Spring turkey season in Pennsylvania is one of my favorites to
hunt, and is always a scheduled stop on my annual spring tour.
The high level of anticipation to hunt the keystone state is due
to several reasons. I get in my annual hunts with some of
my good hunting buddies. The season opens a few days
before the New York season starts. It is usually a little
bit warmer than New York, and most importantly, my wife is from
Pennsylvania. Trust me she will re-affirm this as the most
My plans this year took a few twists, and some last minute
changes had me scrambling to make it happen. I normally
hunt the Pennsylvania opener with Brant Signs, which is always a
good time, and a good hunt. New York's youth hunt fell on
the same day as the Pennsylvania opener, and I would have to
take a rain check. Brant takes at least one if not more
youths out for the youth weekend, and that is a priority for
both Brant and I. This year would be the first for me as I
was not able to "borrow" a youth for the weekend. It is a
hunt we both look forward to, but the introduction of a young
hunter to the sport we love is a priority for the youth hunt,
and during regular season.
I originally planned to follow up the hunt with Brant with a
hunt down at Breezewood Hunt Club, and spend a day or two with
Ron Reeser. I hooked up with Ron last year, and we had a
great time chasing longbeards. I planned to hunt two days
with Ron, and got a call the day I was to leave with some bad
news. Ron had injured his knee, and was not able to go
much anywhere. One of those things, and if things worked
out later with the doctors I would hook up with Ron later in the
season. Another scramble, and a phone call to Brant, and I
would recoup the two days just across the New York &
Pennsylvania border hunting on the properties that I would
normally hunt but without Brant. Brant had introduced me
to these spots, and in keeping with being a welcomed guest, it
felt a little odd hunting it alone. I was assured it would
be fine, so the reworked plan was set. The first day was
to start out on a place just across the border, and If things
worked out I would also hunt the following day on Mark Lyons
place just a mere few hundred yards into Pennsylvania.
The first day out was actually the second day of the season,
and I might been better off to gone fishing or better yet duck
hunting. All of my least favorite conditions rolled into
one day: high wind, rain, cold, and more rain. Despite the
weather outlook, I made the drive down in the wee hours, and
hoped to quickly locate a willing participant in my quest to bag
a gobbler. The rain had held to a slight drizzle for the
first hour of day light, at least it was a slight reprieve.
I made my way to the first listening spot on the ridge, and
found no takers, I decided to go directly to a hidden field in
the hope that the birds would be there first thing in the
morning. I heard a few gobbles from a roosted bird as I
walked down the hill to the field, but the gobbler was located
well off the property, and not likely to be there in short
order. Never say never, and I would hope that the gobbler
would travel to pay me a visit. As I set up, a group of
Jakes opened up with roundhouse gobbling, but like the first
gobbles I heard, they were also off the property but much
closer. They responded well to the calls after fly down,
and at least I thought they would come in and with any luck,
pull in a nice longbeard. The thought was short lived as I
began to hear a few hens in the group, and shortly after I was
aware of another hunter below them using a gobble shaker to lure
the jakes to the gun. From my position, I could hear the
gobbling fools close the gap to the hunter, and it ended with a
predictable loud bang. With the exception of a few "over
in the next county" gobbles I heard between 9AM and 10:30AM,
there was little to speak of other than getting cold and soaked.
However on a novelty note: It was the first time I had ever
heard a hunter work a bird in with a gobble shaker. I
stopped by at Mark Lyons place afterwards and got permission to
begin day two on a gas pipeline where I had tagged a late
morning bird the pervious season. Mark had a crew of
hunters in camp, and they all got into birds despite the
weather, and tagged a couple of birds to boot.
On to day two! With a different spot to hunt, a slightly
better weather outlook, I was feeling pretty good about getting
onto a gobbler. No rain, but very windy. I arrived
at Mark's house a bit late, but in this case I would be ok.
The basic plan without having roosted the night before would
have me working my way to the pipeline from a ridge top.
The main idea was that I should be able to located a gobbling
bird, and at least close the gap to a workable distance.
As I crested the ridge and began down the pipeline, two gobblers
opened up, one on each side, and about half way down the hill.
Brant had advised that I should work it this way. As
usual, Brant knows his spots. Even though the pipeline met
up with the back of a sizable field and created a natural
funnel, it was best advice to work it from the top down.
