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Old May 24, 2024, 01:10 PM   #1
bamaranger
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PA spring gobbler season-2024

Since my AL narrative seems so popular, I thought I would write up my hunts spent in PA after the season closed here at home. I traveled to PA to spend Mothers Day with my 92 yr old Mom. Afterwards I hunted 6 mornings on public land. It's all from memory, I did could not get internet service (easily) at my Mom's place, so my accounts are not as timely as usual. Once again, I was somewhat surprised by the little hunting pressure I encountered. More than last year, when I saw not a soul, but still not bad. Lousy weather and hunting during the week likely contributed to the low turnout. When I arrived in PA on 9May the weather was awful and the forecast not much better. I seriously considered not hunting after Mothers Day and traveling back south to inlaws in TN to trout fish. Things cleared up enough that I bought the nonresident license and had at it......here's how it went.

-Hunt #1, 13May
With no time spent scouting I elected to fall back on prior experience and hunt a mountain close to Mom's with a nice level gated road that runs across the face of the ridge for a mile or so. Points and benches extend from the side of the ridge, forming hollows adjacent, and in seasons past, one could locate gobblers in and around those points. I arrive before dawn and find the gated access and corresponding parking empty, no one here. It's cool and overcast, but at least it's not raining. I walk about halfway in so as to be able to hear a goodly portion of the area. As so often seems to happen, I'd barely stopped when a bird began to gobble somewhere east down the mountain side. Jeez that sounds a long way off.
I wait, hoping one will sound off closer but the only tom vocal is the one in the distance. Oh well, off we go.
Two things become immediately apparent: 1)That bird is far closer than I thought. I am going to get to him and be able to call if he persists just a wee bit longer, and 2) I'm not in the rolling hills of AL anymore. It's steep and ROCKY. As soon as I leave the roadway, I'm into watermelon and suitcased sized rocks and walking in that mess is a challenge. It seems impossible to be stealthy, I'm too busy trying to keep my balance. Nonetheless, despite my clumsy approach, I get to within 200 yds of that bird.
Where I end up is at the head of a steep and narrow hollow that slices east down the side of the mountain. On the north side of this hollow I can just see a slight bowl shaped depression with a corresponding subtle bench. The gobbler is over in that bowl somewhere, and there is little between us but thin air. I'm reluctant to try and get closer, he's sure to seem me. Here at the head of the hollow there is some sort of flat, appearing man made. It might be a good place to call from, whether that gobbler will leave that bowl and climb up the slope here to me is up to him.
He's stlll on the roost, and I get set up and use the trusty slate to waft some soft tree calls to him. No response and he stays quiet for a long time. Not good....at least he heard me. When he gobbles again, I answer and again silence. OK.....when he gobbles next, I stay silent. On his next gobble, I'm silent again. On gobble #3 I answer, he stays silent........but a few minutes later I hear him sail down. Eventually he gobbles again, perhaps closer. I wait 'till he gobbles another time and answer and again he stays silent. When he gobbles next he's for sure closer, maybe 100 yds. I answer and then ditch the slate and get the gun up.
Oh yeah, the gun! The day before, on Mothers Day, my brother -in -law
comes over with my 'Sis for supper and later says to me "I've got a gun for you to use." I tell him I've brought a turkey gun, and a spare to boot, but he says "You'll want to hunt with this one'" He procures a case from his SUV and produces a vintage SXS shotgun. Not just any SXS, but a Hunter Arms "FULTON". Dang thing could be 100 years old, but locks up tight and is fairly light and slender. I tell him I'll hunt it a bit.
I balance the Fulton over my knee, covering the lip of the flat I've settled on, hopeful the gobbler will poke his head up to meet this new girl with the southern accent....but it's not to be. When he gobbles again he's back in the bowl and a few minutes later with his last gobble he's 100 yds further down the hollow and moving way. I pick up and cross over the bowl and find a good spot just beyond that is surprisingly level and rock free. I set up there and call periodically all morning, hoping that the gobbler will drift back here when done with whatever he is doing further east, but hear nothing.
Hunting is done by law at 12:00 noon and out of the woods by 1:00PM. I'm at the SUV by 12:45PM . My plan is to continue to hunt this bird all week.

Last edited by bamaranger; May 27, 2024 at 01:21 AM.
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Old May 24, 2024, 06:02 PM   #2
stagpanther
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If don't mind my asking--approximately where in PA are you hunting?
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Old May 24, 2024, 07:54 PM   #3
bamaranger
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location

PA did it right many years ago and has acquired a lot of public hunting land, known as State Game Lands. Only problem is typically PA has lots of public land hunters (me being one ) I'm hunting in Blair and Huntington counties. The northern tier counties against NY have a better reputation for game, and I suspect higher game numbers, but I'm further south.

