The Woodsman Magazine

Ridge Top Gobblers

By Bob and Ginny Riege 

Two years ago the day before opening day was spectacular.  Leaves were already budding and the temperatures were scheduled to be on the warm side of high 60’s.  As I drove to my hunting spot to scout for turkeys, I slipped the Hunters Specialty Diaphragm call into my mouth and cut loose with some pretty good yelps.  I was really fired up about hunting spring gobblers and the weather looked as it would be ideal to set in the woods and see if I could put a gobbler to bed that evening. 

Upon arriving at the hunting spot, I picked up my gear and calls and started up the ravine to the top of the bluff.  As I walked I would periodically stop and cut loose with some calls and I would vary my technique from loud to soft to see if I could locate a tom.

As I arrived at the top of the bluff my heart was pounding from the hike and I had a tom responding to me already.  I hide behind a brush pile and put my back to the largest oak in this location.  I was facing a small clear cut that had a grown up with some three foot tall weeds.  I put my decoy at the edge of the brush pile and sat for about five minutes.  Then, I started to call.  Before I could get out a second yelp, the old tom gobbled back and I could tell he was moving toward me.  He ceased his strut to answer my three yelps and four cuts with the most vociferous gobble yet.  Then he stood there, neck outstretched, looking for his "hen."    Had I been behind the gun, ( and if it was the opening morning rather than late evening of the preseason)  I'd have pulled the trigger right then.  The gobbler took several steps forward.  I remained silent, fearing that any further calling would spook this savvy tom or stop him behind a big tree or foliage.  From my mistakes I knew that when an old gobbler hears a hen that he should also be able to see, he stops and won't come any farther.  Frankly, I'm surprised that any longbeard comes as far as some of them do, for in nature it's the hen that walks toward the gobbling bird, not the other way around.  But this tom kept getting closer and closer, without stopping, or at least when he did stop he was out of sight behind something.  Finally, what seemed like 30 minutes the gobbler lost interest in the decoy and because he couldn't hear any other calling he decided to move off into the woods, and minutes later as the evening shadows started to fade into darkness I heard him fly up and let out one more gobble before settling in for the evening.

Later I found out that the distance to the bird was 37 yards and the night before I had patterned the gun at 40 yards.  The Turkey Super Full Rem Choke had put plenty of No. 5 pellets from the 3-inch Magnum, 2-ounce copper-platted load into the head and neck area of the patterning target.

There are many, many 870 and 11-87 models that are excellent for turkey hunting.  One of my favorites is the 11-87 SPS-T Camo.  The SPS stands for Special Purpose Synthetic, the T for Turkey, the camouflage covers the gun's wood and metal.  There's even a matching 870 pump.  Both come with stubby 21-inch barrels topped by a two-bead ventilated rib.  These SPS-T Camo models come with .665-inch Turkey Super Full Rem Chokes extended to 3 inches.

Most experienced turkey hunters rely on No. 4 shot for turkeys.  I prefer a No. 5 for a variety of reasons.  At maximum distance I worry that No. 6 shot doesn't retain enough energy for good penetration, which I know from experience No. 4 shot does.  But in my experience, No. 5s give adequate penetration at extreme ranges, plus my pattern testing shows that with most shotguns more No. 5 pellets hit the kill zone than with No. 4s.

Remington's Premier Magnum turkey loads come in 10-round Mossy Oak camo boxes.  The company goes the extra mile even with the hulls, which are a dull, olive green, plus the metal bases are non-reflective black.  These loads are all packed with high-anti-mony copper-platted shot buffered to prevent shot deformation.  

The next morning I decided to take the day a little easier, because the sun was getting hot and my legs were not use to climbing the bluffs.  So, I decided to start calling from the ridge tops to see if I could get an interested tom to call back.  I called on a couple of ridge areas and I had little if no response.  Then I called, and I had a tom just "light up" on my sweet yelps.

I hurried in the bird's direction.  About 150 yards to the ridge top I stopped to listen again for a couple of minutes.  A good gobble this time, louder and less subdued than the first.  I hurried to another spot on the ridge top and called again, bang, the gobbler jumped all over my call.  I had the bird pinpointed as to where I thought he would come to the top of the ridge.  I found a prime setup spot and slid in behind an oak, while donning my face mask and gloves.

There was no wind, so I wanted to offer a soft cackle, not knowing if the volume was enough for the bird to hear. My yelp caught the gobbler in mid stride, the tom answered with a hardy gobble, to which I did not respond.  I could see that the tom was already in gun range and closing the distance at a trot.

A few seconds later, as my heart slowed down, a white, red and blue head appeared, bobbing, looking, stretching.   He was already in range and things happened fast. He was in full strut and showing his stuff for everyone.  The problem was he was to close to shoot.  So there I was the turkey in full display six feet from me and I can't shoot.  This little drama went on for about 10 minutes and finally the tom was weary of what was in front of him, plus he couldn't see the hen that was making the "peel, peel, and the do whoop, do whoop sounds."   From hunting before I knew that when a tom is stuck on something or puzzled about where he might find his "hen" he will often time circle an area. 

Off to my left was a dead fall.  I had positioned himself so that his left side was hidden by this dead fall.  The old tom started to strut his stuff in the direction of the dead fall.  All the time he would stop and puff himself up and then let all the air out in one rackus gobble.  Finally, he made his way through the dead fall and when he appeared on the other side he gobbled again.  Without hesitation I had him in my sights and I sent a swarm of No.5s on their way to the target.

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