An early alarm at 4 a.m. jolted me out of peaceful sleep. The sound was silenced when someone hit the snooze button, and I slipped back into a deep slumber for five more short minutes.
Then, one after the other, three separate alarms were beeping. It was youth turkey season’s opening day. It may as well have been a national holiday for all the excitement that was brewing in our house.
Ohio’s spring hunting season has an interesting history. Wild turkeys were extinct in Ohio in 1904 due to over hunting and the loss of their natural habitat. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, wild turkeys were reintroduced to Ohio.
A spring harvest season in May of 1966 with permits for gobblers only was Ohio’s first turkey season in 64 years. Last year in 2020, ODNR reported a turkey harvest of 17,894.
Taunted by toms
For weeks, my boys had been taunted by several toms in the cornfield far back behind their grandpa’s house.
Dusk settled slowly over the fields on one evening about two weeks prior to youth opening day. A large tom began his impressive ritual of strutting and calling. The hens hung back near the tree line, watching the show taking place.
We passed around the binoculars, enjoying our part as spectators to the early spring show. The turkey’s gobbling sound was very distinct as it rolled across the valley, beckoning a mate to investigate the available options.
Another afternoon, I started to hear squawking randomly during the day. It resembled the call of a hen, but perhaps a sick or deranged one. The rhythm was off and it was altogether too scratchy.
I later found out that both my sons had spent some of their money buying a variety of turkey calls. They were determined to harvest an impressive turkey, perhaps even one of the ones in the field by their grandpa’s house.
My husband, in one of his most brilliant moves, told the boys they had to practice their turkey calls in the camper. If they practiced them outside, other turkeys would recognize and become accustomed to the counterfeit sounds.
If they practiced their calls in the house, I might never cook dinner again. Instead, I would rock myself back and forth in my closet with my hands in my ears until the phoney turkey sounds subsided.
All of this led up to the morning of three synchronized alarms. My hunters were ready to wake up early, dress for success in head to toe camo and sneak off into the woods.
My husband was willing to rise early and sit in a blind with our youngest son who also slathered on face paint for good measure. A blind was the perfect option for our restless son.
Turkeys, like hawks and owls, have excellent eyesight and could spot his movement across a field. With eyes on the side of their heads, and mobility from a flexible neck, turkeys use their impressive eyesight to escape predators and hunters.
After they’ve spotted a predator, they can escape by quickly running up to 25 miles per hour or flying at speeds up to 55 miles per hour.
Shooting a turkey on opening day was going to take some skill and a whole lot of patience. The morning progressed with a few hen sightings and plenty of time to practice calls.
It was chilly but they held steady at their positions for several hours. The hard truth sunk in that opening day was going down as a bust.
Multiple alarms before sunrise repeated themselves the following weekend. Again, the three hunters stealthily strolled off into the woods. Their frosty breath could be seen in the crisp morning air.
This time was different. One shot pierced through the woods. My husband heard the shot from inside the blind. The young jakes they were watching had already wandered off after a hen.
He thought he would walk over and find our older son with a turkey at his feet. It wasn’t quite that easy.
Close enough sometimes wins a game of horseshoes; this day close enough in turkey hunting meant a tom had to be tracked down. They searched in a thicket and under fallen trees to find it hidden in a mass of multi-floral rose shoots.
Success on this day was harvesting a mature tom with a long beard and sharp spurs. It became a delicious turkey dinner after being marinated in a family recipe and slow cooked to perfection.
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