Hope that suffices, old turkey hunters never tell the full truth!
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Old May 24, 2024, 08:01 PM   #4
bamaranger
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more

Huntington and Blair counties are part of the "ridge and valley" topography of the state. The ridges/mountains run roughly N/S, parallel for miles, part of the Appalachian chain. Elevation runs around 2500-2700 feet. The valley floors are 800-1000' and are typically large family farms with a number of small towns. It's really pretty country.
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Old May 24, 2024, 08:57 PM   #5
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I grew up in Wash DC and flew hang gliders in many parts of PA--flew a few places in that area near the Susquehanna river north of Saxonburg and others near 81 north like outside McConnelsburg.
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Old May 25, 2024, 02:19 AM   #6
bamaranger
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a late start

Because of the rough terrain, I leave the old Fulton at Mom's and begin to hunt the guns I'd brought, a Mossberg 835 with scope, and a Lanber O/U.
The weather was so crappy for this hunt I took the Mossberg, as it's camo dipped and weather resistant

hunt #2, 14May
The forecast for this day was not promising and I was in no hurry when the alarm went off at 4:30AM. I dressed slowly and drove up the mountain in the mist, certain I would be the only guy crazy enough to hunt in this mess. I was wrong.
When I turned into the access area, there was a dome light from a truck already present. I didn't even slow down, just snapped a U-turn and headed off for another spot. Ended up driving across the valley to another mountain where I'd got on a bird last year. As I drove in the mud down the access road for this area it sure seemed like there'd been a lot of traffic through here. I stopped short at a long R.O.W. and listened at dawn for 15-20 minutes, then drove on back to where I'd hunted last spring.
Full daylight now, I gathered all my regalia, blind, decoy and chair and eased down the mountain to a really nice open point with a dandy flat on the end. Staked out a decoy, popped the blind and settled into the big daddy folding chair and stayed put all morning. It rained lightly off and on , but dry and comfortable in my little play tent, I called sporadically and remained hopeful. I'd seen turkey scratching and dust bowls in my stroll down here, there's little doubt there are turkeys here too. I heard and saw absolutely nothing but tweety birds.

Last edited by bamaranger; May 27, 2024 at 01:29 AM.
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Old May 26, 2024, 05:09 PM   #7
bamaranger
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in early & then bad luck

-hunt #3, 15May
I was determined that nobody would beat me to the ridge where I'd heard the bird on my first hunt, so set the clock extra early. No one was present when I pulled into the access area, and I geared up and hustled down the gated roadway way before dawn. Dropped off the road to the east and picked my way through the rocks and stripped maple to the north side of the hollow and just above the little bowl where the gobbler had been two days before. As day broke I could see the big chestnut oak where I had found roosting feathers on Monday, and where I hoped ol'Tom was this morning. I felt I was in a perfect position. Only problem as it turned out, there was no turkey there as far as I could determine.

When it was light enough, I tree called softly. Later a fly down cackle and yelps. I then called sporadically the rest of the morning, changing strikers, trying the big box, using the mouth call and got no answers. I heard no gobbles in the distance either. Stayed put 6 hours, carefully standing to my feet a couple of times to get the kinks out, then settling back in, all to no avail. Walking out at noon, I found an old mule or cart path that led from the flat at head of the hollow over to this north side and plan to use it to access this same spot tomorrow. I began to wonder if the guy on Tuesday killed this gobbler? The weather has been drizzle and overcast, doubtful there's been much gobbling this week. I bet he's still here.

-hunt#4, 16 May
Back in good time the next morning, I work my way down to the the little flat at the head of the hollow and pause at the start of the old mule path. It's all man made, either from charcoal making to feed the iron ore furnaces in the valley in the 1800's, or from sandstone quarry in the 1900's. The mule path leads straight across to the bowl on the N. side and is a lot easier walking than picking through the rocks and whistlewood. I'm early enough I figure I can get away with it and ease down the path, no light, just slow and careful in the twilight. I don't go 3 steps and a turkey blows out of a tree to my right, not 20 yds away. Nuts, nuts, nuts. The heavy wing beats and powerful launch lead me to believe that was the gobbler, or a gobbler. I sit at the nearest tree, hoping there's another, or maybe that was a hen, but an hour after daylight, nothing else has happened.

I move over to above the bowl and set up on the hollow side, but am defeated. I've bumped what I believe was a gobbler from his roost and if he was not wary enough before, he's certainly is now. I force myself to sit silent all morning, only calling a wee bit after 11:00, the last hour of legal hunting, but hear nothinig......dang......so close.
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Old May 26, 2024, 10:22 PM   #8
bamaranger
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another gray day

-hunt #5, 17May
At dawn there's glimmers of sunlight to the east and I am hopeful that the mulepath gobbler will sound off for the first time since I originally heard him on Monday. But, no gobbles ring out and what little calling I do goes unanswered. As the morning goes on the sky clouds back up. There's a hint of rain and a bit of a breeze as well.

