Category Archives: 2011 turkey odyssey

Nope…Nothing…Nada…Not Even Bigfoot

With a few exceptions, it has become a common theme in life that the act never lives up to the anticipation.  Such it was with this morning’s turkey hunt.
Yesterday I told you all of my run in with the chattiest gobbler I’ve ever come up against.  My hope was to return to the same spot today and hope to pull him across the 6th line of Nassageweya in to the Finney Forest Tract.
Arriving even earlier than I did yesterday I was nonplussed to find another vehicle parked at the Finney Forest’s entrance.  Not wanting to tread on another turkey hunter’s boots (especially in a tract as small as 20 acres) I went to my back up spot…the Acton Tract five minutes up the road.
The Acton Tract is about the same size as the Finney Tract, give or take five acres, and semi-famously was once the location of a Bigfoot sighting.  Based on the tracks I saw in the trail, equestrian pursuits are much more common than hominid-hunting.  Finding no other hunters (or menacing sasquatches sneaking around) to greet me at the gate, I suited up in the dark and stalked my way eastward into a dry, open bottom where I set up against a wide pine tree with a blown down pine top sitting in front of me to serve as a natural blind.
Once again, I was greeted by a still, calm, clear morning.  Unfortunately, no gobbling rang out to rouse me this morning, which I guess is only fair given the concert of turkey noise that I was privy to yesterday morning.  I went through my typical morning calling routine, cranking the volume up slightly just to reach any dozy, far-off tom turkeys.
At about 6:15am I heard the brief chirp of a car horn.  I recognized it as the sound of someone locking a vehicle with a keyless fob to the west of me.  I was almost certain that it was another public land turkey hunter, which is fine…I don’t mind sharing with someone else.  Sure enough about 10 minutes later, I heard some snapping branches and footfalls in the trail.  I saw my fellow huntsman and just as I was about to call out my position, he pulled his mask down and waved at me (maybe I wasn’t as well hidden as I thought I was).  I waved back, and with this silent acknowledgement, he turned down a trail to my left and I could see him no longer.  I heard him fire up his calls a short while later (he sounded pretty proficient) and in the stillness of the morning woods it became apparent that we were so closely situated that we would be competing for the same birds.  I had another spot lined up in the Acton Tract in case of just such an emergency, so I got up and walked straight away from the other turkey hunter  to a spot that was a little thicker, but also a bit quieter.  It was just about 6:35am.
About two minutes after I got situated I heard something running on the trail.  While I was not expecting a sasquatch, I had heard no other vehicles so I was curious about what to expect to see…I anticipated a deer.  What I saw was a pale yellow Labrador retriever…followed by a sight hound of some sort (likely a greyhound) followed by another yellow Lab.  All three stopped and looked pointedly in my direction (odds are they could smell by backtrail) and then, maddeningly, started to bark and howl at me.  I stood up and put my sling over my right shoulder, giving up my hunt for lost, and was only slightly surprised that with this movement all three dogs began snarling and sprinting at me.
I do enjoy dogs, just not three dogs that materialize out of nowhere and begin to chase you down aggressively.  I stood still and shouted “Get Lost!” or something at them, and they ran around me in circles, barking and growling aggressively but not really doing anything to worry me about being bitten.  At this time I saw their nominal “owner” on the trail and he began shouting as well.  A vague transcript follows:
Owner: “Peggy!  Hey!  Get over here!  Come…Come NOW!  Bad dog…Peggy?!  Listen!  COME HERE!  Down!  Leave him alone!  Come HERE NOW!  Peggy!”
Me: (slightly quieter) “Go On!  Git!  Git goin’ Peggy!  Get outta here!”
I don’t know why I talk like a 19th Century Klondikeman when I shout at dogs…congenital defect I guess.
