Dick Pinney's Guidelines: A great-grandson gets his first tom
Saturday and Sunday are the special youth turkey hunting days, a special time when the younger set can get out in the woods and fields with a mentor and have some quality time without having to compete with the normal wild turkey hunting pressure from both young and old alike.
Our great grandson, Kyle Griffin, 14, only lives a stone's throw from where my wife and I have lived for more than 50 years and he's just about as avid an outdoorsman as anyone we know, adult or kid.
Kyle's wild turkey hunting with me is a lot easier than the deer hunting, as it's a sit and call, move some and sit and call some more. The first time out when Kyle was only 12, we were both stunned by having a bird gobble even before we had Kyle's gun loaded at the vehicle. Moving softly into the woods where the day before I'd set out some little bowties of bright ribbon to follow in the dark, we stopped and set up our three decoys at a place that we'd scouted a day or two earlier.
"Lighting up" the birds with a loud cackle-call is fun for me and usually results in booming gobbles from any male turkey in ear's reach, and this time it was more than one that answered the call. And one of them you could tell was coming on the run as his gobbles became louder and louder. We never cackled to him again, only answering in very soft clucks and chirps. "Dickie, you tell me when to shoot," Kyle whispered.
"Get your gun up slowly now and rest it on your knee. You don't want to move quickly when that bird comes into view.''
And there he was, not in sight but exactly across a small ravine with a brook running down through it. My turkey hunting mentors, Paul Carlton, Steve Hickoff and Stu Bristol had told me that a gobbler will almost never cross any fences, ravines or water. They were right. We couldn't coax that bird across the ravine. Finally the bird wandered off, gobbling a couple of times as he went.
We moved several other times and set up the decoys and called but never raised another gobble. As we crossed the paved street we were shocked to see our big gobbler walking right down a driveway where we had parked. We waited about 10 minutes to not scare the turkey and then tried moving and calling with no luck at all. It seemed he had pegged my calling and was too wise for us.
Breakfast called so we gave in and got a fill-up at the nearby Country View Restaurant. We quickly found out that we couldn't match Kyle's appetite. "Dickie, can we go back to where we started this morning?" After a minute I decided yes, but also to go back in where that big tom had failed to cross over. Doing a little sneak-peek and calling, we raised two different toms with the call. Wouldn't you know they had gone back in the opposite side from where we were in the morning and again found we were on the wrong side. We tip-toed to where we could get across the brook snuck up into as close as we dared to and gave some very muted calls. Both male turkeys answered, with some urgency. I had Kyle stand up and move behind a big beech tree and called again. This time the big guy answered and was getting close. I motioned to Kyle to get his gun up and be very still before I gave out a little peep. Then we both saw the head and neck of a tom turkey peek up over some ferns. "He's too far," I whispered to Kyle. But then looking again, it was evident that the bird was only about 25 yards. "Shoot, he's not that far," I whispered. Blam, one turkey was whirling around in circles, obviously hit well while that bigger bird that we didn't know was there took off, half flying and half running. Kyle had his first wild turkey. Although his tail feathers told us it was a young bird, called a Jake, his weight was 18 pounds, as much as an average older Tom would often be.
And so it was.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.