that evening since it was Tyler’s birthday and we started to get pressed for time. I finally convinced Tyler we needed to go. It was hot and I know turkeys can have difficulty regulating their body temperature so I didn’t think they would be out in the field.
As we drove home Tyler looked for turkeys. We didn’t see any except for a few trying to cool off in the shade by a creek on private property near our house. Leaving the heat of the blind was a good idea. If it weren’t for our plans that evening, we probably would have stayed and gone back out to sit closer to the evening and had a decent chance at getting a bird. That wasn’t the end of our first weekend hunting though.
On Monday we layered up, packed up the blind and headed out to “Turkey Top” first thing in the morning. We were no longer hunting in the summer like weather that had kicked off our turkey season and although we thought we would be warm enough in our layers we were wrong.
We got up to “Turkey Top” and got our decoys and blind set up. It was once again windy but this time we were also fighting a sleet/snow mix. To conserve heat, and so the wind wouldn’t blow through the few layers we had, we closed all the windows in the blind and periodically peaked out and called.
We ended up leaving just a couple of hours into the hunt because we were so cold and because Tyler had to attend an afternoon class. While he was in class I regrouped with our supplies, packed more snacks, and got our late season deer hunting gear together so we could try hunting again once he got out. With bibs on we headed back to the blind for an afternoon hunt.
This time we were far warmer than the morning and it made the hunt more enjoyable. We still fought wind and wintery mix but between warm clothes and snacks we were having a great time in the blind. We still didn’t see anything and couldn’t hear any calls but the memories of being together working for a common goal was what it was really about.
On the way home we didn’t see any birds and we laughed about the crazy weather we had in the span of three days, going from summer to winter. Who knew that we would be hunting thinking about fishing in the cool river one day and then in our late deer season gear just two days later.
A few days after opening weekend I severely sprained my ankle walking around town on my lunch break. This drastically changed how my 2018 turkey season would end up turning out which I will cover in another post.