At one point the smaller of the two Labs jumped at my back and gave me slight shove.  This man never came within 25 yards of where his dogs were harassing me…I’m still at a loss for an explanation why he just stood there and shouted.  Finally giving up on his shouting I began to walk towards him.  The dogs barked and growled louder, but as I expected they ran to encircle their owner and stare and bark angrily at me.  Eventually he began to walk away down the trail and the three canines followed him along the trail.
This man never said “sorry” or “how are you?” or anything else.  I wasn’t looking too closely but I never saw a lead or leash in the man’s hands either.
I won’t relate the quiet curses I laid at the doorstep of this man and his dogs, but a part of me did feel bad for this other turkey hunter in the Acton Tract…my friend if you’re reading this I hope you weren’t bothered by these dogs as well and I hope those mutts didn’t ruin your day like they ruined mine.
I trudged back to the car and took a moment to let the ironic rage wash over me when I read the Halton Forest signage indicating something like (I’m paraphrasing)
“All pets must be on a leash at all times.”
I was struck for a brief moment of the overwhelming futility that is sometimes associated with being a hunter, especially one in the private land sphere.  I, in order to practice my passion of hunting, must pass numerous tests and courses to hunt and possess firearms, I must renew and purchase licenses constantly (and at no little expense), to hunt in some public forests I must purchase special Conservation Authority permits and retain public liability insurance in the unlikely event of something terrible happening, while in other public areas I must submit to inspection of gear and game.  All this is fine by me; it is the small price one pays for the opportunity to hunt on generally excellent public facilities.
But by definition, “public” means that everyone should have equal access rights and show courtesy to other users of the property.  This was troubling because the individual out walking their dogs at 6:30 in the morning, off-leash & in violation of the “rules” posted at the entry to the property showed obviously no regard for the owners of the two (two!) vehicles that he most certainly had to see when he came onto the property.  It is possible (even likely) that this man didn’t care who he disturbed, but it does beg the question “why?”  Why should hunters be held to any stricter standard than other users of public forests?  Why should I be a saint when other users (judging by the occasional pop cans and empty fast-food and cigarette packages I observed at both the Finney and Acton tract entrances) are clearly sinners?  Why was the hunter I saw quiet, courteous and safe while the local dog owner (I say local because in the absence of a third vehicle I could only assume that this individual walked to the forest access) was reckless and rude?  Why does one person with limitless and unfettered access to the public forests seem to have a diminished obligation to follow the rules, while the regulated that use the area for brief, specific periods must observe those rules and many more?
I guess, and I may be way off, the answer is because most hunters (at least the majority that I’ve met, talked to, and participated with) treat their access to hunting grounds (both private, and in this case, public) as a privilege.  Most are also understanding of the fact that hunting, despite the millions in Canada, the USA, and worldwide that participate in the timeless traditions, is a considered a “fringe” activity by the decision and policy making public.

For those of you that hunt that don’t treat the land and access with respect, and that feel hunting on public land at large is still a “right” I may need to take up a contrary position to you.  Part of using “public access” is being a member of the “public”, and if you’re just as discourteous or (dare I say) flat out ignorant of your role as a member of the “public” when you’re hunting as the dog owner I ran into today was, then you’re not doing anything to help perpetuate fair access to public lands for hunting purposes.
So now that I’m done being all ranty, I’ll wrap up how the rest of the morning for today went down
I drove to three other tracts of public forest in Halton that allow hunting (and at $1.41/ltr for gas, this was an unintelligent and somewhat expensive exercise) and was pleased, yes pleased, to find that all three had at least a car or two parked in the access lots.  Galvanized with courteousness by the poor example set for me earlier in the Acton Tract, I disturbed not a single one of the spots…they were already being sufficiently worked by others.
So overall after two days I’m batting .500 on the “pleasant experience” meter for the Halton Forests, which frankly is better than I had anticipated so in all I can’t really complain about having the opportunity to get out there and chase gobblers in well-maintained, reasonably-sized, and most importantly, available, hunting areas.
