Monday, April 25, 2016

In spring when it all begins

By Mac Arnold
RTWO Editor-In-Chief

As the cheery robin's song repeats in the blackness of early morning, which all-too-soon unfolds into bands of yellow light that spotlights the dogwood whites dotted throughout the woods,  yet another hunting season begins.

This one is a tad different though as the first gobblers being pursued were in Ohio, which is a first for Rockin' The Wild Outdoors with Mac.
RTWO photo by Mac Arnold
A look from my blind on April 19 
shows the direction I anticipated the
birds would come from and then 
walk past me for a shot. 

And for the most part, it was a great start. Good action.

This part of northeastern Ohio -- Trumbull County to be a bit more precise -- is loaded with turkeys, or at least has a pretty healthy batch.

For the opening week hunt's two days -- April 19 and April 20 -- things didn't cook off right at fly-down, or at least not for me, but by 9 a.m. things were rolling for the other hunter on the property. Then, by 10:30 a.m. things had been quelled.

Not because of a flopping thunder chicken, but because Chip had missed. Which is the best news of all, not for him necessarily, but because it wasn't me who sent No. 4 pellets whizzing off target. Something I'm well acquainted with as well as probably plenty of other turkey hunters.

I was able to go down to the bottom of the hill where the woods, fence line and a kitty-corner pasture come together and regroup with the sheepish hunter. He wasn't sure what happened other than he "rushed the shot."

It wasn't long before I retold the biggest blown shot of my turkey hunting when years ago I nimbly climbed two painfully long hours to the top of a West Virginia ridge only to come away empty. And while watching this tom come strutting down a runway strip of grass spread out along this steep ridge was truly majestic almost bordering on a spiritual experience, it was maddening when I did everything right except drop that gobbler in a feathery heap.

See? We all have our stories of failure, and even as I told Chip, "I've killed dozens and I've missed dozens more," it never makes it easier to get over them. The only medicine I've ever known other than by sharing is to get back into another setup and onto more birds.

But so far as this season goes, I have every intention of NOT missing the next shot.

Chip had to work the following day so I had the run of the place. Right at the first crack of light, the birds were making themselves known that they were in it for love.

By 7:30 a.m., now I was the frustrated one. That damn fence. Those turkeys were hot but not hot enough to cross it, and I was told "they rarely do."

So I will either have to see if I can get permission to get over there or patiently wait for the Lone Star Strutter as I have now dubbed him. The farm hands have seen him walk along the edges of the fields midday. And in fact I might have bumped him leaving the last day.

I might have seen a mirage but I was pretty sure I saw the lone bird as advertised milling long the wood line. I hastily set up but after 15 minutes and a peek around, it was clear he must have seen me and bolted.

Nevertheless, it was a good couple days to be a turkey hunter. And a good start to the 2016 hunting season.

Some states such as Pennsylvania consider spring gobbler to be the end of the hunting year but for me this turkey season is the big springboard. It goes into everything else that is fun with a brief fishing interlude in summer that is the chase on rivers and lakes for the glorious monster bass. Then there's September birds -- geese, woodcock and grouse and fall turkeys. And in October, the king: whitetails.

But we are definitely getting ahead of ourselves.

There is still another 5½ weeks of turkey season left that I also have tags in my pocket for which include Pennsylvania and Michigan in addition to Ohio.