Please note: Hunt reports are posted in reverse order with the first hunt of the season at the bottom of this page and the final hunt at the top of the page. To see the chronological order, scroll to the bottom and work your way to the top of the page.
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Hunt 5 April 18 - 21
Here in mid-April, turkey calling should be working good. But with the 2017 year seeming to be ahead of itself with everything coming early, the indications were that we are closer to the end than to the beginning. In earlier reports, we noted that mesquite trees leafed-out at least 30 days early. Maybe the turkey rituals are similarly out-of-whack?
About three weeks ago, Chris Padula, Gainesville, GA called to see if he might bring a couple of customers on a turkey hunt. To accommodate his needs, and since this was to be the final hunt, we delayed the event by a day on each end. His guests were Ray Matchen, also from Gainesville and Lance Walker, from Cumming. The three dedicated Georgia hunter did everything right and hunted hard for three days.
When Ray took two birds the first afternoon with one shot, we just knew things were going to click. Chris took his tom the next morning; Lance got one that second afternoon. Half-way through the hunt and we were two-thirds done. But then, the gobblers refused to show themselves with a general lack of cooperation among their ranks. They did gobble a bit at daylight but went on strike and refused to come to their calls during the rest of the day. Chris and Lance faithfully hunted water points as we suggested, but even this normally successful tactic let us down.
Reports from the field seemed to suggest that with the hens already a-sitting on their nests, the gobblers are giving romance one last feeble try before they re-group themselves for male-bonding over the summer. The several groups of hens seen were no doubt "jennys" - the female equivalent of jakes. They are unlikely to nest as do the older hens, but their prowling keeps the hunters on their toes while watching for long-beards.
As has happened all season, lots of jakes were seen - good news for next season. The four gobblers taken by the three hunters all seemed to be at least three-year-olds, judging by their spurs. Certainly, the 1 1/4" spurs on Chris Padula's gobbler were among the top three or four of the year. That particular old boy was heavy, too, at 20 1/2 lbs. Twenty-pounders are rare this late in the season since the gobblers go on a hunger strike for the duration of the mating season. Rarely do you find anything in a gobbler's crop when he is butchered.
Hunt 4 April 12 - 15
Only three hunters were in camp for our fourth hunt of the season - two veterans and one newcomer.
Although Joe Phillips, Stuttgart, AR and James Gibbs, Hot Springs, AR have hunted turkeys with us often, this was the first time both have been in camp on the same hunt. Heck - we had no idea they even knew each other.
Ron Spencer, Ocala, FL has much experience hunting turkeys in Texas (and other locations, as well), but this was his first hunt with Adobe Lodge.
As things happen with turkey hunting, both the first and final birds taken on this fourth hunt of the season were jakes. They were first-afternoon and final morning birds. But between those events, all three hunters collected dandy gobblers. Joe's and Ron's both sported full ten-inch beards while the whiskers on James' bird was only a scant quarter-inch behind at 9 3/4".
James Gibbs put his tag on that first-afternoon jake, and next morning, he collected a two-year old, tagging out after only one-third of the hunt had concluded. Joe Phillips joined him that morning with a fine gobbler but then hunted in vain trying to find a second bird.
Joe is a purist, refusing to take either a jake or a gobbler from a blind. He likes to run and gun in the traditional manner. Unfortunately, his well-played turkey calls attracted only yearlings and a few hens. Still needing that final bird, Joe hunted one of our best areas on that final afternoon without raising one single gobble. Every experienced turkey hunter can relate to such silence. Unfortunately, Joe elected to clock-out early, missing the final morning in order to get back home for Easter obligations the next day. Wouldn't you know it? Gobblers were seen in the very areas Joe was to have hunted that last morning.
Ron's gobbler, taken the second morning, was a rarity - he had only one spur. The other leg had the merest of bumps where the spur ought to be. Amazingly, there was but one to be found, but it was a good one and taped an inch and an eighth. We told Ron - heck, anyone can collect a gobbler with a pair of spurs. It is an extraordinary feat to get a tom with only one. The previous afternoon, Ron had regrettably passed on a thirty-yard shot at a gobbler, gambling on something closer. It didn't come, and the intended victim got away. So the one-spurred tom was a prize, indeed.
With Joe and James departing right after breakfast on that final morning, Ron was the only hunter afield. To avoid being seen by nearby roosting turkeys, guide Jerry Watts walked Ron into blind situated next to a feeder where our trail cameras find countless birds. About 30 minutes after daylight, a 50 yard shot failed. Dad-gum the luck, anyway. Sometime later, and luckily with only minutes to spare before departure time to make his flight, Ron collected that second bird - a jake that, at 16.2 lbs., was as heavy as several of the gobblers taken so far in 2017.
So Ron and James Gibbs each took a gobbler and a jake. Joe Phillips had his one gobbler. Five birds for three hunters. With another half-day of hunting, Joe would have almost certainly made Hunt # 4 count as 200% successful. Oh well. Stay tuned for Hunt # 5 next week, noon Tuesday until noon Friday. Once again, only three hunters are scheduled, but if you can get yourself here on such short notice, we can make it happen on this end.
Hunt 3 April 8 - 11
Faithful readers: I have not the time to prepare a full report.
Here are some highlights:
Nine hunters took 15 birds. Six took two/each; three took one/each. No one failed to collect a bird.
Two jakes were taken by mistake when each swapped places at the last minute with a gobbler.
However, one of the jakes had double-beards at 5 1/4" and 2 3/4", the first double-bearded yearling in memory.
