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Monday, April 25, 2011

I am a turkey-addict!

I am DJ…… and I am a turkey-addict!
Never thought I would make that admission.  This blog was not intended to be so hunting heavy.  In fact, for balance, I will force myself to discuss my garden in the next post.  But for now………… this has become an obsession, not just for me but my boys as well. 

Fishing is my passion.  Bow hunting was to be a 'little something else' to get outdoors.  Something I always wanted to pursue during the winter and/or pre-spawn spring before the bass get off the beds.  Turkey hunting is not passive. It involves calling, moving, chasing and watching……… the call and response.  The anticipation of a response to every call, searching out every rustle and crackle, the flutter in your chest when that bird comes up from behind.   These birds are brilliant or at least smarter than me!  Via my inaugural blog, I introduced you to the Screamer. Saturday, we went back after him: same place, time, and conditions.  Figuring he might be “educated” I brought two different calls with different pitches AND a decoy.  Late again, we arrived in the Screamer’s realm just after 11AM and called for two hours.  Nothing.  So we packed up and headed out.  Instead of calling it a hunt, we searched out a new spot about 2 miles away and found a long ridge overlooking a nice run of bottom-land hardwoods a small stream and a farm. 

We set up the decoy about 20 yards out, from the blind, in a cut line.  Twenty yards was a distance at which I was VERY comfortable, but far enough away for the bird not to be distracted by the blind.  It was perfect, becuase if I were 10 yards off in either direction I would still feel comfortable with the shot.  Our blind was off in the cover of a stand of trees, fallen branches and shadows.  The mix really made the camo pattern blend in.  We called and called and heard a couple of responses but they seemed far off.  We heard what we thought might have been faint clucking, but no visual confirmation and so we joked that we were being circled and observed.  About two and a half hours in (following conventional wisdom) we packed it up and called it a hunt assuming the gobblers were done for the day.  As we left, we found tracks and as we put two and two together………… we came to the realization that we were being circled and that wily old bird probably got behind our blind and we scared him off?!?!?!  Proof?  See below:

Yes, it is a picture of turkey prints, but if you look closely, you’ll see it is superimposed OVER my six years old’s foot print.  That bird not only circled us but had the audacity to walk in our footsteps along the ridge and up to our set up. Seriously, the evidence really suggests we left a few moments too early and probably scared him off as we emerged from our blind……… 

I am DJ, I am a Turkey-addict.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Best wishes and hopes for those suffering and lost in North Carolina and Virginia

Our obsession with an extremely loud and aggressive wild turkey we named the screamer almost got us in a serious bind Saturday afternoon.   Friday night, we prepped to get back out and chase that wily old bird at sunrise.  I reviewed the weather forecast before going to bed and apparently we were due some fast moving, but severe storms late.  However, there was only a 30% or less chance of rain before noon.
 I awakened to some serious wind about 4:45 am and went back to bed.   Later, 9:00 am, the wind was still too strong for an accurate bow shot so we ran a few errands and planned to get back out later in the afternoon.  About 2:00 pm, the skies were grey, wind manageable and we figured the forecasts were 'off' as the storms never materialized.  We loaded up the truck and were about to head out when I heard something about a “tornado watch” covering central North Carolina. 

Something told me to hold tight.
Over the next 2 hours, I watched in disbelief as forecasters tracked a large (soon to be F3) tornado through the counties of Lee, Wake, Franklin, Vance, and Granville and on to Bertie before settling into Virginia.  The cities of Sanford, Raleigh, and surrounding areas were at the mercy of a very serious tornado.  At one point, there were 8 different twisters traveling through central North Carolina towards Virginia.  Fortunately for us the largest funnel passed about 5 or so miles to the east.  The storm was the worst I’d seen in years!  Golf ball sized hail, blinding rain, wind gusts strong enough to give mature pines all they could handle.  I could only imagine being caught in that out in the field or woods had I not stopped. 
Sunday afternoon was a perfect day to clean up the lawn, light the grill and set the garden.  As I cut the lawn, I found reminders of the suffering others in the area were enduring.  Spread about the lawn I found various bits of debris:  wood, siding, insulation even parts of roof shingles.  These bits of debris were a part of someone’s home miles away.  I could not help but wonder: Were they safe?  Do they have shelter?  Did they survive?  Last count, 23 lost their lives in North Carolina, over 50 across Georgia the Carolinas and Virginia.  It was sobering to watch the news.  Suddenly my silly pursuit seemed just that. 

I pray the best for all those missing, injured and lost Saturday in central North Carolina and Virginia.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Screamer

