Up until today, it has been a very quiet spring in the turkey woods. I had not heard a single bird in two scouting trips. I had planned on doing one final scouting trip on Friday morning, but a fairly painful sinus infection curbed that plan. Instead, I spent the day doing everything possible to feel better so I could go out today.
I had my alarm set for 4:30am, but oddly enough I woke up wide awake at 4:15am finally able to somewhat breath through my nose for the first time in three days. I figured that was good enough and got up, got ready, and headed out the door. I pulled into the parking area at 5am and was the first vehicle there. From there I made the 20 minute walk to the spot that I had planned to listen for gobbling birds. When I arrived at the spot, I pulled out my phone and typed up a Facebook post about it being opening day. Just as I hit the “post” button I heard my first two gobbles of the day up the hill. I put my phone away and began my trek up the mountain. As I closed in on the area that I figured they were roosted, I paused to listen for their next gobbles so I could position myself for a calling setup. Right on queue four birds sounded off, but instead of being a hundred or so yards out the ridge, they were about 200 yards straight up the hill on the very top of the mountain. My sinuses were already closing up and I could no longer breath out of my nose, but with multiple gobbling birds, I knew this would be my best chance at a bird today.
I took off up the hill, stopping occasionally to catch my breath and listen for gobbles. Every time the birds did not disappoint with each of the four birds gobbling at the same time. Just as I got to the last bench before the top of the mountain, I realized that there was no easy way to go straight up and instead would now have to rock hop the rest of the way up. Just as I got to the edge of the top, I realized I was inside of one hundred yards of the closest bird. I found a tree and began to get set up. No sooner did get my face mask on and I could hear the birds pitching off of the roost. They flew further out the mountain, but having deer hunted this area countless times over the years, I could tell they were still on the bench. My new plan was to head over the top, circle around them and try to cut them off before they got to the top. Just as I got up to the very top, the birds sounded off again, only this time I could tell they had moved up the hill and we’re heading to the top.
My new new plan was to try to get myself to the edge of an opening that I new was up ahead. As I was about twenty yards from the spot, three birds gobbled. This time they were definitely on top and getting closer to my location. I did not want to risk spooking them, so I looked for the closest tree and plopped down. I replaced my orange hat with a camouflage face mask and hat. Then turned on my go pro camera and put that on top of my hat. I placed my H.S. strut “Raspy Old Hen” call in my mouth, took a deep breath and made my first call. The birds did not respond. However, thirty seconds later they gobbled again from the same location as before. I decided to call again figuring that my first call may have been too soft. I made a much louder call and they responded immediately, including a fourth bird that was down the mountain in the area near where I had just come from to get here. Now that I knew that they knew I was there, I would let them come find me. They continued to gobble as they got closer and closer until the gobbling stopped getting closer and the birds hung up in the opening that I was trying to get to earlier. I waited them out for another five minutes before deciding that I needed to make another call or they could move away from me. I turned my head, facing the opposite direction, put hand over my mouth to make my sound like it was coming from behind me, and made a soft call. All three birds responded immediately. Thirty seconds later I could hear them walking out in front of me. I got ready for them to appear and lined my eye up with the bead on the end of my barrel. I could hear them fanning out and spitting as they got closer. Finally, a red head appeared 30 yards in front of me in an opening. I could see a good beard on him and knew that was enough for me to see. I sent a load of hevi-shot 6 shot his direction and he went right down. I darted over to the bird and watched the other two gobblers fly down the mountain. As I was filling out my tag, I could hear several gobbles down the mountain in different areas, including right around where I had originally stopped to listen (it figures). I noted their location in hopes of locating one of those birds for tag #2.
My 6th spring gobbler in 6 years using the “Raspy Old Hen.” This bird went 18lbs with a 10″ beard and 3/4″ spurs. Unfortunately, the video from the Go-Pro did not turn out too well due to a poor angle, low lighting, and the cameras inability to pick up sound at a distance. Still an extremely exciting opening day!
Good luck to everyone venturing out this spring.