Dawn in the turkey woods

I was on the road  by about 4 a.m.

Before 6 a.m. I was in the Greenwood County woods, sitting with my back against an oak, turkey calls spread on the leaves before me. A pair of decoys to my front.

Being in the woods at daylight is an important part of turkey hunting, though not always the best time to shoot a turkey.

Shooting hours didn’t start for at least another 30 minutes.

For years I’ve said I’m going to forgo such very early rising through a turkey season. Looking back, I’ve shot far more turkeys after 10 a.m. than before. Both of last year’s birds were after 2 p.m.

One year when I traveled a lot, hunting a variety of states, I was in on 25 turkey kills. I think about five were shortly after the birds flew down from their roosts. One season our Missouri camp accounted for 32 toms. I think 30 were after 10 a.m.

But there’s something special about being in the spring woods well before daylight, listening to assorted creatures awaken. At every owl hoot or coyote howl you hold your breath, wondering if it will spark the first gobbles of the morning.

And man, are there ever gobbles. Most days you’ll hear more gobbles in the first-half hour of the day than you will the following 10 hours.

So it was this morning, the opening of general spring turkey season. As predicted my set-up was between two flocks of roosting turkeys. They gobbled at each other, my calls, calling crows and sometimes just for the heck of it.

As well as those sounds, I had nearby wrens, some sort of warbler and passing deer to keep me occupied.

The gobbles eventually slowed and I moved three or four times towards a flock in a meadow to the west. I shot a tom from that bunch at a tad past 10 a.m. – another mid-day bird.

Before I left the meadow, I picked the tree where I’ll set-up well before dawn next week.

There’s a lot more to spring turkey hunting than just shooting turkeys.