with Brett Berry
After Matt Van Cise and I had doubled down on turkeys (see yesterday's post) and driven to West Virginia that afternoon after, we got up the next morning to hunt turkeys. We’d snuck into the woods and gotten on top of a ridge before daylight. Once the sun came up, we spotted four gobblers out in the field on property where we had permission to hunt. We backed up, went down the ridge, still above the turkeys, and started calling. The turkeys responded to our calling by gobbling, but they were not moving. So, we moved further down the ridge, worked our way down to a little bench on the side of the ridge that was still above the turkeys and started calling to the turkeys again.
I put out a jake decoy along an old woods road. We called about six more times, and the gobblers started moving toward us, gobbling and strutting all the way. As they spotted the decoys, Matt and I each took a longbeard at the same time. So, we doubled down on two consecutive days with mature, 3-year-old or older gobblers. That was one of the most unusual hunts I’d ever been on in the spring, but as I mentioned earlier I’m a fall hunter as well as a spring hunter.
I love to read articles about turkey hunting, particularly fall turkey hunting. During the fall while deer hunting, I’d take turkey calls with me. If I saw or heard a flock of turkeys, I’d begin to call them. Eventually, I learned how to get those turkeys to come to me and often walk under my stand. At that time, my county in Ohio didn’t have a fall turkey season. I always thought to myself, “If we ever get a fall turkey season, I’m hunting these fall gobblers.”
So, the first year that my county had a fall turkey season, I patterned a flock of turkeys through the woods to where they went out into a cut soybean field. On opening day of fall turkey season, I reached the edge of the field where I’d seen the turkeys come into the field. I began calling. That morning I harvested a bearded hen, which I thought was really cool.
As I continued to read stories about fall turkey hunting, I also read numbers of stories about hunting with turkey dogs. The next year, I patterned a flock of turkeys that were roosting over a swamp. When fall turkey season arrived, I ran down through the woods and threw sticks into the trees. Although I didn’t get a good break, I’d never heard so much gobbling, hen calling and jake squealing as I heard that morning. Hens were cutting and assembly yelping. I heard every kind of turkey call that I believe a turkey could make. The birds reassembled quickly, but I never got a shot at a turkey. As I walked out of the woods, I thought to myself, “That was amazing. I wonder what would have happened if I’d had a dog?”
I’d already been talking to my wife about turkey dogs. That night I called a breeder that I already had picked out and put my name on the list to get one of his dogs. Six months later, I had my first turkey dog named Tess. I picked her up on an Easter Sunday morning and spent the summer training her. When she was seven months old in October, we took five turkeys over her on five separate hunts. Since Tess, I’ve bought four more turkey dogs, and my latest turkey dog, at only five months old, was in on six turkeys being harvested.
I don’t believe a flock of turkeys or a single turkey can escape from one of my turkey dogs’ noses. When a turkey dog scatters a flock, about half the flock will fly, and the other half of the flock will run. My dogs will catch up to those runners and put them up in the air. When the dogs come back and start hanging around me, then I know that they have scattered all of the turkeys.
We take stands at the scatter site, I put my turkey dogs in camo duffle bags, and then we start calling turkeys. I hear more calling during the fall than I ever have in the spring. I let my dogs’ heads out of the duffle bag. Then when we hear the turkeys start calling, I’ll put camo netting over the dogs’ heads. The dogs are trained not to come out of that bag until they hear a shotgun fire. I let my dogs come out and go to the turkey, because I believe that’s the reward they get for finding and flushing birds and sitting still until I shoot.
In the fall, we can harvest either hens or gobblers. I’ve often been asked which do I like the best - fall turkey hunting or spring turkey hunting. My answer is if I had to give up one, I’d give up my spring turkey hunting. Probably the reason I like the fall better is because my turkey dogs are like my children. Every time one of my dogs breaks a flock of turkeys, I’m as proud of that dog as a parent is when their child hits a homerun. My dogs are a part of my family, so when they perform the way they are supposed to, I’m really proud of them. I have GPS collars on my dogs, and I get updated every six seconds as to their locations. Those dogs have broken flocks as much as 500 yards from me, and that’s really exciting.
Day 4: The Traveling Turkey Hunter