Spring time for gobblers in central PA
This Saturday is the big, exciting day! The opening of spring gobbler season is a thriller, no matter how the day goes or what the weather turns out to be.
But here is what is really going on out there. Spring is the mating season for wild turkeys. A gobbler thunders out every morning at dawn to tell every hen within earshot where he is that he is expecting them to come running to him.
Sleepy hens on the roost are waking up and when they hear him they usually answers him with soft, sweet yelps and clucks which fires him up all the more When the hens fly down, so does the gobbler and they begin that wild ritual that signals their courtship is in full swing.
So, what the hunter is doing is interjecting himself into the mating scenario of the wild turkeys and just the sound of it, the gobbling and hen yelping and clucking will drive a hunter goofy.
So the tom gobbles and the hens yelp back and they begin to make their way toward one another. The gobbler preens and puffs out his chest, spreads his tail feathers into a fan and takes smart little dance-like steps, pirouetting around in an effort to catch the eye of any hen nearby.
And the hunter has to get himself right into the middle of all that and convince the gobbler that he is the sexiest, hottest, most desirable hen in the bunch and that he should make his way toward you. By your calling prowess you must convince a gobbler that you are the most desirable hen in the bunch. the most wiling, the most ready to accept his protestations of love and lust.
So you better know just how to do that with you calling devices and mouth calls. That’s the challenge of the whole thing: fire him up so much that he forsakes the real thing to come to the fake (you).
Sitting out there under a tree just cranking out mediocre yelps, one, two three, is not going to convince a gobbler you are a turkey version of Marilyn Monroe. There has to be passion, desire and urgency in your pleas to a gobbler or he will ignore you for a more alluring voice he hears.
According to Mary Jo Casalena, biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, if the weather cooperates at all this should be a very good spring season. The fall harvest was down last season so there are plenty of birds out there, Casalena said. Nobody works harder than Casalena to keep track of the wild turkeys in the state and I am a big fan of hers.
To be in the woods just as dawn is beginning to show pink streaks across the sky, to wait breathlessly to hear that first gobble, to noiselessly slip three shells into your 12 gauge and listen to the woods wake up.
It begins with the faint cheeping of a songbird, a robin perhaps, then the trill of a cardinal, then more birds join the chorus. Perhaps a deer slinks by, on its way to it bedding area, unaware of what is about to explode in his territory.
When a crow finally lets out its raucous cry, you know it’s time for a gobbler anytime now to begin advertising his lust and his location to any hen within earshot. Sometime the woods is so filled with various bird calls that you wish you could shut them up because you think you probably won’t hear a gobbler if one does let loose.
Then the nine-note cadence of a barred owl sounds and you wonder if it is a real owl or another hunter. You feel for the orange hat cover, wanting to be sure if there are other hunters nearby they can identify you.
Then, finally, the voracious gobble shoots over the treetops and your breath shortens and you listen quietly, to be sure you have his location correct. How close is he? Should you move toward him or try to call him from here? Which call should I use? Are any hens answering him?
So many decisions to make and with your breath coming in little gasps, you either set out to get closer or set up right where you are.
To be part of this glorious tableau playing out in the morning woods, to thrill to the incessant gobbles you hope he makes, to hear him answer your calls, then to finally see him inching his way through the woods toward you.
Now you begin to shake and itch all over and ease that shotgun to your shoulder. The morning sun hits his feathers, turning them into bright colors. He stops, pirouettes like a dodo and puts on his dance routine to attract the hen he thinks you are.
You know he expects you to show yourself to him because that’s how it usually works in the woods. If he stops and waits, then your efforts to call him into range become more difficult. Do you keep silent and wait or do you pour on the calling , hoping his passion for you is so overwhelming he abandons all caution to find you.
This little scene will be played out in woods and farms all over the state on Saturday. Some of us will bag our trophy, others will have to try again another day but the thrill of the hunt, the skill involved in trying to successfully lure him to you without spooking him, to get that good shot and then to tag your trophy is priceless.