Hunting Turkey Hunting

Kentucky Turkeys Opening Day

Every now and then you get a textbook spring gobbler, one that does just what you hoped it would.

The boys had the turkeys scouted for the Kentucky opener. We checked that flock out again the night of my arrival. Glassing them in a nearby field from behind hay bales, we put the dominant strutter, his longbeard buddy and handful of hens, to bed. Back at camp we enjoyed home cooking, and hatched a plan.

The turkeys were roosted at the bottom of a steep hill, over a creek flanking the field. Our setup amounted to a tree line splitting a smaller opening, maybe a football field from the roost. We heard the first gobble at 6:12 a.m., the same time they had the day before the guys said. The birds flew down into the pasture corner, right where they’d flown up the late afternoon before. Both toms strutted now as hens fed.

Josh Grossenbacher, ZINK calls turkey man and champion caller, fired up some sweet, soft “good morning” yelps to welcome them to the field. Travis Byrd and I watched it all unfold: hens drifting toward us, then hens and the strutters drifting away.

It’s often said that sometimes making like a bunch of hens will make things happen. As Grossenbacher laid down some of the best calling I’ve ever heard at a setup, a hen started yapping back. I too mixed in some yelps with just a hint of up-tempo aggressiveness. That boss hen now had two turkeys yelping at her. At that, they started to come. I shut up, and locked in.

The hen drifted, looking, zoning in on Josh now, seated just to my right. The strutters followed: and then it happened. The decoys, a strutter and hen, came on their radar. At that, they forgot about the boss hen, and the other female turkeys. The longbeard duo got that Dracula hunch-shouldered look. Here they came. They couldn’t get there fast enough, locked in for a fight.

They addressed the gobbler deke from both sides like a couple of blitzing linebackers would a sorry quarterback. When the dominant tom cleared the dekes on one wing assault, knocking the fake strutter over, I found his head and neck, and dropped him. We were on the board.

Back at camp after a drive, Travis fired up some yelps. A gobbler answered back on the far ridge. We hopped in the truck, halved the distance, got out, and Josh called this time. Gobbles echoed from above. A black blob stepped out, popped into strut, and looked. The ZINK Calls turkey man floated some more yelps up there. That gobbler was coming. Down the field, it sprinted. Into a cut at the hill bottom, it drifted. There it crossed a creek. Up a steep little hill it came. Finally, it broke through a patch of multiflora rose and appeared on the end of Byrd’s shotgun. Longbeard number two was down. Every now and then you get another gobbler that comes a quarter mile to the gun.

Elsewhere, later at camp, we learned that Walt Gabbard, the creative talent behind the excellent ZINK Calls “Turkey Time” DVDs, had doubled with his grandma Betty. A good Kentucky opening day, for sure.

Stay tuned here at the Strut Zone for our Day 2 action.