I'm disappointed, I've been in early nearly every day, made a critical mistake and have seen or heard nothing else. About mid-morning a shot rings out somewhere back south towards the access point, further adding to my frustration. I stick it out 'till quitting time nonetheless , but seriously question my decision to focus solely on this one bird and location. I make it back to the SUV at 12:30 just as serious rain arrives.

That evening my brother in law calls, bad weather for Saturday, am I interested in making the rounds of the local gun shops? Sure why not!
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Old May 27, 2024, 01:11 AM   #9
bamaranger
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last hunt and some good luck!

I had a great time visiting some big central PA gunshops and ended up buying a nice old used Leupold 1-4x scope that likely will go on the Mossberg 835. The Mossberg got a 30mm 1-4x late this season, but the objective bell is so large it obstructs easy access to the safety slide. The tidy Leupold should be just the trick. I handled a lot of nice old used guns, there's a big shooting culture in PA.
A Winchester 101, neglected and unloved, ....and priced right, called to me, but I passed and regret it still!

-hunt #6, 20May
There's no Sunday hunting in PA, and I seriously considered calling it quits and leaving after supper with Mom that evening. But the weather forecast looks good, the first really nice morning in a week. Added to that, Monday is the first day you can hunt past 12:00 noon, perhaps that will help on getting on a gobbler later up in the day. I broke out my woods headlamp to make picking thru the rocks easier in the morning and plan to try the mulepath/bowl one more time, despite my reservations.

Monday morning I dropped off the access road in the dark and headed down the mountain aided by the headlamp......and promptly got all turned around in the dark! The valley floor was fogged in, I could not see any lights below, and the side of the hollow with the bowl seemed to all look the same. As dawn broke, east was in the wrong place! I finally got my bearings straight, but it was not the start I wanted. I'd no sooner arrived at my desired destination when a turkey gobbled.....but way to the southeast on the opposites side of the hollow I'd been hunting. I could skirt the hollow easily enough, the old mulepath and flat at the head of the hollow would allow me to get started that way, but the ridge and point on the south side was massive. And as I discovered, steep and rough as well.

I headed that way, the tom gobbling steadily in the growing light, but it became apparent that reaching that steep point he was on was a monumental undertaking. I got within 400 yds or so and now it was full daylight, and I still was not at a location on his ridge where I felt he might readily come to call. I was gassed too, heart pounding and covered in sweat. I pushed a bit further and the ground leveled a bit and the rocks thinned, a bit further and the woods opened up to a long finger ridge sloping gently in the gobblers general direction. The tom was actually on the main slope of the big ridge, opposite the projecting finger , but he MIGHT come off the roost and up the finger ridge with some persuading. I felt I better call to him soon, or he would get down without me having a chance to influence what direction he would go next. Set up was easy, there was a large amount of bit timber here and in a moment I sent some yelps his way with the slate. As a week ago........silence. He gobbled twice more, the second time it was clear he was down and heading in the opposite direction , off the end of his point and south. Same stunt he'd pulled the Monday before. I followed my usual drill of staying in place an hour after his last gobble, but no other gobbles sounded or gobblers appeared. Nothing to do but try to follow.

I headed south and up, staying in the open timber and the more level, less rocky seam I had found on the side of the ridge. Picking my way carefully, I took nearly an hour of easing along and listening, heading for the crest of this new ridge and what seemed like level ground on the top. Once there, I found a suitable spot with good lines of sight and set up again, calling sporadically for about another hour, with no results.

For a third time, I picked up and slid a bit further south, this time on the level ridge top. I'd not gone far when things seemed vaguely familiar. Four or five years ago, I'd hunted this same flat and took a jake out of here. I knew just where I was, and how to get out rather easily as well. In addition, there was a fair amount of relatively fresh turkey scratching about. I found a suitable tree and got comfortable. I'd listen for a bit.

About an hour later, a tremendous racket broke out in the next hollow south. It was a huge gobbler fight, with fighting purrs, gobbles and flapping of wings involving several birds, and withing 200 yds or so of me. I added some coarse gobbler yelps from the old Lohman box to the fray, perhaps one of those scrappers would drift up here . The melee continued for about a full minute, perhaps drawing a bit closer, ascending the slope below me, before things got quiet again. I looked at my watch, it was 11:15.

After a brief wait of 5 minutes or so, I floated some hen yelps on the slate and settled into a call and wait routine, there were gobblers here, close, and I had all afternoon to hunt them. At 12:15, I caught a flash of movement to my front, 80-100 yds out, the limit of my vision. I scoped it with the Mossberg and a pilleated woodpecker fluttered to another snag. I relaxed but then saw more movement, low........that's a turkey! Again, scoping, I realized it was several turkeys and there were multiple gobblers in the little flock too boot!

