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Turkeys, hens and curious bears

My column of two weeks ago reflected my own thoughts about the fact that the spring gobbler this spring was the strangest in gobbler-hunting history: it was quiet!

Since my column came out, I read the recent issue of “Outdoor News” and it had quite a lot to say about it. Seems hunters from all corners of the state were concerned and upset about the season and of course, most had an opinion on what was the matter.

Let me add the opinion of my hunting buddy, Joanie Haidle, and me on the matter. We discussed the matter daily because we were out experiencing this phenomenon almost every day of the season. We watched turkeys every day and never did we see lone gobblers on the search for hens. As I stated, that may have been because the breeding season started early last spring, and by the time the season opened, the lust for hens had fizzled. But, we concluded that there might be another reason for the silence.

What we saw daily were gobblers and hens together, just feeding along quietly, paying no attention at all to the sweetest calls you could make. The fact is, that there simply were too many hens. Every gobbler, even the jakes, seemed to have as many hens with him all the time right from the first day of the season.

One woeful fact of gobbler hunting is that if gobblers have hens with them, they have no reason to pay much attention to hens calling from afar. And, they don’t answer those calls from afar if they have their hens right with them.

One day we spent an hour or more watching over 25 turkeys that came in to the big field we were watching. That was the day we came to this firm conclusion: the season had begun early and by the time we saw all these turkeys, it was mid-season and the turkeys were all flocked together. The breeding seemed to be over and they would sometimes raise their heads and pay attention to Joanie’s calls, but they did not ever respond verbally or move in our direction.

This pack of turkeys entered the field in small groups. A few jakes in one group, gobblers and hens in another. They delighted in chasing one another out of the field and we watched some pretty neat scuffles among these birds, but not once did they ever make a sound. It was eerie.

The only thing that is going to change these dynamics is to have a scarcity of hens. That will fire up the gobblers. So, with that said, I can tell you my goal this fall for hunting season will be to harvest a hen.

That statement will fire up a lot of hunters who would not dream of actually gunning for a hen in the fall. Everyone wants to get the big gobbler, even in the fall.

It all reminds me of the furor that erupted back in the 1960s when antlerless hunting was suggested.

I also read the account of a hunter who surprised a curious bear that decided to look into the blind he was sitting in. That is a breathtaking surprise, and I know, because several years ago the same thing happened to me.

I had my one-man chair blind set up on local gamelands. I dozed off that morning — blind hunting can be boring if nothing is happening. At about 9 a.m. I woke to the sound of some shuffling sounds at the back of my blind. I absolutely should have recognized what was sniffing at my blind since it wasn’t the first time I ever heard that sound.

I stuck my head out the front window of my blind and two small bears bounded away, the mother bounding away in another direction. No doubt they were confused by the smells of my egg salad sandwich, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and cookies as well a bug repellent I had sprayed around.

The sow bear was scratching at the back of my blind and I realized I probably was mere seconds from a swat that would have upended that blind with me in it. Now that would have been a tangled mess!

Another time while gobbler hunting, I spotted the biggest black bear I have ever seen approaching me in the woods. He seemed to be angling toward me so I sat frozen. I didn’t know if he had spotted me but once again, I was worried about exactly how to handle it.

He was smelling out my lunch. He suddenly stopped, put his nose in the air, took one sniff and tore out of the woods like he was on fire. He had scented me, thank goodness, and there are few things a bear hates more than the scent of a human.

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