As I set up a third gobbler opened up to my right and a long
ways off. Good to hear him just the same. The first
gobbler to my left gobbled only a few times, and I made out a
few hens near his location. With that info, I concentrated
on the gobbler to my right, and hoped he would be in a hurry
this morning. I issued a few light tree yelps with good
response, and shortly after that, I made a couple of fly down
cackles with some hat flapping for added realism. Again,
an immediate response, and it was time to shut down until they
hit the ground. About this time, I heard a hen yelp back
at me, but every so sweet and soft. This was a clue to
keep it soft, and make the newcomer feel comfortable. I
waited a few minutes and then proceeded with some light feeding
purrs and clucks. The slate call I had fit the bill, and
the hen responded in kind. Off in the distance I could
hear another hen, and roughly in the location of the third
gobbler that was a ways out.
In the next few minutes I could hear the second newcomer,
approximated the height at 5'10" AAM (Average American Male) and
it was running a slate call as was I, but much more aggressive.
I found it odd that the intruder paid no attention to the fact
that he got no responses from his calling, and carried on
oblivious to the facts at hand. With this development, my plan
may have some difficulty if the intruding hunter kept advancing.
The gobbling had stopped once they hit the ground. My plan
was modified at this point to coax in the first hen with
boyfriend in tow, and finish the deal before the incoming hunter
got too close. Only minutes later I could see the hen
coming towards the pipeline, and a second bird that I could not
see very well, further back, and slightly behind the hen.
Gobbler in tow? Not to be……..
What seemed only seconds the approaching hunter called again and
had closed to within 200 yards. This was not good, and the
amount of greenery would not be enough cover. The hen
busted out of the woods in flight, and I could make out the
second bird running down thru the woods. The hunter
continued calling (still oblivious to what was occurring around
him) and eventually moved above me coming in close enough where
I thought I should be able to see, but I never could see the
hunter as he came and went. Once past me and up the hill,
the hunter setup a few hundred yards above my position and
across the pipeline. I picked up with my tail between my
legs and continued down the hill and hopefully far enough away
from the none-the-wiser hunter.
With the inadvertent fowl up on plan "A" I went to the bottom of
the pipeline, and hoped I had put plenty of distance between us.
The good news was I never did hear the hunter again that
morning, and that is all I could ask for given the
circumstances. I made my second setup near the field &
pipeline intersection, and played it out for over an hour.
The wind had picked up, and not a single bird in the field.
I had enough of sitting in the cold wind and decided to find
reprieve back up on the hill where I had heard the other gobbler
Sure enough after checking some other fields I worked my way up
a logging road and found a nice spot were the hill blocked the
wind, and hoped that the birds would be close by. Not long
after setting up, and doing a little soft calling, I heard a
double gobble up the hill and off to my right as I faced the
hill. Thirty minutes passed, and not another response.
The wind had shifted, and I guessed either the gobbler could not
hear or it was I. The good money would be on my inability
to hear them.
I decided to check the fields one more time, and it resulted it
the same empty fields with no response from any calling.
The back of this field where it meets the gas pipeline right of
way was ideal, and it was my ace in the hole if all else failed
to pan out. For whatever reason, the birds were avoiding
the fields that day. Coming to the conclusion that I
needed to abandon the sure thing plan I decided to move towards
where I last heard the double gobble.
Once I got back into the woods and onto the logging road I was
looking for I crested one rise to only see the next one.
As I crested the next rise, I was pleasantly surprised that it
flattened out some, and had small patches of greenery, with
three logging roads coming together which formed a "Y"
pattern. This was an ideal spot, and I set up again just
off the intersection. The wind had picked up again, and
after twenty minutes of calling, I contemplated moving on to a
hidden field that was protected from the wind and just below a
one of the pipelines utility shacks. On any normal day in
the woods, I would have plenty of patience, but given the high
winds, the fowl up with intruding hunter I found myself
unusually impatient. Instead of standing up, I gave it one
more go with a mouth call, and two longbeards opened up with
double gobbling and they were close. Yes, timing is
I silently thanked myself for being stubborn enough to give it
one last try, and now the game was on. The two sneaky
gobblers were in close just on the other side of heavy brush,
briars, and treetops left over from recent logging. From
what I could guess, they stood slightly down the bank within
eighty yards. Once this pair started gobbling, they never
stopped. Every fifteen to twenty seconds, and I would only
call after they gobbled at least twice. I anticipated they
would circle and pick up the logging road to my right and come
up. From there they would see the decoys, and that would
give them something to look at.