Saturday (if the weather holds) I’ll be off rambling around Simcoe County and the Barrie area for gobblers with my Dad (ahh…the pastoral pleasures of a father/son hunting tour).  I’ll keep everyone updated.

Captain Conversation a.k.a. When Gobblers Won’t Shut Up

I woke this morning at 4:25am and reminded myself that I’m an idiot.
A late shift at work tonight left me a window of opportunity to sleep in this morning.  But, as a symptom of the mental illness that is turkey hunting, I chose instead to trade sleep in a comfy, comfy bed for a twenty-five minute drive into the Halton Region Forest Tracts for a mid-week turkey hunt.  Where some see somnolence, I see opportunity!
As Cheap Trick’s Breakfast in America played briefly on my alarm clock, I thought for a second about just switching the blasted thing off and cuddling into the sheets, but I do that the other 300+ days a year, so feeling groggy but hopeful I went zombie-like through the ritual of putting on my hunting clothes.
I slammed back a bowl of Cheerios, grabbed my 870, and hit the road in the dingy pre-dawn.  I slid a mouth call betwixt cheek and gum and flipped on my Greatest Hits of The Animals CD….that’s right I still use CDs.
30 minutes later I pulled into the parking area of the Finney Tract.  The Finney Tract of Halton Forest is on the west side of the Nassagaweya 6th Line.  To the east side of the 6th line is a line of pasture and more forests; this area is strictly off-limits since I have no idea who owns them, and I lack the wherewithal and resources that would allow me to determine who I should contact to get permission to hunt there.  Thus, in this location I’m limited to the rectangle of forest that is the Finney Tract, which is fine because it is a perfectly serviceable little piece of hunting land.
Predominantly coniferous, but with some sparse hardwoods thrown in, the Finney resembles just about every piece of public hunting land I’ve ever tread on.  At first glance this could have been a spot in the Simcoe, Wellington, or Grey County forests respectively, but this spot has the added appeal of being less than 30 minutes from my front door.  I’d walked the area earlier this year and knew exactly where I wanted to get to, which was good because it was very dark when I softly pressed the doors shut on my vehicle, and even though the main trail is wide and the layout basic, I don’t particularly like fumbling around in a dark forest not knowing where “the spot” is.
In this case “the spot” is a nice shaded area at the base of a very broad, very old pine tree about 100 yards from the concession road.  The decades of fallen needles carpet the forest floor in a thick, boot-silencing layer of decaying vegetation, and the base of the old pine has an incline and width that affords a reasonable level of comfort (as tree bases go).  I was travelling light with just my shotgun, ammunition, and vest full of calls…the decoys didn’t make it out of the garage this morning.
Sitting under the tree I check my watch, and am somewhat shocked to find that it read 5:20 in the morning.  Sunrise is scheduled for 5:59am.  At 5:35 (just to be sure I was on the right side of the time) I slide three worn shotshells into the action of my gun.  These shells have been loaded and unloaded into my 870 so many times that the gun considers them to be old friends…I really would rather unload the gun the loud way, but it just hasn’t been that kind of turkey hunting for me these last two years.
Ten minutes later I am watching the thin band of blue that has become the eastern horizon morph into that pale magenta and pink hue of breaking dawn when to the east, almost right below the first sliver of glowing sun, a gobbler sounded off.
My first thought was not a happy one…in fact to quote my brain I believe it was “Shit…He’s across the road.”  As mentioned above, I can’t hunt across the road.
Now I’ve called to a lot of turkeys and carried on some pretty epic conversations with the occasional gobbler, but one thing I’ve never done is pull a gobbler across a roadway, at least not one that I knew of.
But this morning found me doing exactly that, and I went through the whole routine of soft tree talk, a couple of fly down cackles, and then some yelping and purring.  I even did a bit of spirited cutting on the raspiest, cutting-est mouth call I’ve got.  Despite being what I took for maybe 200 yards away, and with a intermittently busy concession road in between us, this old gobbler could hear me (thankfully it was ominously still this morning) and he answered all my tree talk, yelping, cutting, and even a couple of my purrs with throaty gobbles.
