Georgia Opening Morning 2010
By Bobby Parks | Mossy Oak ProStaff
As I sat against a tree listening to the hens on the limb 60 yards away, I strained to hear that first gobble. I was hearing lots of tree talk from the hens, but so far I had not heard the gobbler music I was hoping for. It was opening day of the 2010 Georgia season, and I was hunting an eighty acre property bordered by the Etowah River in North Georgia. I had watched this flock of hens the evening before and knew where they were roosted. I didn’t believe a gobbler was in the group, but I hoped maybe one that I hadn’t seen was nearby.
The truth is, I had not heard a gobble on the property leading up to the start of the season and didn’t know for sure if any gobblers were even around. I knew that opening weekend would be my best chance on this tract because of the other hunters working the property later. Although I had planned a few travel hunts, I had not secured any other property in my home state, so not only was this my only hunting option for opening weekend, but also possibly my only option for the season in Georgia.
After fifteen minutes of listening to the hens, I heard wings flapping and caught glimpses of birds coming down out of the trees. It appeared to be ten or so hens, most of which were landing on the end of the ridge I was on. I could see some of them, but mostly I just caught movement. Moments after the last bird landed I thought I heard a distant gobble. The hens were making such a fuss that it was difficult to hear, but I finally heard gobbles again. It came from a long ways off, but there was no mistaking the sound. I had already concluded that no gobblers were with the birds near me, so I was anxious to get up and go after him. But, I didn’t want to spook the birds in front of me, so I stayed put until they dropped down over the edge and out of sight.
As soon as the last head disappeared, I rolled left, crawled back a few yards, dropped over the ridge, and started “fast walking” to skirt the birds. Once I hit an old logging road and knew I had cleared the hens, I took off at a run towards the river. A couple hundred yards later I worked my way up over a rise and stopped to listen. I was out of breath. I couldn’t hear anything over my own gasping at first, but then I heard the gobbles again. The gobbles were closer now, and they sounded like more than one bird.
I hurried across the hill, but as I topped it, I realized the birds were on the other side and off my tract of land. My heart sank knowing that I couldn’t get to them, although I was glad to know there were gobblers around. I decided to work my way down the hill and then plan my next move. The turkeys were two-hundred yards away from my hill top position, but the hill I was on was steep with open hardwoods. I was worried that they might see me. I kept trees lined up between them and me as best I could, and five minutes later I had worked my way down to the logging road that ran along my side of the river.
Across the River
The river was fifty yards wide, and I could see the birds eighty yards away from the far bank in an open field. There were two gobblers, a jake, and a few hens.
I watched them through binoculars and yelped on a box call. They were hot, and they gobbled right back at me. I hit the call a couple more times with the same response. One of the gobblers started moving towards me, but the hens kept slowly easing forward, maintaining the eighty yard buffer from the bank. I continued to ease down the road while trying to break the stalemate. This went on for another one-hundred yards before I saw an opening from the river on my side. It was a thirty-foot-wide slot clear of trees and foliage, and there was a clearing on the opposite bank as well. I moved down within twenty yards of it and let them work down their side a little further.
I knew yelping wasn’t going to be effective, so I pulled out a slate call and began the fighting purrs call. This turkey calling tactic has worked well in the past, and it seemed like my only shot. As soon as I started calling, the birds went ballistic and the jake turned and starting walking towards the river. I continued working the striker hard and fast over the slate as the jake continued my way. One of the gobblers broke and started following the jake, and a few seconds later the second gobbler broke loose, as well. In fact, the gobblers seemed to speed up which caused my “Hope Meter” to start rising. Once the jake got within fifteen yards of the bank he headed straight for the opening only twenty yards away from me. God bless fighting purrs and stupid jakes!
Once the leading gobbler saw the jake take to the air, he lifted off in the field toward the river. I dropped the call and snatched my shotgun up to face the opening down the road. The jake landed twenty yards away and ran a few steps after touch down with the first gobbler landing in his footsteps. The gobbler ran a few steps off to the right of the road and stopped- at which point my gun went off and he dropped. I didn’t know what the other gobbler had done until he touched down in their established landing path. At first, I wasn’t going to shoot him because I normally just take one bird. But, my mind was racing, and he just kept standing there. I decided this might be my only chance if others hunt the property, so I talked myself into taking him.
The event was surreal. I was elated and guilty at the same time for taking the other bird. But as I walked out carrying one bird in my vest and the other over my shoulder, I began to feel that my decision was justified because I knew that they may be the only two Eastern birds I’d have a chance at that season. The unexpected adventure that brought them into range was one I’d never forget.
Fighting Purrs Work
I have used fighting purrs with mixed results. In this case it worked really well, and the jake’s response was the key. On most days I can’t get turkeys over a ditch or across a fence, so I would never have expected to coax birds across a river that wide. But, once you see something like this happen, you realize anything is possible.
Fighting purrs have helped me get birds to come into range. I used it the first time successfully in Texas when I had three gobblers and several hens that started walking away from me. When I turned loose with fighting purrs, all three gobblers turned and came one-hundred and twenty yards down a power line straight to me. In another instance I had two gobblers and a group of hens at the far end of a pasture that wouldn’t budge for thirty minutes, but as soon as I hit the fighting purrs, the entire group came running right to me. In South Georgia I called a gobbler with a twelve inch beard far enough in my direction from across a field to get him in range. The call has even worked for short tugs to coax a gobbler over twenty yards. Those twenty yards can make the difference when it comes to getting the gobbler in range.
Fighting purrs is still more of a last resort call for me, but it is an option in which I have confidence. On those occasions that no other calls work, you have little to lose by trying the fighting purrs. For me, the call seems to work better earlier in the season than later. Mixing wing flaps into the mix or having two hunters perform the sequence together can be effective. But, the fighting purrs call is definitely one you can do by yourself successfully. Give it a try!
That morning on the Etowah River, when my chance of success seemed slim, the fighting purrs call was a lifesaver.