Monday, June 28, 2021

The Sore Throat Gobbler

     The first week and a half of spring gobbler season was rather rough for me this year. I had spooked a few birds by making rookie mistakes. I was on gobbling birds ,which was a good thing, but my lack of time to scout before the season started was taking its toll on me. Every hunt felt rushed but I was gaining information on the birds in the area every time I was out.

    I had missed a nice longbeard the first Monday of the season as I took my head off of the gun to see the shot. I shot over top of that bird and he ran over the hill unharmed. As I walked up to double check that the shot was a clean miss, that gobbler ran back across the logging road in front of me.  After that hunt I quit the subtle tactics of using a stock shotgun and decided to take my fully loaded Mossberg 500. That gun has a reflex sight on it and is bad medicine on gobblers.

    In the middle of the first week I went to an old stand by spot.  I didn't hear any birds on my first spot choice so it was already light when I got to my Plan B location. I fired off a few yelps and cuts on my Lapp Shortbox, but did not receive any answers. With only a half hour left to hunt I decided to go down into the small hollow that I have had success in the past. As I was walking down the trail a monster gobbler was running up the trail to get to the spot I had initially called from. We made eye contact and he took off running. 

The rest of the week yielded only a few distant gobbles and no birds that I could actually work.

    The morning of May 11th, was a chilly one. My Jeep's in dash thermometer read 30 degrees as I was driving in to the woods before work. I headed to the spot that I had spooked the really nice gobbler the week before. As I was walking down the trail that big bird was sounding off like crazy. I planned my set up, plopped a hen decoy right in the middle of the logging road, and let out a few tree yelps. For whatever reason this bird was on fire. I worked that bird for a few minutes but it sounded as though he was going off of the point in front of me.  I had it in my head that this bird was going to work down off of the hill, and I had to make a move on him. I got up, grabbed my decoy, and headed to the point. About 40 yards down the trail that gobbler and I made eye contact yet again, and he just took off flying. These before work hunts don't help with my patience issues while turkey hunting. I decided to just go back to the jeep and get an early start at work but as I was walking out to the jeep  I heard a gobbler going bananas about 150 yards or so from where my Jeep was parked.

    I had enough time to work that bird before heading to work so I took off to close the distance as fast as I could. The bird was across a powerline from where I was first set up and this allowed me to only close the distance to around one hundred fifty yards or so. I knew this bird may not be easy to call through a clear cut, across a powerline, and down a ditch ,but his mood made me believe that I could get the job done. I couldn't risk getting busted so I had to stay back a bit to work this gobbler.

    While I was borderline jogging to get to a small meadow just off of the powerline that gobbler must have gobbled 50 times. I was thinking that another hunter may be working him. I got to the meadow that the twins and I had found earlier in the spring. The meadow was loaded with turkey sign at the time and I made it a point to remember that spot.  I set a hen decoy out in front of me and listened to see if I could hear another hunter calling to this bird.  The gobbler made it tough as he was gobbling about once ever 30 seconds or so. I had never heard a bird that fired up before.  I thought that possibly he had a usual girlfriend that was not present that morning. Once I decided that no one else was calling to the bird I started some excited cutting and yelping at him. It was as if his constant "Where are yous" had finally been met with the "Here I am" he was looking for. The bird really went nuts at hearing his girlfriend calling back to him.

    This lead to a non stop gobblefest for the next 10 minutes or so. He got to the point that he was triple gobbling and sounded out of breath on that third gobble. "This bird is going to give him a self a sore throat by the time I kill him", I thought to myself. The only issue was that he was hung up at the edge of the powerline. I made him go nuts gobbling, but he still was not wanting to cross out in the open to get to my location.

    After giving him the silent treatment I decided I would gobble at him to make him think that another Tom had moved in and stole his lady. I fired off some excited yelps at him and then instantly gobbled on my gobble tube after the last note of my yelp. As soon as I gobbled, he would gobble.  This sequence went on for five minutes or so. Such an awesome hunt thus far but could I seal the deal in time?

After firing him up again I went quiet and so did he. Was he coming in hot, or did he decide that the other bird was not worth the risk of getting beat up for? Just then he gobbled above me and to my left at about 50 yards. I toned down my calling and just let out a few soft yelps. All that was left in my mind was filling out the tag. This bird was going to come right to my hen decoy and get dropped at 15 yards I thought to myself.

    The gobbler had other plans. I had to watch in agony for what felt like an eternity as the "Soar Throat Gobbler" would strut back and fourth at thirty-five yards on the powerline trail. There was a roughly eight foot high ditch with just enough brush in the way that I could not shoot, and I feel made it impossible for him to see my decoy. To make matters worse the bird would turn directly at me and gobble every 45 seconds or so.  Such a rush to just hear the sound I crave all spring so many times and so close.  Now I had a live hen working her way from my left going right too him. This made me super nervous that he would just go off with her and the most exciting turkey hunt I've ever had would be over.