Then it got ridiculous.  He sat in his tree and kept gobbling.  At everything.
He gobbled at the crows, and then he gobbled at some geese as they brayed their way past.  He took time to holler at some blue jays, and he even got some shouts in at the cars as they whipped down the concession road in excess of 80km/h.  In between this he rang the treetops with hearty gobbling at every sound I made.  My push-pin call clucked when I shifted my weight and he even gobbled at that coincidental noise.  I’ve never doubted that a turkey can clearly hear you at distance out past a hundred yards so I wasn’t surprised at all at his noise, but I was surprised by the sheer mass of calling that this bird was doing; he gobbled non-stop for half an hour and at about 6:20am I heard the tone of his calls change.  They became more muffled but just as frequent: I knew he had flown down.
Still he gobbled on and on.  I can safely say that in all the time I talked to him he gobbled more than any turkey I’ve ever heard before.  That he was gobbling was good news, that he was getting closer and louder was great news.
Now, a quick time out for a word about calling frequency.  I tend to be of the “call often” philosophy, with a small caveat.  If a bird is answering, I’ll keep pouring on the coals.  I want to keep him as hot as I can for as long as I can.  I do this because it lets me keep tabs on his whereabouts, and I’ve found that it usually keeps them coming in even if small obstacles (blow-downs, puddles, low fences) intervene.  The caveat is that I’ll stop calling if the gobbler stops answering.  If I call and don’t get an answer then I switch over to a minute or so of soft purring, clucking, and scratching in the leaves before (if there is no response and I don’t see a gobbler sneaking in) I clam right up for about a half-hour.  Then I just call every so often, with occasional cutting thrown in, to see what the gobbler wants to do.  It is an inexact science that works as often as it fails, but I’m comfortable with it so I keep doing it.
But back to this loudmouth from this morning.  As I said, he was getting closer, and my heart was starting to pound a bit harder, but I knew there was still one thing that was going to queer this all up for me: the north-south line of page wire fence surrounding the private property on the wrong side of the concession road.
Sure enough, the tom turkey stopped approaching but he kept gobbling.  And he was getting mad.  Now I know some people that don’t believe turkeys get angry, and I know some that believe they do.  I’m in the “belief camp” and just to prove it to me this bird’s gobble changed.  He just started frantically gobbling, and even though I couldn’t see him I could tell by the way his gobble seemed to be moving back and forth that he was at the fence and likely running back and forth looking for an opening (as I’ve seen gobblers do many times before…don’t these damn birds know they can fly?!).  For one brief period his gobbling became so panicked that I thought he may have tried to leap the fence and gotten caught.
Now I’ll admit it.  A part of me really, really wanted to sneak closer and get look at this freaky bird, but given that I was on public land with the most vocal gobbler I’d ever been confronted, such a move seemed to just be asking for trouble.  I make it a point to follow all of the unbelievably important rules of turkey hunting, but above all else I try to abide most strictly by the turkey hunting commandment that states roughly “Thou shalt not stalk gobbling” for no other reason than that it seems to be the one most often overlooked, and the one that can most rapidly devolve into getting shot in the face.
This went on for about ten minutes when, inexplicably, he just left.  I knew he left because he never quit gobbling.  His gobbles just became softer, and he receded farther and farther back into the impenetrable acreage of land on which I had no ability to hunt.  Did he just get fed up with this persnickety hen that refused to meet him halfway?  Maybe someone slowed down to look at him on the road and he got spooked?  Who knows?  It is imminently pointless to try to deconstruct what a turkey is thinking about, because for all their wariness, cunning, and superbly evolved natural defense systems, they just don’t reason on a level that we can lower ourselves to.  Nothing has ever tried to make me food, so I can’t conceive the level of paranoia and instinctive flight response ingrained into the psyche of a wild turkey.
