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Spring Gobbler Season

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Three weeks into spring gobbler season, there are not many bits of exposed flesh that aren’t carved on by briars, bruised up from falls in the cypress knees, or welled up from insect bites. My legs and hips are stove up, and I’m shuffling through the woods like a bear with his feet tied together. My mind is rattled with fatigue, and one of my eardrums is blown from kneeling too close to the muzzle when a client’s gun goes off. My clothes are in rags, a few calls are worn out, and I doubt you could knock this grin off my face with a baseball bat!

God, I absolutely love turkey season! There’s no greater joy in the outdoors than sharing a conversation with a lovesick old gobbler and watching him strut into range, looking for the hen (me) he’s been hearing sweet talking to him. It’s an adrenaline-fueled conversation, knowing how fragile the opportunity can be.

At any time, he can spot you moving, or you say the wrong thing, or a live hen comes to drag him away, or a predator intervenes. Although it may appear that a million little things can go wrong, what a rush it is when everything falls into place!

Like it did recently for a mister, TJ Hayes from Arkansas. TJ is my kind of turkey hunter, willing to grind it out, taking advantage of every bit of daylight to hunt, observe, and learn about the resident turkeys until you can find a chink in the old gobbler’s armor. TJ isn’t scared to work for his time, and boy, oh boy, did his perseverance ever pay off.

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We worked the river bottoms along the Withlacoochee River and got in tight to a favored roost tree. We had heard a ton of a long, drawn-out gobble calling two mornings in a row, and we decided to set up an evening nearby that location to intercept him returning to his roost for the evening.

There was very little calling done, just a few occasional clucks to let him know a hen was in the area and a whole lot of patience. We could hear footsteps approaching an hour before fly-up time, and soon, a redhead was visible amongst the cypress.

It took the old fellow a while to close the distance, alternating strutting and taking a few steps and strutting some more. Eventually, the old fellow closed the distance to within thirty yards, and with a whistle to make him stand up straight, TJ sent a super-charged swarm of steel shots to his head, and the king fell.

It was an emotional scene. That bird, all of six years old, will rank very high in Florida’s turkey registry, but you can bet that were it possible to revive him and hunt him again tomorrow, we’d do it, no doubt. I know there are a number of folks who would question how we can kill what we love so much, and all I can tell you is that you’d just have to be there to experience it in order to understand.
I hope you do. I’d love to be there with you when you do. And as you shed a tear, stroking those iridescent feathers, I’ll shed one too. I love turkey hunting.

As always, if you have any comments or maybe a story to share, please reach out to me at [email protected]. God bless and good hunting!

Toby Benoit
Toby Benoit
Toby Benoit is a best selling novelist and professional outdoorsman with thirty-five years of experience guiding and outfitting for big game all across America. Toby is a renowned archer and turkey hunting expert who manufactures custom game calls and is a regular judge at NWTF sanctioned turkey calling events across the Southeast.
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