    With time running out and a live hen threating to steal my bird, I really poured it on him. I tried to sound like the most eager hen on the mountain. This drove him into another gobbling episode again. Just as I thought he was going to break I could see the hen with him. She and I exchanged a few words, and I assumed my hunt was over yet again.

    Suddenly I could hear a vehicle coming up the powerline trail to my left. This could either go really good or really bad for me, I thought in my head. I could see the vehicle through an opening and knew it was a hundred yards or so to my hard left. Just then the hen took off down the powerline. I thought to myself he is either going to fly down the powerline like the hen or try to sneak through the brush and come right to me. When the hen took off the vehicle stopped directly to my left at seventy yards or so.  I was thinking I was going to see a hunter get out and shoot my bird, but I watched my longbeard break strut, flip his wings and sneak down the hill in my direction. My eyes constantly shifted from the vehicle to where the bird was. I knew that I was safe to shoot once the bird hit the flat of the little meadow as the ditch would provide a perfect backstop. 

All of a sudden I could see his red, white, and blue head bob into my view at 25 yards. I put my reflex sight on his head and:


Finally after 2 years of tag soup I had a PA public land gobbler flopping. I was pumped and was in just disbelief of the events that had just unfolded in front of me. I have to laugh that these crazy hunts happen to me. To go from spooking one Tom, to lucking into this bird and have another hunter in a vehicle bump him right to me is hysterical.  I would bet the farm that this gobbler would have went off with that hen, if I couldn't pull the hen to me. I can honestly say that the number of times that this bird gobbled before I shot him was more gobbles than I heard in the last three years of hunting. 

    I snagged a picture of the bird as he laid and was just shaking my head at what had just happened. I took a hunt recap video on my phone as I like to do after every kill. It makes for a great thing to watch to relive hunts. I don't know if gobblers can get soar throats like a human but this bird sure gave his vocal chords a work out that morning. To finally punch a tag after eating tag soup for two seasons was a great feeling, and I knew that Corbin would be super excited.

    I've shot bigger birds than this gobbler. Gobblers that weighed more. Gobblers with longer beards and spurs. What this bird lacks in trophy potential he made up with on my most exhilarating and heart pounding spring gobbler hunt. I am addicted to hearing the bird gobble, and will admit that sometimes I am guilty of over calling just to hear it. I have to believe that in the 45 minutes or so that I worked this bird he had to have gobbled two hundred times. This chess match was awesome and one I will never for get. To checkmate a gobbler that wanted to gobble as much as this guy was an out of this world hunt and one that I will replay in my mind for a long time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Corb's First Turkey

    Heading into the 2021 Spring Gobbler Season I felt overwhelmingly under prepared. I had no time to roost any birds and was going off previous years knowledge to make my plans for the season. I would rely on my in season scouting more so this year than any previous season.

    The Wednesday before youth day I realized that I could not find Corbin's 410 TSS shells that he uses. I searched the house high and low but could only find one shell. I decided that I would take Corbin out with his 20 gauge to practice with his gun a little more. I took some low brass and high brass shells for him to practice with. He was drilling the targets and was not afraid of the recoil of the gun so I was super pumped for the upcoming youth day.

    With high hopes Corb and I went to a friend of mines private property to hunt. My friend was kind enough to let Corbin hunt his property. He knew how hard Corbin had been hunting the last two years, and all of the trials and tribulations that he had faced within those two years hunting public land. We arrived at the property just before grey light started. A gobbler on the one end of the property was already hammering. I decided that this would be the bird we would chase after.

    We ended up switching our set up 3 times on that particular bird, but a hen foiled our plans on our third set up. We just ran out of property that we had access to hunt, and with his girlfriend by his side, there was no way we would be able to move that bird from his hen. Corb and I walked back to my friends house and took a quick break. Corbin and I shed a few layers as we had planned to hike to the other side of the property to a secluded meadow, and scout our way in. We came across a decent amount of turkey sign along the way.

    When we got to the meadow Corb decided he was going to call all of the shots. He picked out his "hide", some low hanging hemlock branches with a brush pile behind it. He set out the decoys in the exact spot that a gobbler would be sure to come into. We sat quiet for a little, and he noted that he wanted to do some calling on his own. I pulled out his Mike Lapp push pin call, and he started some excited yelps and purrs on it. Instantly a Barred Owl fires off to our right. Corbin jumped in excitement, as he love owls. He would do some calling and then told me that I needed to join in with him to call and pick a fight with him to mimic two hens squawking at each other.

    It was awesome to see how far he had come, and how much he had listened to me over the last two years of hunting when I would explain the why and how's behind my calling methods. Unfortunately for us, we only had a hen answer and no longbeards responded. We left empty handed but Corb was sure that his spot was just the perfect location to kill his first turkey on Opening Day.

    Opening morning came and I had barely slept a wink that night. We had really high winds the evening before so roosting the birds was impossible. I told Corb that because of the winds it was likely that the birds would be roosted at the meadow and we may be in some serious business. As soon as we dropped down over the hill from my buddies house a longbeard fired off down by the meadow.


