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Public Land Gobbler

Jax-HatcheeJax-Hatchee Posts: 39 Deckhand
I was feeling pretty good about the season after picking up a gobbler in South Carolina on opening weekend, my neighbor is from there and we hunt his family property and some of his friend's places.

Plus, I got drawn for a Quota hunt here in FL for the second year in a row. There are a ton of birds on this spot, and my buddy and I were confident we could get close to one of them. The first morning we were bumped from where we hunted last year by another hunter, which was no problem, we had a backup plan, which worked. Had one bird gobble at first light in the distance, after listening for a while we started chasing him. He gobbled all morning, and we finally got within calling range and found a nice on a road he'd used to cross from some thick woods into a thinned out bottom that was an obvious strut zone. We call, he gets closer, I get set up behind an island of palmettos, perfect setup except for the group of hogs feeding towards me at about 60 yards.
Bird comes in to 25 yards in front of me in the bottom, but all I can see is his head, and he won't sit still to give me a shot (plus I don't try and head shoot anymore, learned my lesson, I hold just above the waddle). I lose sight of him as he comes around the palmettos, close, I'm set up, gun on knee, he's gobbling just out of sight. I spot something black running into the woods! I had completely forgotten about the hogs, so I think it's the gobbler, I jump up to check it out, and the Tom is standing 35 yards away, a few inches from stepping into my sights had I sat still. I shouldered the gun and fired off a round, but it squarely demolished a wax myrtle that was between the bird and I. So I'm sick. It was as good of a setup as you can ask for, especially on public land. That was Fri. Morning, we hunted till one Fri and Sat, with no luck. I was considering going to my hometown in GA to hunt Sunday, and watch my niece get christened, but $3.87 gas talked me out of it. I went by myself on Sun., and set up in a different area, heard some tree gobbling early and close, but the two birds I heard had a pile of hens with them. It was interesting to note that the gobbling I heard was noticeably softer than it had been on the previously mornings, I was close, and it was a tom, but it was only loud enough for the surrounding hens to hear it. These birds had been pressured by all of the hunters present over the past two weeks, they were strutting like crazy on a main road, so I figured they had toned down the gobbles. Anyway, they flew down in the exact wrong direction, there was a wall of thick stuff between me and them. I gave them until about 8:30 to do their thing or come check me out, when it remained quiet I called a little bit and got a response on the other side of the wall. Luckily, I had hunted the area before, and I've killed 3 different gobblers in similar scenarios, each time I'd just follow them along the wall until we reached a spot where either he or I could cross. In this case it was a LOONG way. I walked for a solid hour into an area I was very familiar with. I'd last heard him gobble a few minutes earlier, and I was almost certain he'd be waiting for me in a road ahead, as long as he wasn't spooked by a truck (people love to ride this road). I snuck through a bottom and into some pines, it had rained the night before so I was able to silently move through the straw. I came out in a ditch, laid low, and peeked out into the road. Sure enough, he was standing tall about 60 yards away in the road. I leaned back and got the gun up. I softly purred and clucked once, and scratched a little in the leaves. 30 seconds later he's 35 yards out, and walking straight into the sights. I bear down just above the waddle and let fly with the mossberg. 3 1/2 in. #5s did the job no problem. This was sweet redemption, after blowing it on the first hunt. He's not a big bird, 2 yr. old tom, 9 in. Beard, close to one in. spurs, but I don't discriminate anyway, if he's got a beard and a full fan, I'm smoking him. Here's the bird.
Oh yeah, also ran into this big fella, I'd guess he's over 5 ft. and fat, but he wouldn't let me measure him, so that's a rough estimate.

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