I can only say two things with any degree of certainty.
The first is that he just walked off and left me worse off than I was before.  Not only did I not have a turkey to hunt that day, but I had a goddamn apparition to chase after.  The second is that I’ll be right back there in the morning hoping to lure him to right side of the road.  Right for me that is.
To get my mind off the bird across the road from the Finney Tract, I went to my vehicle and cruised up to the Acton Tract to see if anything would answer my romantic hen turkey sounds there.  A vehicle was already parked in the lot, so I was about to leave when I saw the hunter coming up the trail.  We had a brief chat and he said he’d had no luck with the spot, which gave me no reason to go in and rattle around some calls to birds that either weren’t there or weren’t answering.  Besides I had to get home, get showered and changed for work, and write this post.
Maybe tomorrow night I’ll have a better story (and some pictures of a dead turkey to share with everyone).  As I’ve said before….who knows?

Frustration in Spades—Saturday, April 30th, 2011

When we last left off, I had mentioned that for the last three spring turkey seasons, I had managed to get a turkey to gobble at a location not far from the cabin that serves as home base during the November deer hunt.  Despite my best efforts in the past few years, I had been unable to close the deal on any gobblers there though, and had frankly never even laid eyes on a bird at that location.  I had seen tracks, heard gobbling, and spent many hours trying various strategies on the elusive birds in that area (calling a lot, calling a little, not calling at all, trolling the hardwoods for sign, etc) but to no avail.
My uncle had spoken recently with some members of the group that owns the property, and had secured permission for us to hunt the spot.  He had also confirmed that there was still a fair bit of gobbling going on at the cabin and in the surrounding area.  My uncle let me know that some of the owners of the property were going to be in the cabin over the weekend, so to avoid disturbing them in the early morning, I set my sights on a likely spot in a slightly overgrown field with a few promising ambush points.
Getting to this particular spot entailed a ten minute drive and a twenty minute walk, so I set the alarm for three-quarters of an hour earlier the night before.  When it went off at 4:20am, I was fairly certain that I was insane for doing this.  My hunting partner Lucas thought the same and let me know so.
There was a heavy frost on everything, but no wind blew, and no clouds obscured the stars of an early spring morning or the scimitar blade of the crescent moon.  It was the kind of still Zen-like quiet that turkey hunters (and perhaps all hunters for that matter) love.  We loaded the car and set off.
We parked on the two-track gravel trail and unloaded in silence.  With whispers that still seemed to echo in the still early morning air I ran down the plan.  We’d walk for about ten minutes back to the field and set up against the perimeter and call.  We set up with Otter Lake to our right and hardwoods that stretched to our left.  Three times before I’d had audio on turkeys here, and I felt like with an extra set of eyes and ears with me, we could get something good to happen.
After a leisurely but purposeful walk along the trails, we sat against a couple of trees and waited for dawn to break.  The air was empty of wind and man-made noise, and the distant yips and howls of coyotes floated across Otter Lake.  A short while later, still in the blues and greys of dawn, a loon called plaintively from the marshy lake and a more distant compatriot answered.  Softly at first but building to a raucous crescendo some Canada geese began to cluck and moan on the water.  Chickadees, sparrows, red-wing blackbirds and crows woke up around us, and a soft nearby rustling of leaves betrayed the movements of a small rabbit.  It is truly a rare experience, to have the wilderness wake up around you, and to dwell within it once only makes a person starve with longing to experience it again.  I almost didn’t care that the gobbling calls of turkeys failed to ring through the still morning.
As the blues and greys of morning became the vivid, gold-burnished shades of a sunrise in the woods, I slid my hickory striker across the roughed Pennsylvania slate of my pot call and was startled by the realistic clarity of the notes that rang out from the instrument and echoed through the stands of maple, ash, and beech.  Although a proficient caller, I’m convinced that the morning air improved the sounds of my calls more than anything attributable to practice or operator expertise.
