Outdoor columnist Dan Geddings: It's on


The dark woods were eerily silent. The sky was overcast and gray, and the songbirds had not yet started to call. Daylight was coming very slowly. I was hunkered down at the base of a big pine - waiting. I felt like this was the right spot. It was opening day.

I had walked in from the highway an hour before daylight with no light, following a plowed fire break. My seat in the thick pine straw was soft and comfortable. I was dressed warmly. My left ear felt unusually cold, so I turned up my collar on that side.

As the dim light increased, I pulled on my gloves and face mask. My only movement now was to turn my head from side to side and to look up into the tree tops around me. Maybe I would see one against the sky. I expected to hear something any time now.

There was a faint glow of red in the clouds just above the horizon to the east. After a few minutes the glow faded, and the clouds seemed to get darker. Movement out in the hardwoods caught my attention, and I realized it was a deer walking toward me. It stopped and just stood there a long time then finally turned back and started walking away slowly.

The deer stopped again and stood very still. After a few minutes, it started blowing softly. I've never heard one do that. Then I noticed another deer and another. They were not looking in my direction but were clearly alerted. Now I realized why my ear had been so cold earlier. There was a soft breeze blowing in that direction, and the deer had picked up my scent. They eventually moved on.

Now my attention was focused back on the timber around me. I pulled out my box call and made a few soft yelps. Nothing answered. Even though it was early the woods were illuminated now, and I knew any birds in the area would be on the ground. My patience runs poorly when nothing is happening, and I got up and surveyed the woods around me. I called some more. Again, nothing answered.

A distant shot broke the morning calm. "Well maybe somebody got one," I thought. I had scouted this area several times and knew there were turkeys using this area, but they were not evident on this day. I headed back to the truck. I stopped and called several times along the way. More silence.

I decided to try another area where I had seen some turkeys several times. There was a very light rain falling when I got to the new area. I had put up a ground blind earlier for just such an occasion. I stepped into the blind and sat down in a very comfortable camp chair. I could hear the rain softly pattering on the roof of the blind. After I sat quietly for a while, I pulled out my call and made a single yelp.

A gobbler answered straight out in the woods in front of me. I waited a moment and called again. He answered again. He was a good ways out, and I was hopeful that he would come. After a few minutes, he gobbled on his own, and I realized that indeed he was closer. I answered with a yelp, and he cut my call with a gobble. I said to myself, "oh boy, it's on."

The rain had eased now, and the sun peeked out. I saw a dark shape move between the pines and eased my gun up. He gobbled very close. I could feel the excitement in the air. Now I could see a red, white and blue head coming. His wattles were red, his face was blue, and the crown of his head was brilliant white. His dark body glimmered with iridescent colors. The gobbler stepped out into the open and stopped. It was a year-old turkey - a jake. They are legal - but.

Most old turkey hunters won't shoot a jake, realizing they are our longbeards for next year. I lowered my gun, and the bird picked me out. It turned away clucking. There were two other jakes behind him, and they all turned away clucking and putting alarm calls.

When the turkeys melted back into the timber, I stepped out of the blind and headed back to my truck. The rain came back, and it was heavier this time.

Email cdgeddings@gmail.com.