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Outside the turkey kill box

BY DAN GEDDINGS
Outdoor Columnist
Posted 5/12/19

The property has two agricultural fields, a fish pond and several hundred acres of natural piney woods. Timber company lands join the tract on three sides. A state highway borders the eastern side of the property.

Our Lowcountry hunt club leases …

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Outside the turkey kill box

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The property has two agricultural fields, a fish pond and several hundred acres of natural piney woods. Timber company lands join the tract on three sides. A state highway borders the eastern side of the property.

Our Lowcountry hunt club leases this property, several other private tracts and large sections of the timber company land. One of the other private tracts, and about half of the timber company land that we lease, borders the Edisto River east of the highway. There is a large clubhouse on a bluff right above the river. I've been a member going on eight years now.

I've had good luck with the turkeys on this club and have taken many on the private tract with the fields. In fact, all the gobblers that I have shot on this particular property have been taken in a relatively small portion of one of the fields.

The biggest field is about a hundred acres, is rectangular shaped and joins the highway. The fish pond and a narrow drainage separates the big field from a smaller field of about 50 acres. The smaller field is shaped somewhat like an hourglass with the top leaning over to the left. The narrowest point at the bend is about 60 yards wide.

There is a woodland road that leaves the field here and winds its way around through several hundred acres of piney woods. The woods are thick here, and the road is often used by the turkeys to access the field. The top of the hourglass-shaped field joins a timber company road and a large cut-over.

On a hunt earlier this year, I sat on the edge of this smaller field and thought about the turkeys that I've shot here over the last eight years. If I drew an imaginary box across the field centered on the woodland road, the boundaries of the box would be about 120 feet long by about 60 feet wide. All the turkeys have been shot in this imaginary box.

During the Iraqi War, air support operated in a target-rich environment, and they were usually assigned an operational sector that they referred to as a "kill box." I've borrowed that term.

I've had such good luck here that I've come to think of this section of the field as a turkey "kill box." I usually put up a ground blind here and hunt the area mostly in the afternoons.

After a couple of uneventful evening hunts from the ground blind, I decided to try a morning hunt and was delighted to encounter several gobblers. One gobbler roosted to the right of the woodland road and came out into the field but would not come into my imaginary box. The other gobbler roosted to the left of the road and would not come close but crossed the field several times on the end toward the road and cut-over. Several more morning hunts produced the same results.

I finally decided that the area was actually a turkey "no man's land." Some dominant gobblers are territorial and will not tolerate another male turkey in their area. These birds would not encroach on the boundaries between them, which just happened to be in my kill box. So, I moved my ground blind to the end of the field where the left side gobbler crossed.

During the last few days of the season, the weather was unsettled, with foggy mornings and chances of rain. I don't usually sit in a ground blind in the mornings, but I was anxious about the weather and slipped into the ground blind just before dawn. Turkeys are moody birds and don't respond well on stormy days, and I was surprised to hear one gobble. He was at the bend of the field in the woods directly behind where I had been sitting on my recent hunts.

After a while, it got quiet, and I could see something in the fog at the edge of the woods. My binoculars showed me it was a gobbler - strutting 20 yards from the wood line in my imaginary kill box. I called, and he answered every call but didn't come one step closer. He eventually walked across the field in the opposite direction and disappeared in the fog.

It took about an hour for the fog to burn off, and I called occasionally but got no answer. Then something caught my attention. A large, dark-colored bird was running across the field. My binoculars showed me it was a big gobbler, and he was being chased by an even bigger gobbler. They ran into the woods road at the kill box, and here I was, sitting 300 yards away.

I waited about 15 minutes then took out my slate call and made a series of very loud, high-pitched calls. By now, my spirits were very low, and I was surprised to look up and see a longbeard standing at the edge of the field. He turned and started my way!

I've been hunting turkeys for more than 25 years, but to see one coming like that makes my heart beat faster and gets me as excited as the first one that came to me.

It didn't work out, and I didn't get the gobbler, but what could I expect - I was outside the kill box.

Reach Dan Geddings cdgeddings@gmail.com.