by Gerry Rightmyer (Forever Wild Outdoors)
The 2017 Spring Turkey Season in New York State was certainly unique. A little colder than recent memory, and definitely a lot wetter than any season I recall. Even though the weather conditions were less than favorable, the Team at Forever Wild Outdoors always puts in 100% effort… rain or shine! Preparation and persistence are key elements during any spring turkey season. Weather conditions can challenge the most seasoned veteran, but the prepared hunters are the most successful hunters. Heavy frost, rain, wind, mosquitoes, black flies, scorching heat, and competition from other hunters are some of the few challenges we face every season. Its just part of turkey hunting!
Our season began with some pretty exciting hunts. An Opening Day “double” occurred when our Pro Staffer, Steve Doudt arrowed a beautiful Jake (from a well-placed ground blind), and shortly thereafter, our General Manager, Steve Byers shot a Jake from the same block of woods! An unconventional “double”, but a “double” just the same! Three days later, a beautiful long beard was taken by our General Manager’s son, Jason Byers. Things were moving along at breakneck speed, and our season was barely four days old! Our FWO (Forever Wild Outdoors) season was off to a tremendous beginning. These three hunts kick-started our first week of May in grand fashion… birds on the ground!
The following week, things slowed down a little. Work commitments, family obligations, and close encounters kept the turkeys safe for another day, but the action would soon be heating up. On May 13th, Steve Schicker bagged a gorgeous Western New York Tom. The previous night, Steve was able to locate a gobbler on my family farm. Scouting from afar, the big, old long beard couldn’t stop gobbling. With the help of his Endeavor HD 82A spotting scope, Steve was able to locate the bird, stay hidden, and formulate a game plan for the following morning. The key element of surprise was one of the many factors that led to his success.
The following weekend, we headed up north to hunt with our friend and business partner, Steve Byers. For the past month, Steve has scouted multiple farms and logged many miles in search of as many hunting spots as possible. Securing permission from local farmers and property owners is no easy task. Steve has his own property too! One of the plots of ground he hunts is appropriately called the “Lease”.
The “Lease” saw little hunting pressure. There were close encounters during our youth season, and again, during the early portion of the regular season, but legitimate opportunities to score on a bird were fleeting. It wasn’t until the third weekend of the regular season that things began to heat up.
On Saturday, May 20th, our fortunes changed for the better. After much consideration, Steve Byers suggested we scout his “Lease”. We knew there were birds traversing the farm. We had a couple of “close calls” from previous weeks, so he thought we should invest some time scouting the farm for a hunt the following morning. As soon as we arrived at the “Lease” to scout that evening, we instantaneously encountered three different groups of “redheads”. One lone Tom was just about to enter the woodlot. As we watched the Tom saunter into the woods, we couldn’t help but wonder why he seemed so at ease, primarily because the farmer disking the field was only a mere 70 yards away from the long beard! We quickly lost sight of the mature gobbler. As we continued to drive down the road, I immediately caught a glimpse of five jakes preparing to cross the road in front of us. The “gang of five” was headed directly for the “Lease”. We slowly approached the birds and patiently glassed the young jakes until we lost sight of them. They were going exactly where we wanted them… into the “Lease” and very close to the area we wanted to set up the following morning.
As we prepared to leave the farm, I peered down the road and observed ANOTHER Tom cross the road, and head directly in the woods to roost for the evening. Steve and I couldn’t believe our good fortune! It was looking like the next morning would be action packed!
As we arrived at the “Lease” the following morning, our anticipation was at an all-time high! We parked the truck, grabbed our gear, and quietly walked up the farm field, and set our decoys out in front of us… a feeding hen, an upright hen, and a strutting Tom.
We plopped down our turkey chairs right underneath a fully blossomed apple tree. It was a perfect spot to ambush a wary spring gobbler. As the morning commenced, a lone Tom began gobbling a mere 75 yards away. Both Steve and I felt the Tom would come strutting out to our set up… it was just a matter of time. After 30 minutes of gobbling action, we heard the group of five jakes gobble in unison. As soon as they gobbled, our lone Tom shut right down. After a bit, we heard the birds fighting in the woods directly in front of us.
As we peered down the field edge, we watched the “gang of five” run the Tom right out of the woods, and right across the road. The jakes would not tolerate any outside interference from any mature gobbler in the area. As I looked to my left, I could see the jakes walking around the farm field, and headed straight for the decoy set that we just left. It was very apparent that Steve and I needed to get back to our original set up… and quick!
After a 100-yard sprint, we both sat down underneath the apple tree, and proceeded to catch our breath. Within five minutes, the five jakes came over the hill, headed in our direction. As soon as they saw the decoys, the feathered quintet started to jog toward the decoys. We both knew that things were going to get interesting really fast. As the birds approached the trio of decoys, they began to separate. As the birds broke apart, I decided to set my sights on the last jake. I barely remember the report of the Mossberg. The last turkey crumpled on impact. I instinctively racked another shell, and Steve whispered… give me the gun… give me the gun! As he slid to his right, he grabbed my gun, and proceeded to drop one of the remaining quartet. A perfect 40-yard shot dropped the second bird in his tracks!
I was totally flabbergasted by what just occurred. A perfect “double” kill! The first in my hunting career! A perfect ending to my turkey season. A huge thanks to Steve Schicker for running camera, calling, and completing a perfect “double”… it couldn’t have worked out any better!