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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……………..


  1. No! No! No! You can never leave mid-morning! At least we can't, because in MD it's morning-only hunting for gobblers. I wish we had the liberty to get back in the field at 2pm and give it another shot!

    I've lost FAR more turkeys than waterfowl to "calling the hunt" too early.

  2. Laws like that and other stories that enphasize morning hunts lead me to beleive that if you missed in the AM, you were done. Fortunately, in NC you can hunt them all day. After that experience I might try to sneak in an after work hunt or two during the season.

  3. Great story and I am sure that left not only a great impression on you as far as turkey hunting, but also your kids and what the outdoors have to offer.