Not getting an answer from any lovesick turkeys, I cranked the volume up steadily with each series for the next two hours.  Lucas pitched in as well with yelps and excited cutting on his box call, but this was all to no avail.  My foot had fallen fast asleep while we had sat there, and the tree against which I leaned was causing some complaints in my lower back (this getting old is hell, I tell ya’) so I decided to walk the country a bit.  I updated Lucas on where I was going and where I would turn up when I returned so as not to surprise him.
I walked out of the field and down along the edge of Otter Lake, spying ahead on the shoreline a pair of Sandhill cranes.  A raptor of some variety wheeled high and away out over the lake, and all I can be sure of is that is did not have the shallow “V” wing profile of a turkey vulture.  Aside from that, it could have been any kind of local raptor…in 2004 a bald eagle watched from a dead tree near the lake as we set up our deer camp, so there is even an outside chance that it was a descendant of that majestic bird.  Who knows?
As I walked, and as the feeling returned to my lower extremities, I looked closely for any signs of turkey activity, but also kept a sharp eye for whatever other creatures may have been stirring around that lovely morning.  I heard the far off drumming of a ruffed grouse, and as I walked it grew in volume.  In short order I spied the culprit.  He was standing, strutting, and drumming on the door frame in a skeleton of a cabin that was started but will never be completed.  I watched the little drummer and snuck to within twenty-five steps before he made me as a threat and blew off the door frame in a whirr of wings.  Continuing on I found the bill and fore-skull of a mallard, but not much else.  Clearly something had made a meal of this bird once, and this was all that remained.  Later, I stood and smiled up at a comical porcupine, one of the largest I’ve yet to observe, as it tried to make itself comfortable in the high crotch of a sickly looking tree.  He looked very healthy and seemed to pay no attention to me, instead remaining focused on finding a balanced spot up so high.  I moved on, leaving him relatively undisturbed.  If the buildings at the deer camp are ever being damaged by porcupines, I may have to answer for not shooting this specimen, but that morning I was after wild turkeys and since this fellow was a very fair distance as the porcupine waddles from the nearest useful deck plank or cabin wall, I saw no reason to harass him with anything more than a quiet giggle at his incongruous bulk as it perched high up in that spindly tree.
Every once in a while I’d sit down and yelp on my mouth call, waiting for a gobble to cut the morning air.  No such thing ever materialized.  Making my way back to the field I picked up Lucas and we began our walk to the car.  A hundred yards or so from where we had set up I saw a swath of turkey feathers on the ground.
Looking down at the frost covered feathers, all I could say was “Something or someone killed a turkey here recently.”  I picked up a feather and looked at it.  It was the feather of a male bird.  My heart sank a little bit.  A little further along, by the edge of the trail, I spied an unnaturally green, small object.  It was a 3 ½ inch Remington shotgun shell, that was once loaded with #5 shot.  Now I was certain that a turkey had died here, and it had died at the hand of a turkey hunter like me.  While I and my family and friends claim no exclusive rights to hunt the area, I was unaware of any other turkey hunters that would be frequenting the place, so I was a bit puzzled. 
When we came into sight of the cabin, I saw the dogs rambling around out front and noticed a couple of the guys were out front, so I sidled over and said a polite good morning.
As it turns out, one of the owners of the cabin was a turkey hunter (not really surprising) and that he had taken a tom out of a group of three that had come to the same field the evening before.  I was glad that my plan, in theory, was vindicated as potentially successful, but just a bit down that someone had beaten me to the punch.
That is not to say I begrudge anyone their success, far from it.  I am not one of those hunters that claim some kind of “ownership” of the turkeys I hunt.  If someone else, but especially the rightful owners of the property, shoots a gobbler there, I don’t feel that they’ve killed “my” bird.  I’ve met enough hunters who think that way, and I find them generally distasteful.  But still to quote Charles Elliott I can often say that I’ve listened “for the sound of the other’s gun—hoping all the while (I) won’t hear it.”   What really had me steamed was that neither of the two remaining gobblers in the vicinity had come to pay Lucas and I a visit.
