Glenn Puckett and I had just finished the youth day Hunt of a Lifetime with a kid from the Upstate and hadn’t really thought about the opening of the regular turkey season.

Beating a dead horse: Taking spring out of spring turkey season no answer

My wife Breta had, however, and there was no chance we were going to be able to sleep in on opening Saturday. Even though the day was a cloudy 39 degrees, we knew that in the Edisto River swamp, you are only a ray of two of sunlight from being swarmed by mosquitoes.

Turkey season: The old bait-and-switch

Glenn carried his 3-1/2 inch Remington and Breta had her new Winchester 20-gauge. I don’t carry a shotgun anymore. I’ve killed enough turkeys now and since the S.C. Department of Natural Resources says we don’t have a stable population, I save the birds that we have for Breta and friends.

I will allow only one bird to be taken on each of the three places we can hunt and then it’s over for the year. As a result, I have only taken one bird in S.C. over the last five years.

Armed with turkey calls and Thermocells, we stood at the top of the road leading to the river to listen in a new day. The morning started like many before. We heard birds on all the neighboring properties but none on mine.

As a result we ran from one side of the property to the other several times over the next two hours chasing one bird until it got quiet before moving on to the next. We got our exercise.

We sat in a ground blind next to a chufa patch and saw nothing of the birds that had been consistently digging the nuts for a month. The last bird started gobbling in a clear-cut where he was well guarded from any danger that approached to within 300 yards.

We tried to call him over to the wood line were we sat. He tried to call us over to the center of the clear-cut. He won. We noted his position and track for the next encounter.

It was a good morning, but the next day was going to be a clear, cold 38 degrees and we thought the birds might brighten up a bit. Well before sunup, we found ourselves deep in the swamp. The gobbles started early way down the river swamp but soon echoed from across the river and up river as well.

The cool air and still morning carried the sound well. I think I heard a dozen different birds. Only three were in our proximity. We first moved on a bird that was obviously heading toward the neighbor to the north. He answered calls from Glenn’s box and my glass call but refused to be turned.

As previously planned, we immediately ran up to the clear-cut and sat down in the pines and set out decoys. The bird that had been in the clear-cut at 8:30 every morning did not keep his rounds today. We sat like bumps on a log and listened to a bird gobbling in the chufa field where we were the day before.

This went on for 45 minutes and at 9:30 I told Glenn, "I’m not going to sit here and listen to this. Leave the decoys and cushions and let’s go after that one." Of course by the time we got to the chufa patch, the bird had moved onto the property of the neighbor to the south.

I could tell Breta was ready for the cup of coffee that she denies herself on hunting mornings. I heard the bird gobble as he moved toward the river on my neighbor’s property. Another bird answered him way down in the swamp.

Ah so! They were moving to meet one another. With Glen and Breta in tow, we moved quickly to get down to the next food plot ahead of the bird. Turkeys can really cover a lot of ground with ease. We were 200 yards behind the bird by the time we peeked into the wheat lot. He was already down in the swamp with the other bird.

Going for broke, Glenn and I decided to try to make it across 300 yards of open field in order to access the tent blind we had set out for the Hunt of a Lifetime kid on the edge of the swamp.

By the time we crammed all three of us into the blind and got settled in with Breta and Glenn up front, the birds had moved back onto my property and were moving right to left. I told Glenn to get on his box while I situated Breta. His first cluck brought about a double gobble. The echo of the birds in the little opening was so distorted that Breta thought the birds were back uphill behind us.

I told Glenn that he had this one, so he began to work the magic of his little Lynch box. The birds responded immediately and once again we had to ensure Breta they were right below the fall line of the swamp.

Glen noticed the first bird walking by an opening in the myrtles. The second bird was the shooter. He strutted into the opening and walked a curved path to a spot 12 yards in front of Breta's 20-gauge.

Despite my pleadings to squeeze the trigger of the shotgun, she immediately jerked the gun to the point it left the bird before the firing pin released. Fortunately , I guess, it didn’t make any difference. The brand new shotgun misfired.

The bird, alarmed now, turned to move off and Breta took the opportunity to cock the slide again and pull the trigger. The gun “clicked” again. The bird moved off and then toward a hedgerow to the left where we lost sight of him.

He appeared to be heading away toward the far corner of the field behind us. Glen dropped out of his chair and as I took the defective gun, Glenn handed Breta his. He then dropped onto his knees so Breta could slide over to his seat and get the long shotgun out of the left window.

While all of this was going on, Glenn dropped his box so I quickly resumed calling with my glass slate. The gobbler liked the high-pitched sound and turned to come back. When we saw him, he was so far out in the food plot that Breta had to twist to her left to line the gun up.

I put my arm out to support the barrel. Before the bird could go into strut again, Breta walloped him with the 3-1/2 turkey loads. At 51 yards, he never fluttered.

I guess persistence pays off. The bird was a heavy 3-year-old with inch spurs and a 9-inch beard. We did everything wrong and it still worked out to get Breta her bird. The pressure is off and now we can hunt casually the rest of the season and try other pieces of ground.

Incidentally, the birds gobbled very well during the month of March and have gone silent the last week or so. I guess so much for the research that male turkeys hit their peak gobbling activity the second week of April. Food for thought.

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Dr. John Rheney has been writing his outdoors column for The Times and Democrat since 1984.


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