A Turkey Hunt Provides a Sense of Normalcy

May 5, 2020 | by Torin Miller

I hadn’t seen my brother in-person for weeks, and it had been months since we actually spent significant time together. But there we were – it was opening day of Pennsylvania’s spring turkey season, and we were going hunting together. Typically, I would swing by his house early in the morning and wait in his driveway until he double-checked all his gear and got it loaded in my truck. But this time, I pulled in his driveway, he hopped in his own vehicle and our mini convoy pulled out and headed to the turkey woods.

Things, of course, are different now. We know we’re supposed to be practicing social distancing, but that seems to mean different things to different people. My family is taking it quite seriously – we haven’t gathered with parents or siblings in months. It’s been difficult. My wife and I have a 7-month-old little guy at home, and his grandparents and aunts and uncles miss him like crazy. He’s growing and changing every day, and they’re missing it. But his safety, and ours, have been a priority.

Fortunately, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel, and Pennsylvania has announced the easing of some restrictions this week. My wife and I decided that it’s time to start integrating ourselves back into some normal family activities with extra precautions still in place. For me, that means hitting the spring woods with my big brother.

We arrived at our spot, in separate vehicles, prior to daylight, and we stood on opposite sides of the old two-track and listened for the morning’s first gobbles. As far as opening days go, you couldn’t ask for much better weather. Daybreak temperatures were in the upper 40s and the day’s high was forecasted around 70. The skies were clear and there was little wind.

Having hunted this property for decades, we had a good sense of where spring Tom’s like to roost and strut. But they were quiet this morning, and we didn’t hear the first gobble until after legal light. He was close – probably within 100 yards of where we parked, but the vehicles were between he and us. I’ve called turkeys by vehicles before, so I wasn’t overly concerned, and we set up as best we could on the two-track. It quickly became apparent that at least one other Tom was roosted with the first bird we heard, and shortly after, we heard a hen yelping with the Toms, too.

“Game over,” I thought. To make matters worse, poor planning and communication on my part resulted in two other camp members driving down the two-track to hunt the same location my brother and I were hunting! All of this happened within the first 15 minutes of legal shooting light, and I was feeling pretty disheartened about our current setup and prospects.

Fortunately, the other camp members graciously and quietly backed off, and after regrouping, we decided to move closer to the Toms and hen. We walked back towards the vehicles, which were between the birds and us, and stopped to call about 50 yards beyond where we had parked. Sure enough, we were treated to a close gobble, and we immediately setup on the two-track. Some light calling had the bird working closer, and eventually we could hear the distinct sound of a spitting and drumming Tom. This was my first time hearing these vocalizations so clearly, and I knew the bird was almost on top of us. Within a minute, he was in sight. He was in full strut and had a bright-white snowball head. At 30 yards, he lifted his head, and as a good friend likes to say, “Down goes Frazier!”

I immediately hopped up, and my brother met me on the two-track. And then...we high-fived. That’s right. We were so engulfed in the moment and the experience that all of the craziness in the world disappeared for a few minutes. It was just us and that bird in this world. And we made the most of it. It was only 6:15 a.m., and we had the rest of the morning to work up a bird for my brother. We jumped into our separate vehicles, and went off to find another gobble.