I heard the story that the man told, we’ve hunted geese together once or twice and he is a sportsman of some renown and pedigree, and I congratulated him on his bird.  He told me of other spots he’d heard or seen gobblers, but I was in the mood for breakfast, as was Lucas I think.
Lucas’s cell-phone rang as we got back to the house, and it turned out that my cousin (also named Lukas…but spelled differently) had managed to connect on his first bird, a jake, that morning.  While we waited for them to arrive for some handshakes, story-telling, and photos, we enjoyed some bacon and eggs (again).  As we waited for what seemed like an inordinately long amount of time, I enjoyed a light, post-breakfast nap.
Finally the crew arrived with my cousin Lukas, his brother Dane, their brother-in-law Chris, and my friend Tack…“Tack” being short for Tackaberry, which happens to conveniently be his last name.  Lukas held his bird high, and lo and behold, Chris had a jake-bird in tow as well.  Seems they had gotten onto another bunch of jakes and had whittled one out of that flock as well.  The serialized stories of both these hunts will appear here in a near future edition of Get Out & Go Hunting.  For now here is a picture of the two happy huntsmen.
(L-R Lukas West, Chris Chatterson.  Chris’s jake was marginally bigger.  Photo by Lucas Hunter.)
This was great for both of them and it put me in mind of my first turkey as well, so we chatted and dressed the birds out, and had grand old time telling lies and stories to each other.  With two turkeys down, the afternoon was going to have to be pretty productive to match the morning.  Overall, it was a bit of a bust.  We put some miles on running and gunning the Bruce Peninsula from Spry to Dyers Bay…frankly it was mostly “running” as the turkeys weren’t co-operating.
We saw some wildlife, including a good-sized bear and some hens, but we were coming up short in terms of the gobblers.  We stopped in to rattle off a few calls at a place where a mutual friend has some property, and found a hilariously ironic sign that I am yet to receive a photo of.  This gave us a good laugh.
Eventually, Dane and I got a visual on two good-sized birds at the distant end of a field we had permission to hunt, and attempted to sneak within calling range.  After being set up for a while with no response we got up and moved closer to their last sighted whereabouts, hoping to get a visual on where the birds had moved to.  As it turns out, they had just disappeared…gobblers sometimes do that.
We wrapped the day up, and I had to get back to Cambridge on Saturday evening, so we had a quick dinner of sausage on a bun, threw back a couple colas, cleaned the house up and hit the road.  It had been a frustrating weekend that had started with promise, but that had ended with Lucas and I getting skunked…and not even hearing a gobbler in the process.
But as we drove south down Highway #6 and looked to the east as we passed through Mar we saw a strutting gobbler and five or six hens, which made me think on the positive side.  After all, it was just the first weekend of what will be a few this turkey season, and I’m sure it won’t be long before I get on a gobbler.  When I do, I’m sure I won’t have any problem remembering the details to share with all you readers.
And hopefully those memories will be created tomorrow morning in the Halton County Forests.  We’ll see.

Bruce Peninsula Weekend in Review—Arrival and Friday, April 29th, 2011

So Wednesday’s hunt was a bust, since I didn’t even go what with 20mm of rain or so in the Halton area, so I took Friday off from my real job and following a soccer game that I was scheduled to play in, we headed north for the Bruce Peninsula with my friend Lucas “Squirrelly” Hunter.
It became pretty obvious when we broke out into the Ferndale Flats that conditions were not going to be ideal for turkey hunting.  Succinctly put, it was wet.  Really wet.  Parts of the Flats looked like sprawling lakes, and places that normally were relatively dry were bogged down in mud.  To boot, there was no sign of the rain stopping until mid-day on Friday, which put a damper on my plan to drive to a couple of likely places and troll for a shock-gobbling turkey.  So instead we got in, stoked the fire that my uncle had going in the house, and laid out our gear and hit our respective beds in advance of what promised to be a wet, hard morning of turkey hunting.
