Don’t go anywhere without your blind
Beginning on Saturday, May 16, gobbler hunters may hunt from a half-hour before dawn to a half-hour after sunset each day until May 30. Pennsylvania hunters have mostly adapted to this all-day season, although as all changes in the hunting scene are — it was met with skepticism and criticism.
I would suggest that a good insect repellent be part of your everyday gear from here on. The buzzing of insects can drive you batty even if you are wearing a face mask all day.
Many hunters have been surprised to discover that gobblers actually do gobble throughout the day, that a hunter can raise a response to his or her calls during the afternoon hours and that hunting can get especially exciting during the early evening hours as gobblers and hens seek to get together before roosting hour.
The dynamics change for gobblers around the noon hour. They have been conditioned over the years to expect the phony calling and parading around in the woods to quiet. It is still true because many hunters leave the woods to go to work or engage in trivial pursuits like fishing or yard work and so on.
Many hunters still have the notion that turkey hunting action is over by 9 a.m. That leaves the woods open for those who have the persistence and the time to devote to afternoon gobbler chasing.
It is for this hunting that I find the one-man chair blind I use to be so invaluable. This blind rides in the back of my vehicle from first day to last of the season. If I decide to still-hunt slowly and quietly through the woods, hoping to run on to a gobbler that will answer my calls, the blind stays in my car.
But when I find a place that shows obvious signs of regular feeding and/or strutting activity or a roosting tree, I often elect to just set up the blind and wait.
This particular blind makes this kind of waiting so comfortable. What happens so often is that as you waft a few yelps and clucks out in the air every 20 minutes or so, and keep alert you will see a gobbler just quietly show up or perhaps an entire flock in the distance feeding toward you.
Being comfortably set up near a roosting tree, whether in a blind or from a set up on the ground, in the evening hours often brings some exciting action. I’ve had action of other kinds too because these blinds really do make you hard to spot.
A few years ago I was set up on some local state game lands. I hadn’t seen or heard much that morning so as I love to do, I allowed myself to doze off. About 9 o’clock, I woke, hearing a noise I couldn’t quite identify. A snuffling, breathy sound I should have recognized at once but didn’t.
So I stuck my head out the front window of the blind to get a better look and bears exploded in every direction! What I had heard was a bear, sniffing at the very back of my blind, no doubt confused by the smells of insect repellent, peanut butter and jelly, and leftover deer hunting cover scent.
I was probably just a swat away from mayhem and woke up just in time. While I don’t savor such experiences at the time, I store them in my memory bank and savor them over and over.
Safety is as much an issue in this all day season as it is during morning hunts. Always assume whatever you hear or see is being made by another hunter. Hunters do get antsy and begin sneaking around the woods or another hunter may hear your calls from afar and decide to stalk toward you, which is illegal to do and unsafe for the stationary hunter.
That law was put in place when it was discovered many years ago just how many hunters were sneaking up on other hunters who were calling, without giving a thought as to whether the calling was actually being made by a turkey or a hunter.
Even though one does not have to display orange when set up to call a turkey, when you are in a blind or in a set-up you plan to stay at for a long time, put that orange banner out. It won’t spook turkeys and may well save you a pile of trouble.
If you have the kind of patient determination to just sit in those afternoon hours, turkeys that ignored you in the morning often make their way back to that area, hoping the hen is still there. Many hunters find it quite profitable to take a break in the early afternoon and get back in their favorite haunt about 4 p.m. or so and wait.
Turkeys are usually back to feeding by then, and will often walk right into your plane of vision. If you know where they roost as a rule, get set up somewhere nearby, call occasionally, and keep your eyes peeled. Just before roost time is as good a time to be there as is that hour they fly down from it.