This April I traveled south for a Virginia public land turkey hunt. Here's what happened.
2016 marked my fifth trip to hunt the same Virginia WMA. The area is loaded with turkeys, but also with hunters. My four previous trips had earned me four birds and one for my friend and hunting partner, Jared.
Jared has been a friend for years and I thoroughly enjoy the day or two I spend turkey hunting with him every year. This season I had a three day license and Jared would be hunting with me on the third day.
I set up on a pipeline that's given up a bird the last two years. After a quiet roost session, a bird answered my calls at 7:00 a.m. He closed the distance to within 100 yards and I caught a glimpse of him as he angled across the pipeline. He gobbled a few more times, then shut up. I went to find another bird, vowing to kill this one the next day.
After hiking through 3/4 of a mile of brush, I entered some open timber and began walking and calling. On my third series of calls a bird answered from about 200 yards. I cut the distance, set up, and called. The bird answered with a gobble that sounded like he meant business. He came, but circled me to a spot across a small dip in the terrain where I could see him and he could see the bench I was on. He stood there strutting and searching for the "mystery hen" he'd heard. About 15 minutes later, I called to the bird. He came a few steps in my direction, then turned and strutted straight away, gobbling over his shoulder as he went.
Day two was a bust. I waited around for the pipeline bird until 9:00, but he never showed. I went to another area and finally raised a distant gobble at 10:30 a.m., it was the only one I'd heard when I walked out at noon and headed for camp.
Jared and I walked about a mile in the dark before stopping to listen for gobbling. The birds weren't gobbling on their own, but responded to an owl call, then started getting fired up. Jared and I slipped in close -- too close. I'm not sure if the birds saw us or heard us, but they dummied up.
After walking and calling through an area torn up with turkey scratching without success, we circled back towards the birds we'd heard earlier. They answered a string of yelps from my box call and we set up plenty far away this time. The birds responded to another series of calls and sounded closer. Five minutes later the pair of toms showed up.
The first bird stopped at 80 yards, surveying the situation, but his buddy spotted our hen decoy and made a bee line for it. We tried waiting on the other bird, but when the closer bird stretched his neck up at 35 yards, I whispered, "Kill him" and Jared did.
We continued walking and calling for and hour and a half with no success and my hunt was over. I didn't kill a bird, but I drove home with something far more valuable -- new memories with an old friend.