The other jake was taken by a hunter who had lost his face mask and had to pull his shirt up to cover his face, thereby causing himself misery and mistakes. He refused to pose for our traditional photo.
Terry Morgan can tell a turkey story as good as Ed Ford back on the previous date. Terry's accounts of his turkey hunts will bring tears to a glass eye.
One hunter, Kevin Holland, Benton, AR, took his first ever gobbler 17 lbs. with a 9 3/4' beard, too.
Three came from Pennsylvania, four from Arkansas, one from Ohio, and one from Texas.
See the photos below. Captions will be added later.
Hunt 2 April 4 - 7
Two hunters from Hunt 1 stayed over for Hunt # 2 since one adventure is rarely enough for many hunters addicted to the spring wars on turkeys. They were Tom Edie, Metairie, LA and Dan Mink, Stewartstown, PA. Interestingly, all eight hunters on this date were from different states and all came as singles except Dan Mink and son, James, who lives in Maryland.
Charlie Eifert, who collected our fabled "Buck of the Year" during the recent 2016 deer season, lives in Ohio and was here last turkey season. Other Adobe Lodge veteran turkey hunters were Gehl Mittelsted, Midland, TX and Ed Ford, Dexter, GA. The two first-timers were Buff Searcy, Jupiter, FL and Bill Hawkins, Eden Prairie MN. Eight hunters, eight states, but 100% turkey hunters and that's what counts. They put fifteen birds on the board. Only Buff failed to get that second tom, but on the last morning, he said he was positioned only about 50 yards too far from where his quarry pitched off the roost at daylight. How many times does that happen? Sadly, that story is told way, way too often.
Tom Edie collected two birds with one shot, both fine mature gobblers.
The weather began badly that first afternoon when the wind blew thirty-plus mph. But from then on, things were quite pleasant during mid-day but almost chilly early each morning.
Of all the stories told (and there are always plenty around a turkey camp), Dan Mink gets the prize for the most fantastic. Dan had already tagged out so on the final morning with no hunting chores to tend to, he re-visited a feeder where he had hunted on Hunt # 1 back last weekend. He witnessed the darndest thing. In fact, it is hard to believe, but Dan insisted his testimony was true. He saw a hen with three or four young poults which he judged to be only a few days old. Baby turkeys here in early April are at least 30-40 days early. It's akin to Christmas coming before Thanksgiving. But, come to think of it, our mesquite trees leafed-out about a month early, too. Global warming? Climate change? Genetically altered corn and/or milo in the turkey feed? Who knows? We've wondered exactly where the hens are in their breeding season. Some hunters testify that things seem to be proceeding right on time. Now this!!! Just when you think you are beginning to understand a wee-bit of Mother Nature, you get knocked-back to the first grade.
One thing for sure, with all the jakes being seen among the good population of two-year-olds, next season ought to be fantastic. Our range conditions just now are pretty darn good, and maybe the hens will have an above average hatch for the third year in a row. Hope so, anyway.
Hunt 1 April 1-3
The first turkey hunt is scheduled for only 2 1/2 days, but since the hunters arrive on Friday afternoon for orientation and scouting and are in camp for a total of three nights, it is almost like a regular three-day hunt. In camp were eight Adobe Lodge veteran hunters and one newcomer, Scott Milner who accompanied his dad, Cliff. Some of the others have been here dozens of times, both for deer and turkey.
The season kicked-off in fine fashion when Catharine Cato collected a handsome gobbler. It got better when Scott Milner got his first-ever turkey with, beginner's luck being what it is, spurs of 1 1/2" x 1 3/8". But his dad, Cliff, choked. Literally. Here is the rest of the story:
Cliff's bird went right down with the first shot. But it didn't stay down. Five minutes later, the old boy came to life and attempted an escape. Cliff, properly alarmed at this turn of events, bolted after the fleeing bird and cast two more shots in his direction. No luck. Worse news - now Cliff is out of ammunition. If he returns to his blind, the tom will surely escape for good. There is only one choice: Cliff chases the bird down and chokes him. Didn't we announce this fact a bit earlier? As with most things having to do with turkey hunting, all's well that ends well.
But the rest of the news that first day wasn't good for our multi-year turkey/deer client, Mike Kramer: he missed. That afternoon, Cats Cato got bird # 2 while her partner Brad Milner got his first one. A good first day for sure, except for the miss, of course.
A big storm moved through the area early Sunday morning and blessed us with over an inch of rain, which we are glad to take anytime and never mind disgruntled turkey hunter's feelings about the subject. But the day turned out o.k. with Cliff and Scott Milner getting 2nd birds. Dan Mink downed a fine gobbler but when another tom jumped on the carcass to kick-ass on his dead companion, Dan taught the bully a lesson he'll never forget. One set-up, two gobblers. Way to go, Dan!!! Also, Chip Bennett collected a good gobbler. But all the good news was followed by bad. Mike Kramer missed again. And Brad Milner used his bow on a bird that ran off, leaving behind a bloody arrow with feathers attached. Our first DNF of the season.
On the final morning, Tom Edie got a bird, as did Jim Halbert. But the best news was Mike Kramer. He got two gobblers with one shot. What a deal. His bad luck was over. May it never return.
So five of the nine took the camp limit of two birds and it would have been six without that DNF. The other three collected a single bird. Who knows how much the storm affected things? Altogether, it was mighty encouraging with Brad and Cats rebooking, as did Tom Edie. Good news, indeed.