Well, we are officially on the other side of the hill now. The downhill slide. The second half of the season. Since I tagged out last weekend, I spent a couple of days this week trying to help some other people get a bird. My good friend, Lee Baird, of Putnam County, and I went down to Bulloch County Tuesday night. We planned to hunt on his family property there on Wednesday. Lee needed just one more bird to tag out himself, and I really wanted to help make that happen if I could.
We started out Wednesday morning and were met with fog and silence for the first 30 minutes or so. We finally heard a hen, but she had no interest in us.
About 30 minutes later, we heard a gobble and decided to try and move in on him. He would answer my call, but each time, he seemed to be moving off a little. I stayed persistent with him, and we would move about 50 yards toward him each time he gobbled. He finally appeared to be holding his ground, and when we got about 100 yards from him, we set up. I called once more and dogged it off. He got quiet. I told Lee to be on alert because these are the birds that slip in on you.
Thirty minutes later, he was in our hip pocket, and he spotted Lee moving a little. I slowly eased my head around to my left and watched the bird at 30 yards as he began to putt and retreat. Hunt over! We hunted our way out and never struck another bird.
When we got back to the farmhouse, Lee suggested we do a little bass fishing. We fished a couple of hours and caught a good mess of fish. Then we loaded up and went to Statesboro and ate at the Ocean Galley. Fine seafood and great service! I’d definitely do it again.
After a platter of scallops, oysters, shrimp and a bucket of tea, I was recharged and ready to take a nap, I mean go back to the woods. We headed over to Lee’s granddaddy’s old place and struck a bird less than five minutes after sitting down in a good shady area. He was in a deep, thick hardwood bottom, and I told Lee we needed to let the bird do the work. Instead of us dropping in and trying to work the bird through the maze of obstacles in the bottom, we backed off and set up across the old roadbed on the opposite side of the road.
Lee was in front of me about 15 yards or so, and we had put a couple of decoys in the roadbed. The bird answered me each time I called, and he finally worked to an area across from us down in the bottom. I figured he was looking for a place to cross.
He was quiet for the next 45 minutes before he gobbled just inside the woods, which was 80 yards up the road to our right. Within seconds, I started hearing drumming, and a minute later the big strutter appeared in the road with another longbeard in tow. The copper color of his back feathers was beaming in the mid-afternoon sun, and I was proud that Lee hadn’t moved so much as an inch as he let the birds walk into range. The birds stopped in the roadbed at 38 yards before putting at the decoys. They began veering off to their right putting more distance between themselves and Lee in the process. Now I was questioning Lee’s stone-like posture and was wondering why in the world he wasn’t shooting. When they got in front of Lee, I couldn’t see them anymore, and finally, he began to get down on his gun and tighten his grip. Seconds later, he shot, and both birds disappeared back into the safety of the bottom below. I was more than slightly confused as to what had just happened. When he stood up, Lee asked, “I shoulda waited, shouldn’t I?” I was thinking, “Uh, no.”
I told him to look in the woods to see if he had hit the bird. He looked low, and I looked high. There was nothing there. When he walked up to me, I asked him where the bird was standing when he shot.
“Right here,” he said.
It was 60-plus yards from where he had been sitting.
“They looked like they were leaving. Maybe I should have waited,” he said.
“No, you should have shot when they were in that roadbed at 38 yards,” I told him.
This is when things began to make sense. It seems Lee had figured out how to be perfectly still when the turkeys are close. Just take a nap! Works like a charm. Yep, he slept through the whole thing until he heard the birds putting near the edge of the treeline. He thought the birds had just come out of the bottom, and that they might’ve been leaving, which they were and did. It was another hard lesson learned.
That was it for Bullock County. We had a great time as usual and have already planned to try again next season there. Some of the best memories have nothing to do with killing a bird. I don’t think either of us will forget this one.
The next day my girlfriend, Donna Price, and I headed over to Taliaferro County where my good friend Keith Collis had invited us to hunt. Keith couldn’t be there but allowed us to go without him. I decided to hunt the bottom field on the lease. It is a long field situated between mature pines and a winding creek. Keith and I had gotten on birds there a week or so ago and had seen a big old gobbler head to roost back in a pocket of the field on the creek.
When Donna and I reached the edge of the pocket, we stopped on a finger of trees that jutted out in the field from the creek. I had just told Donna about the possibility of a bird being there, when an owl threw four notes into the morning darkness. A bird hammered back in the bottom, precisely where I told Donna he might be, making me look like a genius in the process. We found a good setup and the hunt began.
