By my count, the birds had likely just hit the ground as I was leaving the house. I decided to head to a spot where my dad, “Rudy,” had heard a bird on friday morning. At 6:45 a.m. (30 minutes after daylight) I put my vest on and headed to the top of the ridge, I heard the bird gobble about a half a mile away. With plenty of time left to hunt and the bird still gobbling really well, I set out across the hollow toward the him.
It took me about 20 minutes to reach the gobbler after fighting through some thick laurel and crossing a couple of ridges. As I came to the top of the next ridge, I heard the bird gobble in the hollow on the opposite side. I soon realized that he was still about 200 yards up the mountain from me. I find that it is typically tougher to call a bird down the mountain to you because they tend to find a good vantage point above you and lock up until they see movement. With this in mind, I knew I need to move around the mountain and get at least parallel with the bird, if not above him.
Once I got where I could hear the bird straight across from me, I eased to the top of the thick laurel ridge and peaked across the hollow to where the bird was gobbling. The bird had moved into some wide open hardwood timber about 125 yards away. It would be impossible to get any closer and the mountain laurels and rhododendron that I was in, would make it tough to see the bird approaching until he was within 20 yards. I found a tree near the crest of the ridge, set up, and gave a couple of loud yelps to ensure the bird could hear me. He immediately cut off both calls with a thundering gobble. He was coming!
It wasn’t long before I could see the gobbler strutting toward me from across the ridge. He paused to strut and I thought he may hang up out of range, so I gave one more call to let him know where I was. He gobbled and came out of strut and committed in my direction. However, as I looked around at my set up, I knew it was going to be tough to get a shot off before the bird would pick me out. I couldn’t see more than 25 yards due to the slope of the ridge and the thick brush. The bird had shut up and had made his way into the thick hollow just over the ridge from me.
I wasn’t happy with the set up and was trying think of something quick to improve it. With the timber on the backside of the ridge behind me being open hardwoods with no cover, I decided to just back up about 30 yards. This would give me a little more room to let that gobbler home in on my previous position. Turkeys have a knack for being able to pinpoint where a sound is coming from, so I knew there was a really good chance that the gobbler would come straight to the tree that I had just left.
After sitting there for about 15 minutes without so much as a gobble, I was beginning to worry that maybe the bird had heard my retreat and knew something was up. However, I also knew that he was likely working his way in silently so I didn’t want to move and risk busting him out. Finally, I could hear the bird drumming just over the ridge. It took a few minutes, but I suddenly picked out the red/white/blue head and the tail fan coming over the ridge. The bird popped up right beside the pine tree where I had originally sat. Once he reached this point, he stood there and gobbled, looking for the hen he had just heard. I gave one soft call to let him know where I was and he soon turned in full strut and began working his way down the ridge to me. At 30 yards, I put the red dot in my Tru-Glo scope on the waddles of his neck and the pulled the trigger. The Federal Flight Controls blew him over on his back without so much as a flop!
I looked at my watch and it was 7:30 a.m. At 17 lbs, 13 ozs with a 8.75” beard, it was definitely not my biggest bird, however, it was an enjoyable hunt and I was looking forward to the turkey sandwiches and getting back to bed!