I intended to launch this blog months ago, but I never got around to writing.  What I needed was something to write about.  I needed an inaugural post that captured the essence of what it means to be a “Suburban Sportsman” and to set the course I wanted this blog to follow.  I will follow up later with my definition of “The Suburban Sportsman” and why I feel it is so important to recognize him/her.  For now, enjoy the first post and perhaps you will glean what it means to be a Suburban Sportsman.
My boys and I have been talking about taking a wild turkey with a bow for months (actually a year) since watching an archery hunt on television. I purchased a cheap ground blind on clearance at the end of deer season, a set of mouth calls and a how to CD from the bargain bin and practiced infrequently on the drive from work.  The spring of 2010 was unseasonably hot and dry in central North Carolina and between work and family the boys and I made one trip that lasted about 30 minutes.  Our collective 2010 real world “turkey hunting” experience was a whopping……. 90 minutes! 
April 9, 2011: Opening day of the regular 2011 spring gobbler season and we were ready.  The night before we did our due diligence: Blind (check); chairs packed; bow- restrung, tuned, dialed in; broadheads sharpened; calls, snacks, juice boxes, licenses, headlamps (check)-packed!  I never got a chance to walk the woods or use a locator call, but I had in mind a stand of bottom-land mixed hardwoods that I crossed many times during deer season.  Though I had never seen a turkey there, it just looked “turkey-ish” and I knew the land well enough to be comfortable navigating in the dark.
The alarm sounded at 4:00 am and we were out the door by 4:45am.  By 5:00 am we were sitting in the drive thru waiting on a half dozen donuts, coffee and water when it hit me…….. Sunrise is a little under 2 hours away and we are not in the woods!  So we sped on and about 15 minutes before sunrise found ourselves in a cold, damp pop up blind in the midst of a 40-something degree mist/fog.  A lack of scouting and nice rain hours before tempered expectations, but it was me and my boys (6 and 10 years old) versus the world.  I yelped, clucked and yelped again and again.  Loud, soft, fast, slow – nothing.  After about an hour, l looked over to see if my partners had any ideas…….. They were curled up under hoods and jackets fast asleep at their posts.  Damp and cold, we packed it up and hiked out only to see some sort of off-road foot race being run within a few hundred yards of our blind. 
It’s never cold, damp, or slow on television.   The turkeys always come fast and aggressive.  Strutting, gobbling, fanning and scratching up dust ready to get those spurs into anything that moves.  In my mind, this long awaited adventure had to have been a huge disappointment for two young boys.  It was over and I couldn’t imagine either of them wanting to do this early morning hunting thing again. Driving home I accidently played the turkey calling CD and my oldest says, “Hey Dad, is there any reason we can’t go somewhere else later today? Maybe, we should and try some of those different calls they are doing”.   I said, “Yeah lets get some breakfast and warm up.”  Remember, I am as new to this as they are and all I read about were ‘morning hunts’.  So we went home, had some brunch, honey do list, a couple of haircuts for school, watched a hunt turkey hunt on Versus and surfed the web.……… Lo and behold there was a poll of local hunters which said 2-6pm was the next best time to hunt.  Moreover, according to the 2010 harvest statistics, one of the best places was only about 10 miles north.  At half past noon, we still had 2 hours to be somewhere and another good 3-4 hours of hunting. The car was loaded and we were headed out!  Once again we were going blind, but with the sun up I could easily mark a trail deep into the woods and pick out a good ambush site. 
We learned from the AM hunt!!!!!!!  We set up in a flat piece of mixed pine-hard woods on a ridge overlooking a small drop off into a sandy cove.  We took up positions in the corners of the blind, so as to not outline ourselves, each person taking a window.  As there were only three of us, one window was unmanned and we closed it to keep the light down.  The window we closed was covered by two or three large mature trees and as such offered less visibility beyond 5 yards or so. 
So we settled in, had a snack, drink, let the woods calm down then we started: cluck, cluck/peep-peep/ cluck…..cluck. I waited a few minutes then made a series of cackles and rustled some leaves. A few more clucks then a series of slow-mid tempo yelps.  Nothing.  A few more up-tempo, aggressive yelps and cackles and a couple of purrs.  Nothing.  I remembered someone saying over calling is the biggest mistake of beginners so I paused 15 minutes, had another drink and called a series loud yelps. Out of nowhere I heard loud yelps followed by what sounded like a scream off in the distance.  I yelped again and the same response, closer. This didn’t sound like television and it was angry.  About now, I am convinced that someone is making fun of us.  There was no way those were real turkeys!  So I stopped calling in hopes that this guy would have a laugh and pass on…. 10 minutes later this screaming thing roars LOUDLY behind our blind sending my youngest straight up in his chair and shocking the oldest to owl eyes.  It was coming from behind him! I admit, I was startled and confused… this sounded like someone had a speaker blasting behind us.  Literally, this yelping scream seemed to roar like a cannon!  After we get some composure, we looked around and saw nothing.  I am now seething, but we remain calm and silent. Inside I’m thinking, “What kind of jerk would do this!?!? I have my boys out trying to have a serious hunt and some yahoo is behind us having some fun!”  So I start opening the back window of the blind, slowly.  After all, this guy isn’t playing by the rules. He could have a shotgun in an archery zone blasting at sounds, movement and targets unseen……. So I crack open the back window and right in front of me is a gobbler tall enough to be eye to eye with me in the back window!!!!!!!!  Needless to say I was shocked.  He was too!  We were ‘reach out and touch’ distance away from each other eye to eye!   I don’t know who was more surprised!?!?!  For the record (unlike what my wife claims) No one ran!!!!!! If I had a shotgun he would have been marinated in jerk overnight and on the grill last Sunday!
We called a little more but decided to call it a day.  As we rode home my boys were now adrenalin junkies and trying to get me to stop at every pullover to try again!  We will!  We found The Screamer and for the next two months we’ll be on his trail!!!!!!!!!!!!! To be continued……………..