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‘The Gobbler Occasion’ Is One in every of Charlie Elliott’s Finest Turkey Hunts

‘The Gobbler Occasion’ Is One in every of Charlie Elliott’s Finest Turkey Hunts


WE HEARD OUR FIRST gobbler a couple of minutes earlier than 5:30 a.m. As grey daybreak seeped into the mountain woods, the wildlife symphony rang down the ridges and thru the excessive coves. A cardinal was in full voice on the ridge simply above us, and the opposite mountain birds took up the refrain. Crows cawed within the distance, a barred owl was on his bass cello, and a giant pileated woodpecker drummed on his hole tree. The gobbler’s notes made an thrilling background.

“Appears like an previous graybeard,” Bob Card stated below his breath.

We stood simply beneath the crest of Duffy Ridge, an extended, forested spur that drops off from the cumbersome define of Sylco Mountain in Tennessee’s Ocoee Wildlife Administration Space, which lies comfortable up towards the Georgia line.

“Why don’t you go after him?” I whispered. “I’ll stalk the subsequent previous tom that sounds off.”

Bob cocked his head. “Hear!”

“I heard him,” I stated. “It’s one other chook on the finish of this ridge. He must be proper near the place we left Invoice Ewing.”

Close to by a turkey hen added her musical yelps to the rising melody. Her music had an ethereal high quality, and we couldn’t fairly inform the course. Then west of us two extra toms made the hills ring. Bob chuckled below his breath.

Charlie Elliott with a longbeard.
Bob Card admires my chook. I discover sling on my shotgun very useful throughout all of the strolling turkey looking requires.

“4 gobblers. This have to be the conference web site. One sounded from that top ridge the place Earl Cady was heading, and one between right here and there. You go after the closest chook, and I’ll attempt the primary one.”

I didn’t want any wattle-twisting. I preferred the sound of that previous tom’s ringing problem. It advised me that I had a job lower out for me.

“Good luck,” I whispered. Bob nodded, his eyes brilliant.

I turned left on the primary ridge and launched into some of the thrilling days I ever spent in mountain turkey woods.

Dr. Robert S. Hines of Cleveland, Tennessee, had invited me as much as his annual spring gobbler hunt on the Ocoee. Doc and I’ve been out of doors companions for nearly a quarter-century. I take into account him an outdoorsman with an avocation in dentistry.

Doc is likely one of the prime turkey hunters in his a part of the vary. The day earlier than I arrived he had killed a gobbler outdoors the administration space. He did it within the orthodox method too, by merely calling a tom shut sufficient for a deadly load of No. 4’s, which he prefers.

The regulation permits a hunter to take one other gobbler contained in the wildlife administration space. Doc Hines and I every had hunted turkeys beforehand on the Ocoee, however not collectively. I’d discovered his tracks in a number of locations, and he will need to have seen some I’d left right here and there.However most of my looking had been south across the Georgia line, whereas the northern half of the WMA was extra handy for Doc.

Two old school turkey hunters
Doc Hines tells how he received his gobbler.

The opposite hunters in our group have been Bob Card, a automobile supplier who was host of our social gathering at his cabin on Ocoee Lake; Invoice Ewing, a banker; and Roger Hanger, all three from Cleveland, Tennessee. Earl Cady was a professor of forestry on the College of Tennessee, and Larry Graf, Jack Feiereisen, and Dr. David Dunn have been all from Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. David is a pediatric neurosurgeon who was on the Olympic bobsled group.

A resident looking license prices $5, a nonresident one $25, plus a $5 stamp and a $5 WMA allow. We had began our hunt the day earlier than. That first morning two of our social gathering had nearly scored.

Invoice Ewing was on the tip of an extended ridge the place he heard a gobbler at sunup. The tom answered his yelps a number of occasions, and Invoice sat down in a display of bushes together with his again to a broad oak and his gun prepared. He yelped three or 4 extra occasions, with out getting a solution. Gnats chewed his face and neck, a root dug into his rear, and his arms ached from holding his gun up. However he suffered there for half-hour with out getting one other peep out of the tom.

When a gobbler that has been excited by the yelping all of a sudden shuts up, you may normally depend on certainly one of two issues: both he’s spooked and heading the opposite method or he’s stealthily approaching to research.

