A couple months ago, I received an invite from a good friend of mine to spend some time up at his cabin in Tioga County that is not far from Wellsboro, PA. We decided to take an extended weekend to do some of the things we both enjoy, fishing and hunting. I did a lot of dreaming for this trip. I felt like it was going to be about the perfect time to see the gobblers in action in the woods and it was also about the right time to see some mayflies and caddis on the stream.
When the time finally came to leave, I was busting at the seams. The weather they were calling for was absolutely perfect every day that we were to be there. The water levels were decent and dropping. We got to the stream and I was in heaven. The caddis were everywhere but it turned out the fish didn't want anything with them. We didn't catch anything but the best part was we had the local eagle fly over our head about 30 feet. That was supper exciting.
Saturday morning was quiet in the woods. There were no toms talking and we only saw one lonely hen. We made up for that quiet time though in the creek. Both my friend and I did well catching a lot of rainbows, one brown and a couple small mouth bass. I had received a tip from Big Meadows Fly Shop owner that copper johns were taking fish. That is what brought most of my fish to hand. The other patterns that caught fish for me this day were the Chain Gang Pheasant Tail and the Ice Magic in brown/orange and Olive/yellow. My friend even managed a bullfrog he caught with his hand.
Sunday morning, since we couldn't hunt we decided to take a walk out to the field and just scope things out to see if it was worth hunting this field edge again. Well, what we saw I feel was a once in a lifetime opportunity. There were four hens and a gobbler that was in full strut. They were about two hundred yards away in the open field. With the sun shining on him, he was an absolutely gorgeous sight with his fan spread out and gleaming beauty reflecting in the sun. The hens walked out of the field and he started to follow. But interestingly enough, he ended up turning around and going the opposite direction. We soon found out why. There were two jakes that came into the field that came running at him, challenging him for his control over this nice group of hens. What proceeded to happen absolutely shocked us. These two jakes proceeded to take advantage of the numbers. For about 5 to 10 minutes, there was a major battle going on between these three birds. The one jake would take the gobbler's focus and the other bird proceeded to sneak up behind him and sucker punch him. It is amazing what kind of sounds these birds made vocally, and with their wings as they would hit each other. It was a super loud fight that saw the bigger, older bird cowering away in defeat.
As we fished that evening, we decided to use this as a sign that we needed to stay in this field for the next day's hunt on our final morning there. We didn't do as well Sunday night fishing as we did Saturday but we were happy with how we did. All the fish we caught this weekend were in the 11" to 16". Now we were crazy excited for the next morning.
Neither of us slept all that great in our anticipation of seeing any of those three birds we saw Sunday morning. When we got to our spot along the field it wasn't very long before there were gobblers talking in the trees. We were getting more excited by the minute. We waited till it became a little more day light and started calling to the birds with a slate call. I sat in anticipation looking over the field figuring that as they got closer they would pop out in front of me. My friend decided to face the opposite direction just incase the bird would circle in behind us. Well, as it turned out it was two gobblers that came in together and they were in my friend's sight. He was able to harvest a really nice bird at 25 yards away. It was a 16 pound bird with a 9.5" beard at 6:15 am.
We still had a lot of hope for the rest of the day. We stayed at the same spot with our hen decoys in the open field and the sun coming up and drying the grass off. We made several attempts to bring in birds alternating through the different calls we had with us by using the slate call, box call and even a mouth call every 15 to 20 minutes from the time he shot his bird until about 10:00. At this time we put them all together and brought out all the stops. We had also put his bird out with the hen decoys and propped up his bird's fan to maybe draw in any a bird willing to challenge him for the two hens. Waiting about 15 minutes after this calling spree, there seemed to be no response.
As we were getting ready to head back to the cabin, I went out to gather up the hen decoys. I was stopped in my tracks as I looked up to the far corner of the field and there stood two birds at 335 yards away. I crawled back to my spot and we gave a few calls on the slate. It got these two birds' attention and the started to work our way. We could see with binoculars that the one bird was a nice mature tom. The other bird looked small enough to be a hen but we couldn't tell for sure.
It took a half an hour with a couple calls to make sure they were interested in continuing to close the gap. At about 40 to 50 yards away we could see that the one bird was a small jake. I now was super hopeful for my first time turkey hunting that I should be able to get a shot at one of these birds. Well, the gobbler kept coming and headed right for the dead tom that was now used as a decoy. He was starting to puff up his body feathers and ready to go into a strut. I decided at 30 yards I was going to take him now before he put up his fan. My friend gave a couple purr calls to get him to stop and put his head up. My first shot stunned him and he spun in a circle. Then he gave me a half second and I was able to finalize the deal with a second shot that sent him waddle over spurs. Here is my first ever spring gobbler, a 19 pound bird with an 8.5" beard.
What an awesome weekend of Blastin & Castin!!!