3 Days In The Woods
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Well, the big turkey hunting trip is over. Oh, I'll be going again before the season ends, probably a couple of times, but the big one has come and gone.
I took last Thursday and Friday off from work and headed to the lake on Wednesday night. I got down there, unloaded all my stuff and began the process of getting ready to hunt. I had all my stuff laid out exactly like I wanted it and when the alarm went off and 4:30 am on Thursday morning, I was ready to roll on what would be a busy, 4-day weekend.
Bill and I hit the woods at 6:30, about 45 minutes before the sun would start peaking over the horizon. We trudged into the WMA, listening intently for early morning gobbles. We were NOT disappointed. There were gobblers sounding off everywhere around us in the dark. We walked to the specific spot that he had seen birds the previous weekend and sure enough, a big boy sounded off just as we reached the fence. He sent me in there to set up on this bird and he walked south, toward other birds gobbling and even further into the woods.
Sunrise rolled around and I was set up in a cedar tree. I had taken my snips out and cleared a small path into the tree and couple of shooting lanes, just in case that big boy decided to fly to me. He didn't. I could tell almost immediately that he had flown down east, over the creek and away from me. His gobbles continued to wane as he moved farther and farther from me and I knew he had been spared, at least for this morning.
Not long after that, I heard gobbling to my north. I packed up my stuff and was on the move toward the gobbling, closing the distance and already looking for a good place to set up when all of the sudden, BANG! I knew the direction it came from and I also knew immediately that Bill had gotten into them. Sure enough, sitting against a tree with my phone already out, bzz bzz bzz, my phone lit up. One down!
After a little while longer, I made my way down to where he was and we trudged out of the woods after a succesful hunt. I had to get to the airport in OKC and pick up my buddies that were flying in from Georgia and Florida. I picked them up and we immediately headed west, back to the trailer, to change clothes and get into the woods for the evening hunt.
We made our plan and Ken and Bill headed off to the east as Tom and I headed due north, making our way to the creek and picking out a spot to do some calling. Sure enough, not too much later, after a few raspy yelps from Tom, three birds snuck in behind us. We couldn't tell exactly which ones were jakes and which ones were hens, but it appeared that there was one hen and two jakes and they wanted to fly across that creek we were set up on.
It was about this time that I noticed a fisherman making his way along the creek bank on the other side. Unfortunately, the birds noticed him too and away they went, the way they had come in to begin with. This fisherman turned out to be a real pain in the ass. We had moved down the creek a little bit and spied a big bird, strutting and gobbling in the sun, some 1000 yards away from us. We got set up, Tom started calling and the gobbling started. Not just the bird, mind you, but the jackass with the fishing pole started gobbling also, ruining any chance we had of working this Strutter into our range.
So, we did what we had to do, we jumped up and moved a half mile further into the woods and down the creek. We picked out a good spot and got situated at the base of a big cottonwood and Tom started calling again. We hadn't been there long before we heard what we wanted to hear. BOOM! Straight from the direction Bill and Ken had taken. We would find out later that Ken had taken a nice, mature Tom at about 60 yards, his first big Rio Grande turkey and he (and I) couldn't have been prouder.
Tom and I stayed put for a while and I heard something trudging through the woods behind me. I looked over my right shoulder and sure enough, it was a turkey, on a little rise about 75 yards away from us. I couldn't tell if it was a Tom, Jake or Hen at first, but when he stepped into the opening, I announced "it's a two year old" with a cracking, trembling, high-pitched voice. Unfortunately, this big boy didn't offer Tom a shot that he was comfortable with and soon enough, he made his way off, away from us in the opposite direction.
It couldn't have been 15 minutes later, Tom had done a little more calling and the woods to the northwest of us came alive with 2 distinct loud gobbles, probably 200 yards away across the creek, but closing fast. He kept yelping at them and they kept gobbling, while running the entire time, and they were starting to get really close. These two Jakes came out right across the creek from us at about 35 yards. Tom worked his mouth call magic and soon they were right in front of us and he decided he was going to take the shot. BANG! Down goes Frazier! As soon as he shot, his bird dropped and he told me to take the other one. I already had my gun up but I was caught up in the moment. He said shoot him and I shot, but my aim was off. In fact, I wasn't really aiming at all. It all happened so fast and I had just watched exactly what I had anticipated watching for the last month or so. A Georgia boy had just shot his first Rio right in front of me, almost like I had the script drawn up in my head and I was so proud for him that I missed my bird.
Of course, in my mind, this weekend was not about me. Oh, I would have shot one (or missed, depending on how you look at it) if he'd walked out in front me, but this weekend was about the visitors taking birds and in one evening hunt, they hadn't even unpacked their bags at the trailer, they both had turkeys on the ground. It was like a movie playing out exactly like I'd imagined it. If I had taken the time to script the entire first day, I couldn't have possibly written it any better.
So with the first evening hunt out of the way, we went back to the trailer and the boys cleaned their birds while I russled up some dinner. Many beers were drank and many hunting stories told as we got to know our guests a little better. We finally hit the sack, after an hour long trip back to the WMA so Ken could go back in and find his stool, around Midnight. The next morning, 5:00 am came early. We ate a bite and drank some coffee and headed off to Bill's property to see what the turkey gods had in store for us this day.