After half an hour Invoice determined he’d hit a false observe or goofed another method. He laid his

gun down, received up, and rubbed his paralyzed components. He stepped out of the blind with out his gun, walked a number of yards behind the tree, and lighted a cigarette.

Six puffs later he craned his neck across the tree. Two gobblers stood not more than 30 ft in entrance of his blind. After they noticed his motion, they disappeared as if they’d been erased.

“If I’d simply stayed three minutes longer … ,” Invoice wailed later.

Doc was slowly cruising alongside a ridge that first morning, pausing each 100 yards or so to cluck and yelp softly-which is usually the way in which to find a chook when it isn’t in a gobbling or touring temper. He received a solution — not a gobble, however the inquiring yowk-yowk-yowk of a giant tom. He sat proper down towards a tree and dropped his camouflage masks over his face.

After a couple of minutes he yelped once more, and the gobbler appeared, partly hidden in a brush patch some 50 yards away. The chook was curious and stood lengthy minutes till Doc clucked once more. Then it slowly moved 15 yards nearer. For a very long time it remained, partly hidden by a tree. Then it caught out its head and neck to review Doc’s immobile bulk towards the oak. Doc had his sights on the top and figured that at 35 yards he couldn’t miss. He shot. The woods erupted with half a dozen hens. He ran down to select up his gobbler. It wasn’t there. He couldn’t discover even a feather.

He paced off the space and was chagrined to study that the chook had been out 50 to 55 yards.

“I’ll by no means put on a face masks once more,” he swore, blaming the veil for his error. “Any further it’s bowhunter’s paint, such as you use.”

That first morning I nearly had an opportunity at a gobbler. Bob Card and I heard him gobble throughout a creek valley, and I went after him. The trick is to get near a gobbling chook with out letting him see you. Then discover a pure blind of logs or brush, or make one by surrounding your self with leafy limbs caught round a tree trunk, which you’ll lean towards so that you gained’t be silhouetted towards an open background.

The forest vegetation was thick. I received inside 150 yards of the gobbler and paused on a slope to pinpoint him earlier than I moved nearer. I heard a yelp.

It was both a hen or one other hunter, so I sat down till I used to be positive. The notes sounded real, besides for 3 issues. They got here slightly too regularly, and from a hard and fast location, and there have been too many notes in every sequence. A hen might fluctuate her notes, however seldom does she stay in a single spot. She’s going to normally go to the gobbler. I concluded that another hunter was working this tom.

To maintain from disturbing him, I backed off up the hill on my facet of the creek. I constructed a blind and sat right down to see what would occur. If the turkey got here on my facet of the stream, I used to be decided to attempt him. However he went the opposite method. The final time I heard him he was excessive on the mountain.

Now it was a brand new day. The gobblers have been prepared for love, and somebody in our group must be fortunate.

Earl Cady had gone to the farther excessive ridge. Two birds appeared to be gobbling there-one between the hogback and the creek valley and the opposite larger. I didn’t need to disturb Earl, so I selected the decrease center ridge. I hoped I may make my calls seductive sufficient to convey the closest chook all the way in which throughout the broad creek valley.

I chosen a spot nearly straight throughout the valley from the closest chook I’d heard. Sixty yards past, the ridge broke off sharply in three instructions. Had I ended too near this break I’d have been at an obstacle, since a turkey arising the mountain can be nearly in my lap earlier than I noticed it. Having open imaginative and prescient for 60 yards gave me time to get my gun up. I may let the tom method shut sufficient in order that it doesn’t matter what occurred I couldn’t miss.

The tree I leaned towards allowed an open view on three sides. I constructed my blind faster than normal. After 50 years of turkey looking, I believed I knew all of the tips, however Doc Hines had taught me a brand new one. Doc carries a small pair of pruners in his coat pocket. As a substitute of utilizing a knife to chop by way of inch-thick or bigger branches, usually with a cracking noise, he merely snips them off with the pruners.

He had insisted I convey an additional pair alongside. Don’t construct a blind so thick that you may’t see out of it. Make it simply thick sufficient to interrupt up your define with a couple of 30 p.c display of leaves. Place the branches far sufficient away that they won’t intervene with the motion of your gun barrel.

