By Rich Miller
I figure that most of you are like me as soon as deer season ends you start thinking about the next season that’s going to open. Now you have rabbit and squirrel and they are a lot of fun, but the big seasons for us in the south and most of the country are deer and turkey. I am fortunate to have a place to hunt in the lower part of the state that I live in where the season opens March 15th. The only place that opens earlier than it does down there are some areas in Florida. The 15th is plenty early for me because it gets here before I realize it every year!
This year was no different and my good friend and hunting buddy, Robert Colcolough, and I made the drive to his family farm in Barnwell, SC just like we have been doing for years. We didn’t get to leave until Friday afternoon, but thanks to the time change that I fussed about last week we made it there just before dark – just in time to try and roost a bird.
As I said earlier ,we have been hunting this place for years and the birds are always in the same area. They usually roost in pretty much the same place year after year. After busting our tail to get there before dark, we couldn’t get a bird to gobble to save our lives. Though we would have loved to hear one gobble to give us a little proof that there was a big tom in the area, it still didn’t change our plans because we had to be there the next morning to satisfy our curiosity. It had been too good over the years to overlook that area.
Saturday morning was a beautiful, clear, sunny morning that was perfect for the first turkey hunt of the year. We were at the hill just before daylight expecting to hear a gobble any second but the later it got the less likely our chances got. A little disappointed, we headed to a food plot that turkeys use a lot and just before we got to it I cut real aggressively on my hammerhead box call and got a turkey to gobble. We could also hear some hens with him calling back to us. We looked around and found a good place to set up and tried to coax him in, but he never gobbled again. One of the hens came in, but I guess the gobbler had more than one with him and stayed out of sight. The rest of the day – as pretty as it was – we never heard or saw another bird.
Sunday morning we made plans to go back to the hill because we knew they was one bird up there for sure. We were set up in the food plot well before daylight and, just like the day before, the sun was up and we still had not heard a gobble. Around 7:40 there was a bunch of crows raising cain behind us and then there was a distinct gobble. I gave him a minute or two and when I called to him he answered right back! The good thing was two of them answered back instead of one. We were set up facing the other direction and had the decoys in the food plot in front of us, so I told Robert to stay put and I turned around in case they came straight in behind us. They were fired up and every time I called they would answer right back.
Then there was another bird that started gobbling to our left. The two main birds worked their way around and circled around to my right. I could see them skirt the edge of the food plot and head straight to the decoys. I told Robert not to move; they were headed straight out in front of him. They did go straight out in front of him, but they didn’t go straight to the decoys – they stayed on the other side of them just out of Robert's range. They stayed out in front if him, gobbling like crazy, tempting him the whole time; but there was nothing he could do about it.
While those two birds were doing all the gobbling, the bird behind us was working his way in, also. Finally, he started getting closer and the first two birds started toward him. They passed back across the food plot in front of Robert and he still didn’t have a shot. When I got to where I could see them, I could tell they were going to be a little out of range for me, as well. The way they were headed, they had to go behind a little island of trees. So when they disappeared behind it, I got on my belly and closed the distance between us. There was some broom straw and grown-up weeds to give me some cover while I crawled about 15 yards. When I eased up to look where they were, they were probably inside of 30 yards. So I eased up and put my bead on the lead gobbler and squeezed off a shot. As soon as I shoo,t a bird flew straight up in the air. I thought I had missed and immediately started firing on the retreating bird. The first shot must have been a warning shot but the second brought him back to the ground. About the time the bird hit the ground, I heard Robert ask, "Where is the other bird?" As I looked around, he was to my left flopping on the ground.
The good thing is in South Carolina it is legal to kill two birds in one day, although I hated Robert didn’t get one of them. We have a rule between us… if they come in and you have a shot, don’t let them leave! It is amazing when turkey hunting what a difference a day can make, but there was a thunderstorm Saturday night and I think that was the biggest difference. If you have ever watched chickens in someone’s yard, they will get along and put up with each other; but if it rains, the next day they act like they are all strangers. They will fight and be a lot more active than before the rain. Turkeys, to me, are the same way; and if it rains or any type of weather change, I want to be in the woods right after that.