Four hours later Friday morning broke just the same way that Thursday night had ended; wet and windy.  In my sleep-deprived state I made my first bad decision of the 2011 turkey season.  I decided that we ought to walk to our stands through a few hundred metres of turned field (read: mud).  Now I am not a masochist or (too much of) an idiot, and there was method to my madness.  The only place to park near the spot I wanted to go (had we driven) was very close to where I wanted to set up and the sounds of the vehicle may have spooked any potential turkeys.  So we walked, because I thought that the person tilling that field would have left at least a metre or two of solid ground along the field edge.  I was wrong (and I really must commend Todd on his economical use of the entire area of the field) because the area was turned over right to the very edge of the forest.
Finally arriving at stand I was very sweaty and leg-sore from slogging through uneven, gooey mud.  My friend Lucas probably thought I was torturing him on purpose, but I swear I wasn’t.
I put Lucas down in a likely place to see a bird, and then took off myself for about a half-kilometre away in a hardwood bottom.  After a couple of hours with no gobbling, and although I thought I heard a very distant, very faint tom turkey right at 6:30am (which more than likely was just my mind playing tricks on me ) there was no action. The rain remained on to keep me company, and once I was thoroughly chilled and soaked, I got up to stretch my legs and cover some ground before looping back to pick up Lucas.  By the time I made it back to pick my friend up, the rain had basically subsided but the wind had stepped up a bit.  We trolled the immediate area for a turkey and with no gobbling to be heard and no visuals obtained, made for home and some breakfast.  The afternoon was improved from a weather perspective, and we picked up my cousin for a bit of a tour in the Dyer’s Bay/Cape Chin area.
With no answers to our gobbles and no interest in our set ups for the early part of the afternoon, we went to property that my cousin assured us held some gobblers.  We parked with the knowledge that we were the only hunters on the property at that time and set out for a stand that my cousin shot a turkey at last year.  As we approached a spot near a field edge that was to be our stand, the wet weather of the preceding week threw us another curve.  The path to the field edge was flooded to a depth that was well over all our boot-tops.  Not wanting to get wet feet, we first cut to the west in an attempt to get around the newly formed pond.  Finding that way also effectively blocked by deep water, we headed east through a cedar stand in an attempt to get around the water and into a good calling position.  Unfortunately the small stream feeding the aforementioned pond had expanded to a flowing river over six feet across.  It looked deep and I was in no mood to test the waters.
As we stood surveying our options to get across, I looked up and saw four red-heads bobbing curiously at us through the thick cedars and gads.  Turkeys…and they were within shotgun range.  It appeared as though we had interrupted a visit to the watering hole for the birds, and while none of the birds ever putted (or even ran) they knew we were not something they were used to seeing and they walked off to the northeast.
We backed quietly out of the cedar stand and took a big loop around in an attempt to set up on a dry spot and work the birds.  About an hour later, with a fair amount of calling but without a single gobble in response, we gave up on the birds that we had bumped and just headed back to the car.  We had a debate about what we had done wrong and if we should come back the next morning.  The answers were nothing and no.  Sometimes turkey hunting is just like that, and with other hunters that we knew likely to be exercising their permission to hunt the location the next day we used discretion as the better part of valour and rolled off for home again.  I was hungry and dinner beckoned.
After a meal of sautéed mushrooms, onions, and sweet peppers served with spicy pan-seared chicken thighs and pork chops washed down with a cold ale, we had some fellow turkey hunters over to watch some hockey, commiserate, and plan Saturday’s hunt.
The weather was boding well for Saturday with nothing but calm skies and sunshine on the docket, so I decided to make for a field near the deer-hunting camp that had for the least three turkey seasons held distant gobblers that refused to show themselves.  It promised to be an interesting spot, and it surely proved to be that as well.
But more on that tomorrow.