"I heard him Corb, so what do you want to do? Do you want to take the trail over to meadow, or walk down into the creek bottom to get there?"

"I dunno Dad.....I think we better go into the bottom in case he is roosted on Ramp Flat."

    So we took off for the bottom, and were on our way to the meadow. When we got to about 70 yards away I told Corbin that we were no longer going to talk until we got set up at his spot. I told him that I would put his decoys on the exact spots he picked last week. I set up to Corbins left to try and help shield his movements to the birds. I set the decoys and sat down with him.

Corb's set up I mimicked from youth day.


    The longbeard was roosted no more that 40 yards away in the pines on the ridge just above the meadow. It was just a little past grey light so I gave a couple light tree yelps. The gobbler turned our way and hammered again. "He knows we are here Corb, That's the last time I am going to call until his feet are on the ground." A few minutes later a hen started to call around 100 yards away. "Dad, you better call so that hen doesn't ruin our hunt," Corb whispers. "Corb, The more I call to that gobbler the longer he is going to stay in that tree," I whisper back. Corb just nodded, and sat back down. The hen calls again a few minutes later. "Dad, please call, she is going to pull that gobbler away!" He eagerly replied as she finished her last tree yelp. I didn't mention it to Corbin but I heard a group of jakes roosted above the meadow on our walk in. I didn't want to call and have them come roaring in and skip the hen the gobbler had heard.  I had called light enough so only the longbeard would hear it and at that point the jakes had not sounded off. 

"Corb, are you ok with shooting a Jake or do you want to wait for that longbeard?"

"Dad, a turkey is a turkey for me."

"OK, Get ready"

    I did a fly down cackle with my MAC slate call and all three jakes let out thunderous gobbles. It sounded like the crowd cheering at Beaver Stadium in the quite morning. Corbin nearly jumped out of his skin. "Dad, there are other Turkeys on the hill" "I know Corb, Keep your head on that gun." I knew those jakes were going to come in and a few seconds after my fly down cackle they were on the ground and coming in hot. I let out a few excited yelps and cuts and they were hammering. I would say I was overcalling a bit but wanted Corbin to experience the excitement of fired up gobblers. About 2 minutes later I could see them pretty much running into the creek bottom.

    "Corb, they are directly to my left, don't move a muscle. Once they see that Jake decoy they will come over."  I never called again, but the jakes slowly walked in front of me and were getting ready to cross the stream. "Corb, they are going to come up right behind that grey brush pile, get your scope right on the Jake decoys head and get your safety off" And just as I said they both came in. They had their heads lifted in the air, and ready to fight the decoy. 

"Corb shoot the one on the right...Wait, wait, wait.....Corb, shot the one on the left.....Wait, wait wait"

The birds kept walking in front of each other. The smaller of the two jakes was clear. 

"Corb, Shoot the one on the left."

"I can't."

"Corb the gun won't kick you too bad just shoot him."

"No Dad, the trigger won't work."

    In his excitement and bracing for the shot Corb must have pressed the slide release button on his Mossberg 500 and the slide was open a little, disengaging the trigger.

"Corb, its the pump, slide it forward a little but don't take the sight off of his head."

    Corbin handled this like a pro and lightly slid the pump, when it broke it clicked. The bigger Jake then attacked the decoy. After his round house kick he posed, wings down, and head raised in a defensive position.

"Kill him"


Corb's Shot hit its mark, and the Jake never even flopped a wing. He straight leveled him with his Mossberg 500 20 gauge loaded with Federal TSS #9's.

"Oh my gosh, I got my first turkey, I got my fist turkey, Oh my gosh!"

"Yeah buddy! Give me your gun in case that longbeard comes down."

    It was just a hunting instinct I guess and in the heat of the moment it took over me. That's when Corb's emotions took over. "Thank You lord, Thank You Lord, thank you lord. I can't believe it."

    At this moment he was crying tears of joy and I knew that this private land gobbler in the tree to my left was not worth missing out on my little buddies first turkey kill. "Forget that gobbler, Corb lets go get your turkey!"

    Corbin and I were both super pumped for him to finally put a tag on a turkey. He has hunted very hard over the previous two years but something always went wrong. Corb wanted to film a recap video for his YouTube channel, and get a few pictures. We made a quick escape from the hidden meadow back to my buddy's house to hopefully make it in time to show him Corb's turkey. My friend was very happy for Corbin and gave him a congrats. Corbin then wanted to show a few other family members while his sisters were still sleeping. 

    This hunt will forever be etched in my mind. This hunt really got Corbin hooked on turkey hunting. He always liked hunting turkey but after finally having a plan come together without something or someone messing it up really planted the seed. He is already talking about hunting turkeys in the fall. I put together a mount on Corbin's jake and it now resides on his wall, and am going to have a good buddy of mine make a nice wingbone call from one of his Jake's wings.  After I try a few wingbones myself, Corbin is going to try to make a call from the other wing from his Jake. Corbin also wanted to save the primary wing section of his Jake to make a fly down call as well. I have made a lot of hunting memories over the years but it will be really hard to beat Corb's First Turkey.