John's Journal...


Proof of a Theory

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Have you ever scouted for turkeys before the season on public lands and heard plenty of toms talking to the timber, but then when you've returned to those same woods two weeks after turkey season opens, you don't hear a sound? This week we'll look at the best ways to hunt high-pressured, public-land gobblers, especially the ones that become silent.

A few years ago I hunted in upstate New York with Chris
Kirby, president of Quaker Boy Calls in Orchard Park, New
York. We heard three turkeys gobbling just over a hill in an
open field skirted by a dense plum thicket. I crawled into
the thicket and found a spot where I could take a shot at any
gobblers that responded to Kirby's calling Click to enlargeand walked down to
the edge of the field to find the hens. Kirby took a stand
about 30 yards behind me on an old logging road. Every time
he called, all three gobblers answered. In less than 10
minutes, I watched the three birds walk over a hump in the
middle of the field. When the trio reached the edge of the field, they gobbled so loudly and so much that the sound almost deafened Kirby and me. I couldn't see the gobblers, but I readied for the shot. Next, for no reason that I could see, the turkeys became silent. I waited and waited but saw no gobblers. Then I heard the booming sound of drumming less than 20 yards from me - inside the thicket.

"John, you must have lost your mind," I thought. "There's no way those three turkeys are in this thicket with you." Once again, I heard the unmistakable sound of drumming. As I looked through the thicket behind me, I spotted three pairs of turkey feet. Click to enlargeI couldn't see the bodies or the heads
of the birds because of the very thick cover, but I definitely recognized the feet as turkey feet. Although I located a small opening about 10 feet from me where I possibly could take a shot at the birds, I knew I'd have to change my position to aim through that hole. Since I couldn't see the turkeys, I hoped they couldn't see me. I moved cautiously and readied for the shot. When one longbeard stepped into that small hole in the brush, I clearly saw his red and white head and his 9-inch beard. Putting the crosshairs of my scope at the base of the turkey's neck, I squeezed the trigger. When the Winchester Supreme High Velocity Turkey Load hit the bird, he didn't even quiver. That's why some time earlier I'd nicknamed this load the No Flop Turkey Load.

"Did you get him, Bubba?" Kirby asked from behind me. "Yeah, but he was really close to me," I explained. Kirby made his way into the thicket, found the gobbler and said, "Where are you? I can't even see you." I waved my hand not 10 yards from Kirby, and he finally spotted me. "There's no way this gobbler ever saw you," Kirby said, "although, that gobbler was so close he could have stepped on you."

On our way out of the woods, Kirby Click to enlargeexplained what had
spooked the gobblers and sent them scurrying into the thicket
with me. "As the three turkeys came over the hill and moved
toward the edge of the thicket, a hawk flew overhead and
screamed. The gobblers saw the hawk's shadow on the ground,
and that's what made them run into the thicket. Once they
got into the thicket they never gobbled. All they did was
drum." If the shadow of a hawk can cause gobblers to hide in a
thicket and become silent, then you don't have to have a Ph.D. in turkey hunting to realize that the presence of hunters in the woods will force them to do the same thing.


Check back each day this week for more about HUNTING HIGH-PRESSURED PUBLIC-LAND GOBBLERS

Day 1 - Toms That Vanish
Day 2 - Proof of a Theory
Day 3 - Techniques for Hunting Silent Gobblers
Day 4 - Late-Season Hunting
Day 5 - A Warning to the Silent Gobbler Turkey Hunter


Entry 290, Day 2