This past weekend was our final hunt of the 2015 Spring Turkey Hunting Season. This season was plagued with horrible weather, important appointments on the calendar, trips out of state, and a loaded plow with my day job and freelance work so no matter how the mornings unfolded, we were going to enjoy our time in the woods.
Our Saturday hunt started off with torrential rains so we decided we would sleep in and hunt mid-morning between the two bands of storms that were predicted by the Weather Channel. We arrived at Woodham Farms at 10:00 a.m. and took up our favorite spot. The humidity was high after the rain and the sun was beating down on us for the first hour. You could hear a breeze in the treetops but you sure could not feel it on the ground where we were sitting. Besides watching “Bully”, the farm’s Black Angus bull, plundering in the weeds and the newest bull calf kicking up his heels at the wind, the morning was pretty uneventful. We had not heard a tom our entire hunt–not even in the distance. Harvesting the “El Jefe” was not going to happen this season but a bird like that leaves a fire in your desire and gives us something to look forward to for next season–that old rattle box gobble will haunt my dreams until then. This morning I was reminiscing about our April 4, 2015 hunt at Woodham Farms…
Every moment of idle thought, my mind brings me back to the sights and sounds of the piney woods of Alabama. The sound of the “El Jefe” rattling off his revelry just before the break of dawn. The sounds of that old bearded boss hen arguing with any hen or call she hears, cutting it off and far surpassing the number of yelps she took in. Some mornings there is a chill in the air but some mornings like this morning, there is a mugginess that makes your camo stick uncomfortably to you. We were here, in this exact spot last weekend. We sat an extended time using the logic that these birds were frequenting the fields late morning from what our game cameras had provided. That was an unsuccessful hunt. Once the birds hit the ground they were off onto the neighboring pine plantation and we didn’t hear another word from them.
This morning we waited under the pine located in the middle of the cow pasture of Woodham Farms. The cows moved in to investigate. The cows were somewhat stealth compared to their size and as I glanced over to see if “Bully” was in close proximity, I noticed that the heifer with her new calf was the closest to us. Ironically, my mind quickly formulated an escape plan just in case she were to charge us…a subconscious effort that I am sure hog hunting ingrained in me. As we stood for what seemed like half an hour listening for “El Jefe” to sound off, the only sounds we were hearing were that of a rooster which we coined as a Georgia gobbler (from an earlier story) and the sounds of the new bull calf taking in its morning meal. Finally, a couple owls sounded off and a hen made a soft yelp and “El Jefe” let out a gobble. They were no more than 150 yards from us, roosted on the property line. We grabbed our gear and took out for the edge of the cow pasture. We decided to set up in the same spot that we sat in last weekend. Mister put the decoys out about 18-20 yards, an Avian ¼ strut Jake and breeding hen and a Dakota Decoy breeding hen that he put on a stake.
As we settled in and I slide on my face mask and pulled on my gloves, I noticed the cardinals had started their morning serenading and several other birds were sounding off. Mister made a soft yelp on the B&C Custom Turkey Calls copper call that we brought to the field with us to review. No sooner had he struck the third yelp and the boss hen cranked up with her angry yelp and “El Jefe” sounded off with a rattling gobble and I caught the faint half gobble of a jake at the end of “El Jefe’s” gobble. There was a 7-10 minute intense conversation between the hens roosted in the trees, El Jefe and, every now and then, the sounds from the B&C copper call.
I had already raised my gun and rested it on my shooting stick and was waiting until I heard the sounds of wings. I heard a bird tree hop so I slide the safety off and I instantly could hear my heart rev up in my ESP hearing protection…KaThump, KaThump, KaThump.
It was at this point that I thought this could very well be the morning we take down the El Jefe. “Would the sun come out for good photos?” “I wonder what size spurs he has.” “I hope he doesn’t hang up just below that terrace.” “Will the bearded hen come in angry, looking for the hen cutting her off.” All of this ran through my mind.
The first flop of wings finally gave us a clue that the birds were pitching down. About four, then a pause, and one more set of flopping wings and then a big rattling gobble sounded off. They were either just inside the pines in front of us at the property line. All we could hope for now was that the hen come seeking the hen she believed was encroaching her area. I could feel my heartbeat in my neck and my eyes were watering from straining as I was searching the edge of the pines for any movement. El Jefe gobbled two more times then everything fell silent in the woods in front of us.
After fifteen minutes, I got a gut sinking feeling that the birds were moving into the pine plantation on the adjacent property, an area we did not have access to so there was no way to get up and get in front of these birds. Finally, a faint gobble proved what I was already thinking. So I put my shotgun back on safety and pulled it down into my lap. I looked over at Mister who shrugged his shoulders. We sat there another ten minutes before we decided we would sneak around the edge of the property line to the back fence and see if we could get an idea of where the birds were going once they hit the ground and how we could get between them and the planted pines to cut them off. We used the Trimble Hunt Pro program to get a visual on the terrain. We laid out a plan for a morning hunt and made plans to come back in the afternoon to see where the birds would roost.
Later in the afternoon we returned. We walked into the area close to where we found the birds roosted that morning. We could not find a decent spot to set up and the only spot was smack dab in the middle of an area with this spring’s new crop of poison ivy. I figured if I didn’t bother it, it would not bother us. We sat until after roosting time and did not hear or see a single turkey. It kind of took the air out of us for a morning hunt. The birds were roosted deep into an area we did not have access to. I decided with a loaded plow of work that I needed to get done, maybe I would just stay home and get an early start on my To-Do-List. Of course, with that said, don’t think that the “El Jefe” was not the last thing on my mind when I laid my head on my pillow and drifted off to sleep.