It was 6:20 when the bird gobbled, and as the morning light struggled to break through, a dense fog began to reveal itself.
“Gonna be a little quiet this morning, I think,” I told Donna.
About 10 minutes later, a hen woke up about 175 yards down the creek. Then a crow flew over and a jake popped off down by the hen. Then a few more hens woke up, and I started talking to them. Just soft tree stuff, maybe a tad more vocal though because the gobbler was closer to me than to them. A few minutes later, we heard the gobbler fly down back in the pocket of the field. The hens got a little more ambitious then and started talking a little more. They flew down shortly thereafter, and I began to hear drumming over the rise in the field out in front of us.
“He’s out there,” I said.
He was just strutting around in the middle of the field waiting on the hens. He was going to commit to the hens or me. Typical old-bird stuff. Once the hens were on the ground, I began talking to the boss, and we chatted back and forth for the next 30 minutes. She obviously didn’t have a problem with me as she continued to move in our direction. I told Donna things were looking good, and if the hen kept coming, she would likely drag the gobbler to us. They definitely read the script as we soon saw the fan of the big gobbler cresting the rise in the field at about 100 yards. Then he came into full view, followed by the rest of the flock. There were nine birds: four jakes, four hens and the big boy. I have watched more birds than I can count and have seen some glorious sites, but watching those birds come over the rise in that fog is firmly imprinted in my brain forever.
We watched as they inched closer and closer. I was trying to keep Donna calm, while my heart was about to beat out of my chest. He dogged the jakes and pirouetted around the hens until he reached 30 yards. I asked Donna if she was ready, and she said yes. I popped a couple of hard clucks, and the big bird ran his head up high. She shot, and the entire flock scooted out in different directions. None flew, none ran. They just stood around in a state of confusion as to what had just happened. The longbeard now stood 60 yards away on the edge of the tree line. Then, they all just walked away. Heartbreaking is an understatement. Nerves got the best of her.
We just sat quietly for a while. I knew how she felt, and there was nothing I could say to make it better. I finally told her that she just had to get back in the saddle. I told her about birds I had missed over the years until I started getting depressed about it, and we laughed and regrouped. I believed we were in a great spot, and that if we were patient, we just might get another chance when the fog lifted and the hens slipped away. Again, the birds read the script.
The sun finally got the upper hand and pushed the fog away about 10:00. A bird gobbled at about 10:30. I answered, and five minutes later, he gobbled again. I answered again, and another five minutes passed before he gobbled again. He was a long ways off, but I believed he had worked his way into the field. I told Donna that we would just give him time and see what he does. I told her to stay alert and that birds like this one would often just slip in and appear later on. It was a good hour and a half later, when he just popped into view at 60 yards. Man, those birds could sure read a script!
He strutted briefly, and after about 10 minutes, he began feeding and appeared to be leaving. Apparently, hens can read, too, as out of nowhere, one came strolling in from our left, yelping as she came. The longbeard wheeled around to face her and went into full strut. I was thinking he might just walk toward her and get in range. Instead, he locked it down in a quarter strut and didn’t move until she got right by him. I thought maybe he was pulling a “Lee Baird” for a minute and was sleeping through the whole thing. She walked by him showing no interest whatsoever. This is when I thought, “Well, it’s a “pick-six.” She has intercepted us, and she’s gonna take him to the house.
Strangely though, she passed by, and he began feeding again. Suddenly, he turned and faced us and went back into full strut heading straight to us. When Donna was ready, I stopped him, and she made it count this time.
What an absolute roller coaster of emotion. Sweet redemption!
I think we hung around there a hour or more before we headed out. We saw two kinds of tears that day. That ended my Georgia season on a grand note. I have been blessed, and I was reminded once again why I love this so much. I shared some great hunts with some awesome people. As we headed out of the woods, it occurred to me what I learned so many years ago. You can leave the spot, but the memories will leave with you.
I’m off to Kansas and Nebraska. It’s like starting the season all over again. So grateful that I get to do this!
About The Author: GON freelance writer Donald Devereaux Jarrett has been with GON since 2003 and is currently on the following pro staffs: JEBS Chokes, Mossy Oak, Conyers Outdoors, South Dakota Hunting Service and Denver Deer Scents. If you’d like to talk turkey with Donald, you can reach him through his Facebook page or through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 17, 2017: DDJ Tags Out In Georgia
April 10, 2017: Quiet Gobblers During Windy, Rainy Week
April 3, 2017: DDJ Rolls The Boss, Calls In Several Other Birds
March 27, 2017: Henned-Up Gobblers For Georgia Opener
March 23, 2017: Chasing Osceolas With DDJ