I risked picking up the slate and sent some yelps their way, two of them raised their heads and looked about, but went back to scratching. The flock slanted across the top, closing the distance between us slightly. As near as I could tell there were at least 3 jakes, at least one mature gobbler, and at least one hen. They were in motion constantly. The jakes would rush about, avoiding the larger tom, but trying to stay somewhat near the hen. The hen would occasionally scoot 10-15 or yards and the entire bunch wood react in turn. About the time I would locate what I thought was a mature tom, the flock would shift and I would loose track of all of them. All of this was happening in a weird mix of open hardwoods and patches of striped maple that were thick enough it was hard to see through. They remained out of sure range, still meandering to and fro about 75-80 yds away.

I began to really pour on the calling, using the mouth call, because by now I had the Mossberg up and leveled in their direction. My mouth calls seemed to be doing little. No gobbles erupted, no gobblers fanned and there seemed only a slight tendency for the flock to move my way. All of this went on for a very long time. The Mossberg weighed a ton, my vision got blurry from staring through the scope trying to track individual birds, and my mouth was very dry from the call and excitement. At one point a (the?) hen arced my way, slipping by at 35-40 yds, casting hard stares in my direction, but none of the gobblers followed her closely, they remained just too far out for a shot.

I was able to glance at my watch, it was 1:15PM, this had been going on for an hour! It would be a long drive back to Alabama if I shot and rolled one and did not recover it. If I did not shoot, I'd have a clear conscience and a good story, but no feathers. Compounding my reluctance to shoot was the fact that the round I had chambered was not a Winchester XR, but a slightly looser patterning XX Supreme. I had figured with the surprisingly dense foliage I was encountering this past week, I needed the more forgiving XX load with its slightly more open pattern, as opposed to the super dense shooting XR. Now I could sure use the extra yards the XR offered. I made the outlandish decision to get an XR in the chamber. Which of course, involved getting the XX out.

It took forever, there were any number of things that could have gone wrong, but I manged to pull it off. EVER SO CAREFULLY I eased the slide back and was able to extract the XX through the ejecton port without a round clacking noisily from the magazine tube. I dropped the XX round at my feet, and extracted an XR from my vest and manually fed it into the chamber. I then EVER SO CAREFULLY ran the slide back forward and locked the gun into battery. I managed this while sitting in semi open woods with at least 5 turkeys 75 yds from me.

Now, I had to get serious about range. I studied carefully, there was a big chestnut oak which I figured was about my limit. If any one of those gobblers walked in front of that tree, and I was steady and on him, I decided I'd shoot. One did , but he did not slow up and disappeared in the understory, again......I needed one to stop and extend his head and neck. Another bird paused in an opening and I ease the gun right a couple of inches and peer through the big Bushnell at 4x. That bird is closer still but......dang hen. Good thing I'm scoped, at these distances it really helps.

THERE....RIGHT THERE!!!!! A gobbler stops in the clear, his red head, neck and wattles unobstructed and I slide the Mossberg further right. He's as close as any has come, but he drops his head again before I can shoot. I tell myself to run the trigger correctly, brace up forearms on knees, and cluck hard on the mouth call. The gobblers head pops back up, I center his wattles and shoot.

I've sat so long and my hands and arms are so wasted from holding the gun up, that the Mossberg rears like an elephant rifle. Looking around the gun I see the gobbler flattened, one wing waving weakly but apparently anchored. I struggle to my feet and wobble down to him, he starts to flop and I pin his neck with my foot until he stops. It's a jake, hard earned and I'm more than pleased. Later he weighs 15 lbs with a 4" beard....a big jake if there's such a thing.

I look back to my set up tree,..... Jeez that's a long way. I pace it off, ....twice,...... the second time concentrating on full paces and a straight line and get a more reasonable number, but I still can't believe how far it is. Longest shot I've ever attempted and under no circumstances would I recommend anyone shoot that far with a lead load. I'm a bit ashamed of it and will not state it in print, lest someone else try it. I knew my load, the 4X scope allowed precise aiming, but there was still a huge dose of luck involved.

I hang the young unlucky gobbler up and figure out the foreign to me PA tagging system. I've got a zip tie and a ball point pen along just for the purpose, but you've got to cut the thing in the right place too. It takes a while to collect all my stuff. I find the discarded XX and my slate call up where I sat. I find the ejected XR hull as well. In the course of pinning the gobbler I lost one of my strikers and it takes a while to find it too. I make a point of retaining the stripped maple walking stick I cut the first morning that has propped me up all week in the rocks.

I stretch out in the shade in sight of the hanging gobbler, drink the last of my water and relish how lucky I am just today and to be able to hunt spring gobblers as much as I do. It's all over 'till next year......but I do love it so.
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Old May 27, 2024, 03:05 AM   #10
stagpanther
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excellent!
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