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Spring gobblers make for wacky time

Courtesy photo Joanie Haidle with a 22-pound gobbler that never made a sound when she was hunting for it.

This spring gobbler season, which concludes today, has been the strangest I’ve ever encountered.

That’s not just an opinion, either. I have talked with many hunters from all over the state and from other states that are scratching their heads as to why this has been such a surprising, goofy season.

It isn’t that the lack of gobbling is an unusual thing but when you go out day after day and hear nothing, it is a strange turn of events. My hunting buddy, Joanie Haidle, agrees that she has not experienced a gobble-less season before in all her years.

I’m sure this peculiar situation is in no way because of the pandemic but may be a result of the very mild winter we had. Gobblers were broadcasting their lust in mid-February so if breeding got off to an early start, perhaps the breeding cycle was pretty well over by the time season began. But that is just a theory. And everyone has their own theory as to why this gobble-starved period occurred.

It isn’t that Joanie and I did not see turkeys. We did. One day early in the season, we were set up along a very large field. Joanie got a couple of answers to her expert calls, and we had the finest decoys the market offers set out. It took awhile but suddenly turkeys burst upon us from every direction. A boss hen began squalling and she strode out into the field, several gobblers and hens behind her, which were making no noise whatsoever.

From another direction, several jakes bolted into the field and the first thing we knew, these turkeys got into little groups and began chasing other groups of turkeys around, all without any turkey making a sound. Jakes and mature gobblers were running marathon races from one end of the field to the other, silently.

However, the 25 birds all stayed on the opposite side of the field from us, out of shotgun range. It was a spectacle, indeed, and we were thrilled to see it all. After the turkeys disappeared into the woods,we were ecstatic to have seen such a rare sight in the woods.

In days to come, we would visit that field often because Joanie had a blind set up there. You see, on the second day of season this year, I was out hunting and around 6 a.m., I took a step, felt myself sliding in the loose earth and fell straight backwards. I was alone and stunned.

Carefully I got myself up and on my feet again, but I realized quickly I had hurt both my head and tailbone badly. Thankfully, I was only a few steps from my car. I made my way back to it, opened the door, eased myself in to the driver’s seat and went home. I thanked God that my head had not hit a rock or a log because there were a lot of both around, but my head fell onto the ground and bounced and my tailbone hurt plenty.

But I had no broken bones so I called Joanie and told her I was on my way up to her place. She and I have access to a beautiful, large place on which no one but us may hunt. We met the owner of this land many years ago when we returned to her rural home after a day’s hunt.

Upon our arrival, we saw a crew installing new windows in her shop building so, thinking nothing of being completely clad in camouflage, we went over to see what they were doing.

Watching us approach them, the two men stopped working and just stared at us, two camouflaged women hunters doing something they had never seen before. It was comical .

Anyway, after much conversation about her career as a maker of great turkey calls, and mine as an outdoors writer, they were doublely stunned. What resulted was a sincere invitation by one of the men to come and hunt his land, which he assured us he did not allow anyone else to hunt. So, after many years of hunting on his land, this year arrived.

One of the blessings this man afforded us was that he has a Toyota buggy which we were free to use to transport ourselves over his hills and dales. WOW!!

Joanie, of course, simply plopped down in the driver’s seat and steered us over the farm, so we had the privilege of arriving at this generous benefactor’s house at such ungodly times as 4:30 a.m.

So on the morning we would see the turkey parade in his far field, we walked into the garage. He’d left the door open for us, but the lawnmower was in front of the buggy. Well, she’d just have to move the mower out of the way. She turned on the ignition and the blast from the backfire nearly blew us out of the building! It sounded like a cannon going off and we just didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Before we could do anything, the door to the house flew open and the landowner sprinted outside in his pajamas, his German Shepherd at his side. Never did any two people feel more like cooked geese than we did.

He thought his garage had blown up. After much apologizing on our part, and laughing on his, he went back to bed and we got the buggy out and bounced our way to the blind. Since I could not walk at all because of my injuries, Joanie got me and my stuff settled in the blind, as she did every day, then settled herself in as well and we were treated to the aforementioned turkey parade.

A few days after this incident. I urged Joanie to go off to some other location on the farm. We could keep in touch with our radios. She did and in another two hours, I heard the shot and I knew she had connected.

And boy was it a beauty!

She had crept up a path she knew and suddenly saw a tail fan spread in the tall grass ahead of her. She ducked down into a little thicket nearby, clipped some weeds and briars away to create a small shooting lane, and then set up to wait.

After awhile, a gobbler strolled up the path and when he got in her shooting lane, it was all over. She got a 22-pound gobbler with two beards, one 10 inches and one 8¢ inches. So while the woods were silent most of the time we were out, we created more excitement than we knew how to handle.

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