Gobbler #1 March 30
My Tennessee turkey season started off this year in McNairy County near Selmer. Nothing was going to stop me from missing the Volunteer state’s season opener. Not even the 1.5 hour early morning trip I had to make through the rain and very dense fog could deter me. For the past 2 weeks or so Mr. Latch, the land owner, had been watching turkeys on his place and in the agricultural fields that bordered his property. “There are more turkeys around here than I’ve ever seen,” said Latch. This had me full of excitement even as I stood in the light rain and thick fog awaiting the day’s first gobble. I had my doubts in hearing any gobbles early that morning, but at around 6:20 a bird fired off up a wood line that separated 2 big fields. I knew exactly where the bird was so I quickly made my way to the field I hoped he would fly down in. As I positioned myself in a small clump of sweetgums I was amazed how much fog had filled the cut corn field. While I was awaiting the bird’s next gobble, I quickly caught movement about 150 yards straight out in front of me. It was a group of deer feeding in the field. I could barely see them as the fog would fade in and out. As the deer moved off to my left another figure appeared in the haze. It looked like a turkey. I thought to myself, “There is no way that can be a turkey, it must be a deer turned at a funny angle.” As soon as that thought passed through my mind the fog faded away and a big gobbler came into focus through my Leupold binoculars. I could not believe he was on the ground so early, especially in this thick fog. I made a few soft calls and the gobbler “blew up” strutting. He would strut a little and walk toward me a little; he was doing the good ole turkey do-SE-do. Finally he slowly made his way to about 35 yards and at 6:45 my Remington 870 did its job. The bird had 1 1/8 inch spurs, a 10 inch beard, and weighed over 20 pounds. This was the earliest I had killed a turkey in a long time that early in the season. As I carried the bird out, I thought to myself, “What an unbelievable hunt and a good day to be in the turkey woods.”
Gobbler #2 April 4
Normally towards the end of April my friends and I make our annual pilgrimage to the turkey rich state of Kansas. However, this year my wife and I were expecting a baby to be born around that time. So I had to come up with a backup plan, which was to hunt some private land and lots of public land in the foothills of Middle Tennessee in early April. It was new ground that I had never hunted before and knew little about. Plus the majority of the land we were going to hunt was public land. With this being the case, only one of my hunting buddies made the trip to the Columbia area with me.
The very early morning drive was again made through rain and fog with the forecast showing more of the same all day. As soon as we got to the farm we were going to hunt I checked one of the nearby game cameras just before daylight. After a quick scan I saw pictures of at least two different gobblers. This let us know that there were birds in the area which lifted our spirits that the cold rain had dampened. After listening for several minutes at daylight and not hearing a peep, we decided to drive around to get a feel of the land as we dried off and warmed up. We also hoped to catch a gobbler in one of the nearby fields to hunt with no luck. Finally, we spotted a group of turkeys on the edge of a field on some of the public ground. Because of the rain we couldn’t tell if a gobbler was in the bunch, but this was the best scenario we had seen in two hours of looking. After making the big loop around the other side of the turkeys a closer look revealed only several hens. After we watched them feed off into the woods we were very wet, cold, and discouraged. As we made the long loop back out to the truck, one last look into the field revealed a gobbler and a couple more hens. “Where did they come from”, we asked ourselves. So here we go back around to the other side of the field. As we crawled up to the back corner of the field all we saw were two coyotes trucking across the field where we had last seen the gobbler. Needless to say the turkeys were gone, but we did know where another gobbler was.
After we ate lunch, put on some dry clothes, and took a little time to warm up we headed back to where we started the morning off. We knew that there were some turkeys in the area we just had to find them. The first field we came to had a lone hen feeding in it. Since the rain had slowed to only a light sprinkle, we decided to walk some of the wood roads and call periodically. We also glassed several fields along the way with no sign or sound of a single turkey. Again we found ourselves wet, cold, and discouraged as we walked toward the truck. As we made it back out to the first field I immediately spotted a strutting gobbler. What a change in emotions! We crawled up to the field edge and got into position. The bird was just out of sight around the bend to our left. Chris positioned himself facing the field and I sat behind him facing the mouth of the wood road that came out into the field where the turkey was. I felt very confident in one of us getting a shot at this bird as I started my first series of calls. To my surprise a hen even further over to our left cut me off with a series of cuts and yelps of her own. As we called back and forth to one another a gobble rang out behind the hen. It was not the bird we saw because we could hear him “buzzing” just out of sight. It wasn’t long when the hen came into sight calling like crazy with the other gobbler just out of sight gobbling. Talk about exciting, which one is going to come into sight first? The hen walked within a few feet of us when finally our original bird strutted around the bend and Chris smoked him with his Remington 870. The bird had 1 1/8 spurs, an 11 inch beard, and weighed 21 pounds.
