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As hunters we all have our reasons for hunting, for some it’s tradition, others it’s time with family and friends, and still others enjoy the solitude and the anticipation of the most exciting moment that we all dream of. One of the things that I have come to realize in myself and in other hunters is a lack of thought in our hunting. We have great experiences, but most of us just live in the moment and cease to analyze all that happened during the hunt.
I recently went on a hunting trip in Central Pennsylvania to hunt the elusive public land Northeastern Gobblers. For the first few days I hunted in areas that I had been successful in before, but after wasting the first half of my time hunting pressured turkeys, I realized that I had been using the same approach and getting the same results.
So in the third day of my four-day hunt, I ended up in a place that we had scouted the year before, and we heard some gobbles but the turkeys were all “hen’d up”. Eventually the gobbler became more responsive to calls and seemed to work my direction. There was one thing about my setup though-I had great visibility of the valley bottom that I expected the gobbler to walk through, but I had failed to recognize the possibility of calling in other turkeys behind me. The setup was “unbust-able” from the front but from behind we were less than covered. Our excitement soared as the gobbler seemed to work our way, but then to my great inconvenience a hen walked directly in behind us and made it impossible to move without her seeing us. Eventually she went to the gobbler, and we didn’t hear a peep for the remainder of the day.
The last day of the hunt began; we had headed back to the area that we hunted the morning before. The beginning for the morning was awful not one gobble until after nine AM. We had moved around and ended up sitting beside an old logging pad that had green grass and a great vantage point. I pulled out my Mountain Hollow Box Call and started yelping, immediately I heard a gobble one ridge over and about 600 yards away. My first thought was “we need to move to the drainage on the other end of this opening” where I expected the gobblers to come into view from. But I was in a comfortable place with good visibility and wanted B-roll footage of the turkey coming in. The gobblers ended up coming up the drainage and stopping at the edge of the pad 80 yards away where they spent the rest of the morning gobbling and strutting, waiting for the hen they expected to cross the opening to them. After the legal hunting hours were over, the gobblers wandered off wondering what had happened to the highly talkative hen that had so greatly excited them.
After this hunt I realized that I had been making the same mistake all week-hunting public-land birds like the farm turkeys that I hunt here at home. Serious athletes train for and analyze their sport and don’t stop improving, so why is it that as hunters we commonly do the same things expecting different results? After that hunt I can definitely say that I changed the way I hunted and began to think through my experiences.
I now have filled my tag in a heavily pressured area and learned new techniques to make it happen! If you take anything away from my article I hope it is this: Maybe it is time for us as hunters to develop new ideas and be creative. We need to learn from our experiences if we want to get better at what we enjoy and take every thought captive.