with Alex Cote
Another hunt that I remember fondly was with my dad when I still lived at home in Massachusetts. This particular farm was 300-400 acres of rolling hills, and the technique that we used to hunt the turkeys was pretty much hunt-and-stalk. These turkeys could pitch off their roost on top of a hill and glide down to where we parked our vehicles in a couple of seconds. If you spooked these turkeys, they would fly off a steep ridge and might be two properties away when they landed. We would have to wait an hour or more before we even could try to call them in to where we were. Although the terrain made hunting this farm somewhat difficult, it still was a fun place to hunt.
One of the sites where my dad and I usually set-up to call turkeys on this farm was against a huge rock that faced the river. So, hearing turkeys on the roost was often very difficult. On this hunt, I was probably 12- or 13-years old. Dad and I were sitting up against the rock, and Dad had put camo netting in front of us to help us blend in and keep the turkeys from seeing us if I started fidgeting. To complicate this set-up even more, this big rock sat in the middle of a field. So, this set-up wasn’t a traditional woods type of set-up. Many hunters wouldn’t consider taking a stand out in the middle of a field next to a big rock to break-up their silhouettes, and then putting camo netting around for concealment. We were wearing a dark Mossy Oak camo then - I’m not sure which pattern since I was so young.
Dad did the turkey calling, because he was really good at it, and I was just beginning to learn how to call turkeys. Although Dad kept calling, no birds were answering. I was very discouraged. To complicate this set-up even more, the spring was warming-up the snowy mountains, and water was running off those mountains. Hearing a turkey gobble or a hen yelp was almost impossible. As the morning lightened up, I spotted a turkey pitching off the top of a ridge, flying straight at us. When the turkey landed in the decoys, I realized that the bird was a hen turkey. She stayed in our decoys for what seemed like forever. But in reality, it was only about 5 minutes. She started clucking, purring and feeding around the decoys. I remember as clear as day my dad whispering, “Sit still. Don’t move. Sit still. Don’t move.” I was shaking like a leaf hanging on a tree in high wind. Finally, Dad whispered, “Look to the right, but turn your head very slowly.”
As I looked to the top of the hill, I saw turkey after turkey after turkey after turkey flying off the roost sailing down the mountain and landing in our decoys. Those turkeys looked like one long line of airplanes coming from about the same spot, flying down the mountain and landing in those decoys right in front of us. Dad told me, “Pick the biggest gobbler, and shoot him.” I chose the tom with the longest beard, and I squeezed the trigger on my 12 gauge Remington Turkey Express - the same gun I still hunt with today. I was so proud of that turkey and that hunt. It always comes to mind when I talk about my dad or turkey hunting or even when I'm thinking about turkey hunting. My dad was proud of that gobbler too, because he had the turkey mounted in full strut, and I still have him today.
Although I haven’t started my heavy scouting yet for the 2017 season in May, I've already spotted five draggers (longbeard turkeys with beards that drag the ground). One of the problems here in Vermont is that unless the land is legally posted, which means that the posted signs have to be fairly close to each other, then all the land is open for hunting that’s not posted. I always look for land that’s legally posted. I talk to the landowner, get to know him and ask him if I can hunt there. Most of the time when I ask for permission, the landowner knows I’m trying to do right, and he’ll give me permission to hunt his posted property. When I find land that’s not posted before the season, I’ll go to the landowner and offer to help him post it, so I can hunt there. Before I hunt any property, I always ask for permission. I just think it’s the right thing to do.