Gobblers # 3 and #4 April 5
The 2nd day of our Middle Tennessee hunt was fast and furious. Chris started the morning off at first light by killing the gobbler we saw on the public land the day before. The bird was gobbling his head off on the front edge of the field. It was a perfect place for him to roost because Chris put him on his back by 6:35. It was perfect for Chris but not so much for the gobbler. As we were hunting Chris’s bird, we heard others on the opposite side of the road so we drove around to where we thought they might be. Unfortunately there was a truck parked where we wanted to go. Discussed, we settled on just going the other direction up the Duck River bottom. Not knowing what to expect we made a couple of calls and 3 gobblers hammered back to our right. Surprised, we quickly got into the best position we could and started calling again. The birds quickly came into view gobbling every breath. The 3 long beards were coming in on a string when a 4th bird gobbled to our left. Two hens popped out of the woods first with a strutting long beard behind them. The trio of gobblers turned and ran directly toward the other gobbler. They were chasing him around like a pack of coon hounds. All of the turkeys were just out of gun range as all of this commotion was going on. Chris, who was about 10 yards behind me, whispered loudly, “There is another gobbler to your immediate left.” I looked over and there he stood only about 35 yards from me. I guess he heard all of the gobbling and fighting purrs and had to check it out. I quickly swung my gun to the left as the bird went behind a tree and my Remington rolled him when he stepped out. My bird had 3 beards totaling 19 inches and I killed him on public land only 200 yards from the main parking area.
The view was a master piece that is forever etched into my memory. Picture this: the winding Duck River in the background, a carpet of fresh green growth underneath a canopy of newly leafing out mature hardwoods in the center of the frame, Chris and I sitting in the fore ground, and a gorgeous group of turkeys doing what turkeys do being the focal objects. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Gobblers #5 and #6 April 6
Day 3 of our hunt started back in McNairy County where I killed my first Tennessee bird. There were 2 long beards gobbling on the edge of the same cut corn field. Unfortunately these birds flew down out of shotgun range and the 7 hens took them out the other end of the field. However, it was enjoyable being able to watch them put on a show strutting, gobbling, and chasing jakes. When the birds made it over the hill we went back around to the front edge of the fields to get a better look at what the turkeys were doing. From the better view point we could see a third gobbler strutting in the adjacent field with two hens of his own next to the other turkeys. All of the turkeys were in the middle of these huge agricultural fields and there was nothing we could do at this time. Our only hope was that the turkeys would feed back toward one of the field corners where we had enough cover to get into a favorable hunting position. Finally around noon one of the gobblers broke off and headed to where they were roosted earlier. We quickly made the mad dash back to the field in hopes of getting there before he did. We didn’t. With so little cover on the wood line we decided to split up and get on each side of the gobbler. This would double our chances in one of us getting a shot at the bird. The gobbler settled in on the field edge and started gobbling and strutting on his own. Once we both got into position we both started calling some. Luckily the bird came up my side of the field and I was able to take my 3rd gobbler.
Not wanting to take a chance in spooking the birds we decided to leave the area until later on that evening. The plan was to setup on the corner of the field where they were roosted at that morning with hopes the big group of turkeys would return. We nestled into our positions around 4:00 and only an hour had passed when we saw our first turkeys, a couple of hens. They fed around for a while and then left the field but didn’t go far because we could still hear them scratching. It wasn’t long after that we heard a gobble just 100 yards or so from us. We then could hear some jakes making their funny sounding noises. Then we could hear turkeys walking, running and scratching in the leaves just over the hill in front of us. Finally one of the turkeys stepped into view over the hill at only 35 yards. It was one of the gobblers! Chris didn’t waste any time as he quickly pulled the trigger on his 3rd Tennessee gobbler.
Gobblers #7 and #8 May 3
Chris and I finally made it back to Middle Tennessee with high hopes in finishing out our four bird limit. I was in the area working earlier in the week and went by our hunting property to check the game cameras. As I was walking toward one of the cameras I noticed some fresh gobbler tracks in one of the food plots. The cameras also showed that there was another Maury County bird in the area.
With the days getting longer we left my house at 2:00 a.m. and arrived on the property at 5:20. As soon as we stepped out of the truck a bird thundered off in the distance. It was like a shot of adrenalin into two sleep deprived zombies. With our renewed energy we quickly loaded our guns, gathered our hunting gear, and headed toward the gobbler. He was on the edge of a clover field that sat on top of a big ridge. It wasn’t long after we sat down when a hen flew into the field. The gobbler continued to gobble in the tree as the hen fed away from us and out the other side of the field. I cranked up the calling a little to let the gobbler know that a hen was still there. At 5:45 the bird flew down just outside the back edge of the food plot. He thundered off several times as if he was a royal monarch announcing his presence to the court. He then strutted his way into the field and through the carpet of crimson colored clover. What a beautiful sight! Finally at 5:54 Chris put the bird on his back. This was the first bird I have seen harvested before 6:00 a.m. since the new time changes years ago.
Since it was so early we quickly headed to the truck to check out a couple of nearby fields. It didn’t take us long to find a field with several hens in it with a strutting gobbler in tow. We quickly parked the truck out of sight and got into position on the field edge. After only 10 minutes the bird came strutting by and I put him down at 6:45. What a fun hunt! We finished off our Tennessee limits and we got it done before 7:00! The toughest part of our hunt was the drive.
What a great year in Tennessee! I was able to kill a turkey in each of the three months of the Tennessee spring turkey season. In all my years of turkey hunting I have never done that in one state.
God Bless and Happy Hunting.
Posted by Mark Newell