This year’s turkey tour began in North Carolina where I had spent two seasons in the past not being successful. This year I would be hunting a farm set up by Andy Roberson. Andy was one of the Purple Heart recipients that came down on the annual veteran’s hunt we do at Mellon Creek Outfitters. When Andy said, “ I have turkeys on my place, you should come hunt them”, it didn’t make me long to agree. I arrived at this place with my cameraman, Kord Etbauer, on the day before the opener. We had a great time talking to everyone that came by and ate some serious food. The next morning, we were watching a thunderstorm roll into the area. After the rain let up, we had a small window between storms, so we took a blind that Hartwell Wright (another Purple Heart recipient) allow us to borrow and set it up. By this time, it was shortly after noon and our plan was to stay in the blind until dark if need be. Andy had trail camera pictures of turkeys on the farm so I felt if we just called sparingly and had patience we’d have a chance. Not fifteen minutes after we sat down in the blind, the sky turned dark and it started raining. When I say raining I don’t mean a slight drizzle, I mean pouring rain. This storm lasted about a half an hour and then the drizzle set in. Even though it was drizzling, small birds came our everywhere and started singing, others were eating worms at the base of the trees. I looked at Kord and said, “Nature is waking up, we better pay attention.” Shortly after that statement, I made a series of yelps followed by some cuts. No more did I finish the calls and we heard a gobble that sounded like it was maybe 150-200 yards away. Kord thought it was in front of us and to our right. I, on the other hand, thought it was straight to our left. While we whispered and pointed from inside the blind a red and blue head appeared across a wheat field about 150 yards away. I purred on my mouth call and he bobbed his head and took a step our way. From that first step, he never stopped walking toward us. I remember thinking that it was strange that he didn’t go around the edge, most turkeys don’t like that tall wet grass. In either case, he came in like he was on a string and walked right behind a cedar bush and stopped. I swear turkeys are born with a sixth sense in knowing just how to stand behind something. He stood there for five minutes gobbling and drumming and we could only make out colors through the bush. Finally, he stepped out to the right side and stood there at 56 yards. By how he was acting and noticing that his snood was tight on his beak, I figured it was now or never. This was my first turkey with the Apex Ammunition TSS #9 shot. I was a little nervous at this distance but I would soon find out that I didn’t need to be. The bird took a step to his right and I pulled the trigger. I’ve killed a hundred birds half that distance that didn’t get hit that hard. I can say that this new ammunition is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Is it expensive?! Yes, it is, but is it worth it. You bet.
Adam Whitehead, who owns Sportsman’s Box, put my second North Carolina hunt together. He got us in contact with Nick and Steve Cannon and we met them at Steve’s house. On the first afternoon, they drove us around their beautiful farm, and we saw plenty turkey. By the end of the day, we had decided to hunt a point that sticks out into a field. Just before dark we watched three toms walk into the pines and knew that they wouldn’t be far. Kord and I walked in well before daylight and got set up on the point. If I heard one turkey that morning, I heard ten gobbling in all directions. There was one across from us that must have gobbled 150 times but the one we were really wanting was to our right. The tom to our right was 100 yards away and likely one of the ones that we had seen the previous evening. We knew that he liked to hang around that point so we had high hopes. I made some soft tree calls and he cut me off so I just set my calls down. After fly down he walked to within 100 yards of us and then followed some hens out into the field. Once the hens fed out into the field a certain distance that was as far as he would go. For some reason, he wanted to be in the corner near the roost tree. He walked back out of our sight and then reappeared again in about an hour. This time he met the hens as they fed back and strutted with them right back to his favorite corner. By now, it was 9:30 and the sun was high, and it was warming up. I decided to get a little aggressive with my calls and made a series of cuts. Just as I had finished calling, a hen started in on me. I looked at Kord and smiled, I knew that if I could get her to come challenge me he’d be right on her tail. That is exactly what happened. I first saw two hens and then this blue head appeared following in strut. He was drumming so loud I could feel it in my chest as he walked to nineteen yards. Number 2 North Carolina turkey was in the bag. Patience was the key to success on this hunt. More often than not while turkey hunting, patience is the key.
From North Carolina we headed to Virginia where we’d meet up with Mason Story. Mason and I share a mutual friend that asked Mason if he could handle getting me somewhere to hunt in Virginia. Lets just say that Mason went far beyond what he needed to do. It is legal to take three toms in Virginia and it is only legal to hunt until noon. I took three toms in three mornings.
The first hunt was crazy. We arrived at Mason’s house about 8:00 AM and found him standing in his driveway in camo. After we shook hands he said, “Y’all about ready to go get one?” We changed clothes, jumped in Mason’s truck and headed out. The second farm we went to we stopped to glass a field and almost got busted walking around a corner. Once we snuck to a place, the tom couldn’t see us we went through the woods and set up on the edge of a field that the tom was strutting in. This tom would gobble at our calls but was reluctant to come our way due to a tractor working close by. As we sat and tried to talk this turkey into coming another gobbled behind us. I quickly turned around and the gobbles got closer and closer. When the bird was about 80 yards away he turned and started gobbling toward another direction. Mason thought we should jump up and move on him. We went around and back into the woods and set up. Again, he gobbled, and I aimed my shotgun his way. No more than did I look down the barrel we heard two bird gobbles within sixty yards to our left. I turned and it wasn’t fifteen seconds before I saw two blue and red heads walking through the trees. I got my first Virginia gobbler at twenty yards.
My second hunt started with us driving up this road through tall pines. Mason got the owls all stirred up and it wasn’t long before we heard a gobble about 300 yards away. We made out way to about 150 yards from the roosted bird and called. He gobbled at owls, he gobbled at crows, but he wouldn’t gobble at us for anything. We moved and set up again to his right just a bit and this did the trick. He must have liked where we were sitting because he came in on a string gobbling. I killed this bird at 30 yards, and it was one of the prettiest hunts I’d been on in a long while.
My third hunt in Virginia was on the same farm that I had hunted the first bird. We arrived before daylight thinking that we would hear turkeys in every direction. To our surprise, we didn’t hear but one gobble in a field down to our left side. We walked down into the woods and set up on a path leading through the pines. Shortly after fly down, a tom walked out followed by two more. They walked within fifteen steps of us but to the right side and I could turn to take a shot. The three turkeys walked past us and seemed to be headed to another field when Mason started making a fighting purr on his pot call. This was more than they could take and they came back. The biggest of the three hung up at forty yards and I got him. Just then one of the other birds came back and started to attack my bird. Kord grabbed Mason’s gun and took a shot but it was too thick and he missed. An hour later, we stalked around a field edge where Kord ended up killing his first Virginia gobbler too. To say that Virginia surpassed my expectations is an understatement. Thanks to Mason Story for a great time to Mr. Larry for allowing us the use of his beautiful cabin.
We were supposed to go to West Virginia but the person we had arranged the hunt with never would call us back. Considering that it is turkey season I wasn’t going to just head home so I called by dear friend Luke Veal and his father Daniel and asked if I could stop by their place in Georgia on the way home. As always, their kindness is remarkable, and they allowed me. We got my Georgia bird on the first morning and went on to hunt Alabama. Let’s just say that when the natives in Alabama tell you to come the first couple weeks of the season, listen to them. We spent to days listening and looking and saw one hen and one jake. We left Alabama never hearing a thing. Now it’s on to Utah, Oregon, Wyoming and Montana.
TO BE CONTINUED….