By Jason Artrip
-- The spring of 2006 started off like every other year in rural, southwest Virginia, having some extremely warm, sunny days, along with some very cold, rainy, snowy days. On the nice days, I would drive up and down my road in the mornings before I headed to work. When I got home, I'd listen for turkeys.
In the evenings, I had a few places in particular where I would sit and try to pick turkeys out on roost. I would also converse back and forth with my dad, friends, neighbors and co-workers just to see if they had been hearing or seeing any long beards in the area.
About a week before opening morning in 2006, I was starting to feel the pressure because I had not been hearing very many gobblers in my neck of the woods. I was starting to get worried, but it had been that way before. I always seemed to find some big toms, even if I didn't always kill one. Well, this year proved to be no different. On opening morning, I got up way before daylight, simply because I couldn't lie in bed any longer. It kind of felt like the first day of deer season (I love that feeling), instead of spring gobbler season.
Anyhow, I made my way to one of my favorite spots, where I have always had good luck in the past at getting birds to gobble. There was no need to try and get them to shock gobble this morning with owl or crow calls, because as I drove up the road with my window rolled down, I could already here them talking! There were at least three different birds on the ridges that surrounded me.
I made my way up one of the ridges, got settled in, and started talking dirty to them. Before too long, I could see one of them on the far ridge strutting back and forth. Although I could not get any of these intelligent birds to give in to temptation on this particular morning, this spot would prove to become my "honey hole". I would make it back to this same ridge several more times before I was able to claim victory, by outsmarting at least one of the ol' toms.
I had been having a hard time sneaking in on them in the mornings, because they would be roosted right by the road, and I would end up busting them up every time. So, needless to say I had to change my strategy.
On this particular morning, I tried a different approach, and guess what happened - yep, I jumped them off the roost once again. Only this time there was a different one roosted on an adjacent ridge, so I began to pursue this one. It wasn't long before it was time to see who could out smart the other one. Would it be me or would it be ol' tom?
After doing some pretty aggressive calling for some time, I decided to play it quiet for a little while. I had been giving him the silent treatment for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, when all of the sudden, he gobbled and it felt like my stomach went up in my throat! Somehow he had made it around me, without my knowing, and he was now right on top of me!
As I look over my shoulder all I can see is this big blue and purple head looking right at me. I knew right away that this tom must have been the boss bird in the area. I couldn't help but sit there and stare at him for a minute as it strutted right before my eyes. It was an awesome sight!
Finally, the tom settled down and began to walk on by. I slowly turned my body until I could get a clean shot. Once everything was right, I squeezed the trigger on my Mossberg 835 shotgun, and the rest is history. The old tom ended up being the biggest one I have killed to date. He weighed over 21 pounds, had a 10-inch beard, with spurs over an inch long!
At this point, I was satisfied with my season, so I quit trying quite so hard, and I started catching up on my sleep. But, before the season was out, I managed to get lucky one more time.
It was the last day of the season to beat it all. I was walking my dog Abby outside that morning when I thought I heard one gobble right behind my house, so I stood there for a minute. Sure enough, it was!
I put my dog up, threw on some camos, grabbed my gun and turkey calls, and took off. We talked back and forth for about an hour, but he kept hanging up for some reason. I started to get tired of fooling with him, plus it was really hot that day. So, I decided to try the silent treatment with him as well, and after about 10 minutes or so, I could hear him in the leaves coming toward me.
Another 5 minutes crept by before I finally pulled the trigger. This bird didn't prove to be as big as the other one, but still weighed in at around 20 pounds, with a 9-inch beard and 3/4-inch spurs.
Needless to say I had an excellent Spring Gobbler season by bagging two trophy long beards, and seeing or hearing numerous others. I must say that I'm usually not a big fan of the "silent treatment" because it usually means my wife Lynsey is mad at me about something, but when it came to hunting big broom beards this past year, I learned that sometimes the best strategy for killing a big gobbler is nothing more than giving them a big ol' dose of SILENT TREATMENT!
Falls Mills, Virginia