Sure enough minutes later they rounded the obstruction and they
nearly went on past the logging road due to the hurry they were
in. A couple of clucks, and they stopped, made a ninety
degree turn, and up the logging road they came. From what
I could tell, it looked like a duo of hot two year old gobblers
with plenty of weight, and solid eight to nine inch beards.
They closed to within fifty yards, and made an abrupt turn into
the treetops and briars, all the while eyeing the decoys and
gobbling. Frustrated to say the least, I had a tag all but
placed on the bigger of the two. They made a semi circle
thru the brush coming no closer than fifty yards as they moved
onto my left side. After passing two large trees, they
could show in a clear opening just at forty yards or turn out
and exit stage left. Easy choice on that one, they made an
exit, all the while still gobbling.
What to do now? It was after 9AM they were without hens,
lathered up gobbling, and moving slowly away out of sight.
I shut down long enough for them to go behind the brush, and I
had doubts about turning this around. I have had two year
old gobblers come back multiple times in the past, but such
gifts are rare. I checked them again, and they were within
80-100 yards, and close to where they had opened up to begin
I decided to go fall tactics and started up a big hen fight.
I pulled off my hat, laid out every call I had, and proceeded
flapping my hat, kicking the leaves, and calling with the
loudest purrs, cutts, cackles, and aggressive yelps that I could
make at the same time. A little over a minute of this
obnoxious calling and I had to put everything down in a hurry!
The dynamic duo was double and triple gobbling at all the
racket, and decided they could take it no more. I looked
up just in time to see two glowing light bulb heads darting back
and fourth trying to push straight thru the brush to close the
distance. Gun up, and now it was time! Fifty yards, forty
five yards, stop!! I couldn't believe it! They stood there in
the brush, after they fought their way thru just to get there
and stopped. I would understand why just moments later.
As I watch the glowing heads thru the holosight, I had the
hammer back on the Encore 12 gauge, and I was making rapid math
calculations as to how the distance might become shorter.
Tempted? You bet. Forty five yards in heavy brush?
Yes I wanted to, No I just couldn't. Ethics is a party
pooper for sure.
Just as my morals were being subjected to increasing stress I
caught movement to my extreme right. Once I shifted my
eyes, I made out a third gobbler sneaking up the same logging
road and making a beeline to the decoys. He stopped at one
point, and his beard swung out just far enough for me to make
him out as an adult bird. One tree between us would allow
me to re-align the gun, but the other two gobblers would be sure
to bust out or alarm putt once I made a move. Once he
passed the tree, the gobbler would be just inside forty yards in
the open. The advancing gobbler went behind the tree, I
made my move, and the gobbler reappeared just as I leveled the
barrel. Target lock, Bang! Never did hear an alarm putt
from those two others. The stealth gobbler went down hard,
and there was no need to race to the downed bird.
The dynamic duo flew out the ridge at the shot, and must have
been dumbfounded just long enough for me to pull it off.
The walk to the downed bird was 38 paces, close enough on range
estimation. As I looked over the gobbler, I found a neat
surprise. Not a large bird by any means, but he sported
1-3/16" spur on one leg with the other only ¾". He sported
a full 8-3/4" beard, which looked big on him given his weight.
Later we weighed the bird at 16lbs 1oz, and it appeared that I
bagged a little scrapper out of the flock. If I were to
guess on what happened, those two gobblers knew this bad boy was
close by. As much as they wanted to buddy up to their new
friends, they were not about to get caught being too close to
any possibly receptive hens, unless they wanted to endure a
Photo Op with the Pennsylvania Scrapper!
The entire encounter lasted maybe eight to nine minutes, but it
seemed like forever trying to seal the deal. In this brief
period of time, I heard better than sixty gobbles if I heard
one. The little scrapper himself never made a gobble even
when the duo was in close. Having a pair of hot two year
old longbeards is about as loud and as much fun as you can have
in the turkey woods. It was 9:26 AM when I dropped the
hammer, and the morning hunt in Pennsylvania finished out on a
high note that day!