After I completed my blind I scratched out a spot to sit down and took off my shoulder bag containing a compass, field caller, waterproof matchbox, twine, camouflage, a number of further shells, and a light-weight rainsuit. For 3 days the weatherman had predicted rain, however this daybreak was clear. I set my gobbling field, which I additionally use sometimes for yelping, inside simple attain.

I sounded three hen notes, waited a number of seconds, and repeated them. The gobbler answered instantly. If I’ve a gobbling chook pinpointed, I all the time sit down earlier than I make these first notes. Various occasions I’ve yelped, moved, and had the chook are available in to the place I referred to as the primary time. Over a few years I’ve used about each sort of name and have taken gobblers with a great many. I lastly boiled them down to 3 varieties — gobbling field, wingbone, and diaphragm used on the roof of the mouth.

The gobbling field will usually arouse an previous tom that nothing else can stir. He thinks he has competitors in his territory. The field additionally will be yelped, and the sound carries a lot farther than do my different yelpers.

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I hold two of the wingbone sort round my neck. One is the efficient Turpin yelper, a favourite in Pennsylvania. The opposite is of small wingbones, made for me by Dwain Bland, an previous turkey-hunting companion in Oklahoma. Each wingbones make softer, extra musical notes than the field does. You may work the diaphragm name with out utilizing your palms or making another actions to catch a turkey’s eye. I had on my water-soluble bowhunter’s paint to camouflage my face, and I wore camouflage mesh gloves, as a result of the paint tends to rub off the palms. I used to be prepared for motion. I hoped the gobbler throughout the creek felt the identical method.

Old turkey hunting items, calls, etc.

He devoured twice in 5 minutes. I waited awhile earlier than making a collection of yelps on my wingbone. He answered instantly. I smirked. My gobbler was on his method, I advised myself. The one predictable factor about turkeys is that they’re unpredictable.

That tom devoured as soon as extra and shut up. Two or thrice I attempted inquiring yelps, with out a solution. That different feathered buck close to the crest appeared to be transferring away, however he continued to sing to the world. I had an inclination to go after him, however he was in Earl’s territory. Apart from, my chook is perhaps on the way in which. So I stifled my impatience and settled down.

Persistence is essentially the most priceless prerequisite of a turkey hunter. When little is occurring you need to search for motion elsewhere. Solely a load of willpower could make you wait. I compelled myself to sit down in that blind for 1½ hours. My endurance ran out eventually. I received up and moved down the ridge, stopping each 100 yards to cluck after which to yelp. I needed to cross the valley and deal with that subsequent ridge the place I had final heard a tom, however some internal urge stored pushing me again to that blind.

I made my method slowly again uphill, pausing usually to hear, however not a turkey sound may I hear. Once I stepped into the blind and sat towards the tree, I felt I had come house once more. I used to be positive of it after I yelped on the wingbone and received a direct reply from throughout the valley. That chook made the woods ring, and he began two extra toms on the ridge above him.

How a lot yelping ought to a hunter do? A fellow can simply get overanxious and name an excessive amount of. If I have been a gobbler, I’d determine I had the hen so scorching and bothered that she would come to me. It’s higher to yelp simply sufficient; let the tom’s creativeness do the remainder. Many grasp turkey hunters wait 10 minutes or longer earlier than they name once more.

Precede the yelp with a cluck, and hear intently for half a minute or so. If the gobbler is sneaking up, he’ll usually reply the cluck, and if he’s shut sufficient, it is going to convey him proper in.

An old wingbone yelper
I hold a Turpin yelper round my neck together with a hand-crafted wingbone.

I went by way of this cluck-and-call ritual, however when my chook devoured once more, he sounded larger on the ridge. This time he stirred up three gobblers on the mountain. These received two extra going. My tom sounded off once more. He appeared to be transferring alongside the ridge. I knew higher, however I made a giant mistake. Normally a hunter mustn’t depart a spot as soon as the birds have him situated. However I figured that if I moved about 300 yards to the place the valley narrowed, throughout from the place my turkey was touring, he would possibly cross over to me.

I went across the rim and with the hand pruners arrange a fast blind. My subsequent yelp was greeted with lifeless silence. I waited 5 minutes and yelped once more. No reply. After one other 5 minutes I attempted once more and received extra silence. Nobody needed to inform me that I had made a silly transfer and that I’d higher get again to my authentic blind.