Tom and I took our position on the south fence line in a ground blind. We set out my decoys at about 15 paces and settled in to watch the show. When I say watch the show, it was an awesome display. There were probably 50-60 birds roosted in the cottonwood trees about 500 yards in front of us. They were gobbling and yelping their heads off and when they flew down, some of them landed just out to our left 2-300 yards away. The biggest Tom of the bunch flew down inside the fence line and chased around some Jakes for a minute before noticing my strutter decoy and starting toward it with bad intentions. Unfortunately, he decided better of it and proved how he had gotten to be 3 or 4 years old to begin with.
Later that morning we had two different sets of 3 Jakes come in to the decoys and gobble their heads off. They spent a good hour or hour and a half in front of us and we were laughing, joking, smoking cigarettes and generally trying to shoo these Jakes off but the would have none of it. Finally, they decided to head off somewhere else, probably in search of cough drops because they had been gobbling so much.
Not even a half hour later, we saw three birds come out of the trees heading straight toward us at a trot. We wrongfully assumed that it was one of our groups of Jakes and by the time I noticed the beard on the lead gobbler, it was almost too late. Tom grabbed his shotgun and swung on him and dropped him at about 35 yards. He had the video camera rolling, but the bird moved out of the viewfinder and the only thing you see is the end of Tom's shotgun stick out of the blind and go bang! Then you hear us scrambling around trying to get out of the blind and go get that turkey. Pretty cool even though he didn't get the shot on tape.
The Friday afternoon/evening hunt was spent on the WMA again. The wind was blowing 1000 miles per hour and it made it very difficult on us. We couldn't hear the birds (if they even were talking) and they sure couldn't hear us calling at them. To make matters worse, as we were pulling into our spot on the WMA, a truck with two dogs in the back was pulling out. They had apparently been in there trying to shoot hogs and had the dogs running loose. Every turkey in that area was probably rousted out of there by the dogs. We called it quits a little early on Friday night and headed back to the trailer.
On Saturday morning, we were joined by Bill's son, Justin, and one of our other hunting buddies, Howard. We all headed up to Bill's place with Ken, Tom and I set up on the south fence line and Howard, Justin and Bill to the north of the feeders. The birds flew off the roost to the west and all the way over the barbed wire fence. They had a little sorting out to do and they took care of that business right off the bat in full view for us sitting on the south fence line.
You see, there is a pecking order in the turkey world. There is a Boss Tom, 2nd Tom, 3rd Tom, etc. right down to the one year old Jakes. The hens have their own order, as well, but we aren't concerned with that, since we can't shoot the hens. Anyway, they had lost one that was a little ways up their pecking order and there was a little fight going on at daylight to see just which 2-year old or Jake was going to move up a spot. They settled it in about 10 minutes.
Ken, Tom and I sat in that ground blind and again were treated to a good show from 3 Jakes. These turkeys didn't care that we were sitting some 20 yards away from them, cutting up, laughing, smoking cigarettes and/or standing up in our ground blind. They were oblivious to us being there. We took turns making these three youngsters gobble their heads off and when I tell you that we could say or do just about anything and they would gobble, believe me, anything at all.
Pretty soon there was a loud BANG! from the area north of the feeder and sure enough, Justin had shot himself a nice 2-year old gobbler. The 5 hens that were with him came running and flying into our field and one made her way to the three Jakes, stopping for just a second as they all strutted and drummed for her, begging her to pick them. She soon made her way to the corner of the field and when she did, she was joined by the other big strutter that was with the group when the shot rang out. He proceeded to put the beat down on these three Jakes for even attempting to step in on his lady.
We finally called it a day and a hunt at around 11:00 am and went back to the trailer to start preparing the food for that afternoon. My wife and daughter joined us from the city and one of our close friends and her son, Charla and Mason, came down as well. We ate good (fried turkey, cooked up by Ken and charcoaled backstrap, tended to by Tom at the grill) and then went to the bar and set up the karaoke for the evening's entertainment. It was sure nice sitting around, shooting the shit and drinking beer while others did the cooking. I kind of liked that. We may have to make that happen more often in the future.
Karaoke went off without a hitch, in fact, it was probably our best crowd in more than a year, with more than 25 singers on the list. The only other better crowd I can think of was when Tragady, Oossuuu and crew drove down before the OSU - Texas Tech game last fall. Diane even made it down at the last minute in what I think was a surprise move on her part. Very nice surprise indeed.
Sunday, we got up and I drove the out-of-staters back to the airport and then went home and passed out for a couple of hours. Trust me when I tell you, even if all you do is sit in a ground blind, hunting can flat wear you out.
It was a fantastic 4-day weekend though. I made a good new friend. I got to hang out and visit with an old friend. I got to hang out and hunt turkeys with my best hunting buddy and I also got to hang out with my best friend on Saturday night. It doesn't get much better than that in my books. To Tom and Ken, boys, I had a blast and I hope we can do it again soon, whether it's in Georgia, Florida or Oklahoma. Good friends and good times. To Bill, I hope you already know, but I'll say it again, thanks for everything brother. None of this would happen without you and I appreciate it. And to Carrie, my beautiful wife and my best friend, thank you for being you and thank you for letting me be me. I love you and will always be indebted to you for your understanding.
That's about all I got, if you read this far, you're either a hunter, a good friend or one of the people mentioned above.
Thanks for reading.
posted by GaryC @ 4:57 PM, ,