Turkey Hunting: No Shows

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I heard one old timer say that no greater amount of planning went into the Allies’ invasion of Normandy than does the strategy sessions that take place every year the night before the opening day of turkey season.  We tend sit around the dinner table milking our chosen drinks and the “scenarios” are thrown out like revenue projections at a corporate board meeting.  Each hunter has high hopes for the next morning, has trouble sleeping that night, and tells their significant other that they’ll be calling them by 8:00 AM with some good news.

If we went to bed the night before the opening day of turkey season with a low level of confidence (a dawn thunderstorm withstanding), then why even go the next day?  Part of the fun of the sport of turkey hunting is the anticipation-the edge of your seat, standing on pins and needles feeling that hits you in your gut as you either watch the calendar or listen into the darkness for that first gobble.  While the sport of turkey hunting would certainly survive without the anticipation, it would certainly be akin to a three-legged dog chasing a tennis ball.  The dog still has fun, but struggles at times to keep a steady pace or in getting started.

Turkey hunters need no help in getting off the block.  We typically have an idea of what turkey, or group of turkeys, we are going to hunt on opening day.  Many of us have listened in the area in the weeks leading up to the season, and feel we know the turkeys in each area as well as we do our children.  Every turkey has a nuance, and we could write a dissertation on each birds’ emotional climate.  But as the sun begins to rise on opening day and the silence is sustained from moments into minutes, our spirits begin to sink just as a boy who realizes his dog (even his three-legged one) is missing.

Humans naturally like order.  Turkey hunters, being a cultural subset of the larger being, are no different.  We want things to go according to plan, and a gobbler breaking daylight on opening day approximately 150 yards southeast of your listening spot is a plan we depend on.  When this does not happen, we can do three things: sulk, panic, or adapt.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer the latter choice versus the first two.

Turkeys have no script.  They are not bound to a specified twenty acre creek bottom.  They can go and come as they so please.  We cannot force them-legally-to stay in the same area.  When we break daylight and Mr. Big is not where he was yesterday, we must search for another customer to convince him that his life is not that important and that all turkeys do go to Heaven.

One reason we are so reluctant to depart from a turkey “that was there yesterday” is because we have invested a great deal of time and brain cells in mapping out every possible scenario, twice.  If we go to the turkeys we hear choking on their own gobbles on the powerline a quarter mile away, we are forced to think on the fly.  This is the area that separates the scouts from the greenhorns.  Everyone wants to be prepared.  Turkey hunting does not always afford us that luxury.

I typically give a turkey [I have committed to beforehand] around five minutes to gobble (while others are sounding off in the distance) before I decide to abandon my original plan and run to the other turkeys.  I must admit, it is not an easy decision, but time is of the essence.  It can be so critical to get setup on turkeys before they hit the ground, and waiting around could cost you that advantage.  As important as that advantage must be, we cannot be reckless and “just sit anywhere.”  Once we get close, we must become tacticians and figure out where we need to setup to have the best chance of being successful.  I personally depend on maps as much as I do my knowledge of the land-a simple bend in the road can get you turned around and thus out of place when setting up.  Be quick, but be strategic and decisive.

Again, turkeys will not be tied to the tree you want them to, and certainly will not follow the same script from day to day.  Their method of madness is unpredictability, which makes them such a challenge to hunt.  When our targeted turkey does not gobble, remember that we cannot waste time; we must search out a new customer, in the hopes that the customer will take the bait.
Wild Turkey Report Staff
Wild Turkey Report is the internet's new destination for information on the sport of turkey hunting. Follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wildturkeyreport and on Twitter @wildturkeyreprt!
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