Old Lynch box call
The Lynch field held a method will be yelped by scraping the lid towards the field. Although the field’s yelp is probably not so refined, it carries farther. To gobble — which frequently brings a jealous feathered buck — shake lid forwards and backwards. With my shotgun sling, I can hold each palms free to name.

Once I returned, my yelp was answered loud and clear by the 4 gobblers throughout the valley and apparently by the 2 birds I had first heard on the tip of the ridge, which by now had moved a lot nearer. I used to be surrounded by six gobblers, all making music. Not many hunters have had that occur, and it despatched my systolic strain zooming.

I stored my ears tuned for the lightest cluck or footsteps within the leaves. A heavy, strolling gobbler usually makes as a lot noise as a person. I let minutes go by earlier than I attempted a cluck. It was answered immediately by two birds that have been in a Iittle hole nearly behind me.

I squirmed round till I used to be half on my facet, going through the hole and the ridge that hid it. The turkeys sounded not more than 30 yards away. All I may do was lie immobile and look ahead to one to stay its head over the ridge.

For half-hour I lay tense, cramped, and prepared, clucking sometimes, with the 2 birds making the forest roll with sound. However they might not come nearer. Then they slowly started to float up the ridge, nonetheless gobbling. My birds throughout the hole had not uttered a observe. I felt like working after one, tapping it on the shoulder, and saying: “Look, previous buddy, I’m not going to harm you. All I need to know is what I did improper.”

In desperation I devoured my field. The twoo toms turned again, gobbling each few steps. This time I felt positive of a shot. However they stopped once more within the little hole and stayed one other quarter-hour. It was sufficient to tear a person up inside.

Spurs on a turkey leg

They retreated as soon as extra. I attempted once more to convey them again with the gobbling field. This time they stored going.

All of the music, nonetheless, had stirred up the 4 birds throughout the valley. They continued robust for greater than a quarter-hour, after which they too fell silent.

I used to be about as little as a turkey hunter can get. I apparently had goofed with six keen toms throughout me. I used to be so discouraged that I did the very best factor below the circumstances — nothing. I considered lighting my pipe, however I had no style for that. I thought-about gathering up my gear and beginning down the mountain. However I simply didn’t really feel like transferring. It appeared an inglorious finish to an excellent morning. Gobble – obble – obble. GOBBLE-OBBLE- OBBLE!

I nearly jumped out of my blind. It took me a number of seconds to comprehend that the sound had been double-barreled and will have been made by two gobblers — one or each out in entrance, simply low the hilltop. If they’d walked up with out asserting themselves, they’d have caught me with my wattles down. Expertise and intuition made me carry my Winchester 12-gauge Mannequin 12 and brace it towards my knee in entrance of me. A hunter can maintain this place a very long time.

Simply as I received that gun up, a gobbler’s head appeared from behind a lump of brush some 50 yards away. He made a crucial survey of the scene, together with me, however I’m positive he noticed me solely as a camouflaged blob. He walked across the brush, devoured, and went right into a strut, his head down towards his breast, his feathers fluffed, and his massive tail in a colourful fan.

Then he smoothed his feathers and got here towards me, his wattles pink. He went right into a half strut with slightly dance; then he lifted his head and stood for a half-minute trying straight at me. He slowly walked a number of extra yards. When a turkey is transferring towards you, it’s greatest to let him get effectively inside vary.

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However this massive chook stopped and raised his head as if he have been all of a sudden suspicious. In a break up second he may step behind a tree and vanish. I guessed the vary was about 35 yards, so I took no extra probabilities. With the sights on his head I squeezed the set off.

He went down below the impression of my high-powered No. 6 shot. The gobbler weighed 17 kilos. His heavy 10.5-inch beard and sharp spurs indicated he was about 4 years previous, effectively right into a mountain gobbler’s prime.

I checked out my watch. Ten-forty. I admired my gobbler that had taken greater than 4.5 hours to bag. I noticed this was one of many best mornings I’d ever had in turkey woods.

This story, “On the Gobbler Occasion,” first ran within the March 1974 subject of Out of doors Life.