Anyone who hunted Virginia’s 2016 spring gobbler season opening day will tell you it was a brutal day for hunting. Here in the New River Valley of southwest Virginia, we had temperatures dipping into the 20’s with 50 mph wind gusts and 1-3″ of snow. Blizzard/white-out conditions are hardly ideal for turkey hunting. Yet as rough as Saturday began, the sun rose to a crisp but still 21 degree morning with the birds gobbling hard.
The first birds Adam and I encountered were roosted high on a hardwood ridge and the open timber was sure to reveal our intentions if we were to try to slip in close. So we climbed an adjacent ridge in hopes of coaching the birds across the draw. But as the sun rose and landscape turned from the soft morning hues of blue and purple to bright gold, it was clear that these birds had pitched down and headed straight for a cow pasture below us.
We relocated several times up and down ridges and hollows and through swamps and thickets. We even managed to get a couple of hens to leave the gobbler and come in to some thick autumn olives and less than 15 yards from the soles of our boots. Why the boss man didn’t follow and why he managed to stay just out of sight, despite being only 40 yards in front of us, I will never know.
Once again we cut through the brush to get ahead of the gobblers now strutting in the field. As we set up in some cedars about 50 yards from the pasture’s edge, we heard a call only 50 yards below us. It was the unmistakable sound of another hunter’s slate call who had moved in to try to “short-stand” us.
We both called and the gobblers kept coming. Just as we peeked up and over a small rise between us and the birds, Adam spots the two big Toms only 50 yards away. Suddenly a another gobble! A 3rd bird was running down the mountain to join in on the action! As this new comer hit a small flat behind us and was hidden from view, Adam and I swung 180 degrees, him holding his Mossberg and I with the camera. It was a race against time as the birds closed the distance upon each set of hunters.
Just as the big gobbler was about to pop his head up over the crest of the flat and less than 20 yards in front of us, BOOM! The lower birds got there first and the short-stander bagged his gobbler.
Now I understand that they may have had permission to hunt the same private property that Adam and I were this morning. But when you see a vehicle parked at the road, below a field that happens to have a gobbler strutting in it , and the sound of a hunter calling and working the bird into range emanating from the trees just beyond the bird, common sense tells you that someone is already hunting here and common courtesy demands that you move on and give that hunter the opportunity to continue his pursuit without interruption. These guys moved in and killed a bird that we had worked for 3 1/2 hours this morning, heard us calling and knew we were not only near them but within shotgun range. Then they fired a shot that was dangerously close to the direction from which they heard us calling. Thankfully the birds never came up and got between us or there could have been a serious accident.
We left that morning foiled by the unsportsmanlike conduct of a few greedy b@$!@^ds but only a few short miles away, we get a sweet surprise. We strike up another big gobbler who closed the distance in a hurry. Adam makes a great shot in the residual snow left behind by the spring blizzard only 24 hours prior and so brings to a close one of the wildest opening weekends to a turkey season that I have ever experienced!