Turkey Triple In Peach County
Hunter's Journal: GON readers share their favorite hunt stories.
By Adam Reas
This story starts way before the 2020 turkey season. It’s years in the making leading up to opening day March 21, 2020 and tagging out by 8:30 in the morning.
May 2014 is when I first gained access to the property. It was close to the end of turkey season when a friend, Steve, and I decided to go in blind not knowing what birds were on the property. As we walked up to the field, we saw a turkey in full strut. We didn’t have permission to the field, so we tried to call the tom out of the field with no luck. He followed the hens down to the other end, so we high-tailed it down there. This back-and-forth went on, and the day ended with us watching him walk off.
The next season two birds were harvested on the property, but I did not have a turkey sighting. This property was playing hard to get. The property is just over 200 acres with a creek to the north and three ponds. Hearing birds was not a problem. The issue was they were always roosted over the creek and rarely flew down on my side. I would go on a ridge and listen. Every time, I would see the turkeys in the trees and watch them fly down away from me. It didn’t matter what tactics I used. Nothing worked to get these birds down on my side.
Seasons 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 all went the exact same way. I started to get very frustrated. I even questioned my abilities as a hunter. Through all these years, we worked hard learning the terrain, planting and running feeders.
In the fall of 2019, we changed our food plot program. We previously planted a fall mix of oats, beans, rape and radishes. This worked well as far as deer hunting goes—I harvested an 8-point non-typical deer that made the GON magazine—but we switched over to clover and chicory. My 9-year-old son harvested his best buck, a 132-inch 11-pointer on Oct. 23. We started seeing more bucks while in the stand, and more turkeys started showing up. This was not a cheap transition, with soil samples, fertilizer and lime, plus the cost of clover. However, it was already paying off in a short time.
Deer season ended, and our efforts shifted to controlling the pig population, which hadn’t been a problem until the drought of 2019. A total of 17 pigs had been killed. The last one was a giant 250-plus boar we spotted while scouting the night before the youth season opened. While out that evening, we heard three birds. Again, they were over the creek, and I told my son we would try in the morning, cautioning him that they might go down the other way. I was a little more optimistic due to a picture I received two weeks before showing me two mature birds headed to one of the clover plots.
The next morning, we headed out and walked to the ridge to listen. In front was the creek with a fire break running the west side of the property with young pines. The toms started sounding off over the creek. We waited to see if we heard one back close to those pines. I thought we would have a better chance at one from that direction. Sure enough, we heard one from the pines. I was sure it was on our side of the creek. We just had to get him to come to us.
We quickly eased down the firebreak and set up about 25 yards or so in the hardwoods, my son sitting between my legs. Once we got ready, I called and two hammered behind us. I turned and saw turkeys strutting where we just left. I couldn’t believe they came to our side. We made a quick adjustment and turned around. I called softly, and they gobbled. I could see them making their way down the ridge to us from our right angling to our left. I could feel my son’s heartbeat from his back as they got within 50 yards. I told him to take the safety off and get ready.
There were three longbeards coming in. Just as they got within range of his 20 gauge, they turned and started going up our right side. At this point I knew not putting the decoys out was a mistake, but I whispered to my son to slowly ease up, turn to put the bead on the last one’s head and shoot. Well, he did, but he rushed and missed.
We sat there and just talked about what just happened. I reminded him how much of a blessing it is just to get out in the woods, noting that it had been years since I had turkeys in front of me on this property. Just to have that much excitement was all worth it. It’s called hunting, not killing, and it’s not always that easy.
March 21 comes. I woke my son up, and he says he doesn’t want to go, so out the door I went. I made my way down to the creek, but this time I faced the creek. As light began to break, I saw movement in the trees over the creek, and a turkey flies down 30 yards in front of me. As soon as he hits the ground, he starts strutting. He’s big, and I can hear him drumming—it’s like he was shaking the ground. A few minutes later, four or five hens flew down, then a tom and another tom. They begin to strut, and the bigger bird chases them off. Ten minutes or so go by, and the hens start to filter off to my left toward the pines with the big tom in tow. I called, he looks up and BOOM! I just harvested my first bird off this property in six years.
I just sat there, watching him flop around, so thankful. I go down and look at him—what a beautiful bird. He had a 10 3/4-inch beard and 1 1/2-inch spurs. I carried him back over to where I was sitting and gathered my things and started to walk up the firebreak. About 20 minutes later and 100 to 120 yards from where I was sitting, I heard a gobble from the pines. I knew the guy hunting in that area, so I stopped and listened. I heard three more gobbles, and I texted my friend Tyler, “Are you going to kill that bird or what?”
He responded, “They got by us.”
I saw that text and knew those birds were coming at me, so I backed up in the woods. This time I put out my decoys, and I sat down. I called, and he hammered. He was 150 or so yards away. I sat quietly for five minutes, and I called again. He cut me off from about 60 yards. I’m thinking that I was about to double up. Then he appeared from the pines. He hit the firebreak, saw my decoy and started strutting. I didn’t want him to get too far to my left, so I called, and as soon as he puts his head up, I shot. As soon as he started flopping around, a second bird came out of nowhere and proceeded to fight the downed bird. I was in shock. Seconds go by, and I’m trying to decide if I take him or not—three birds off one small property is a lot. My season would be over, but I kept thinking this would never happen again. I yelled at the him, he looked up, and I tagged out, and it was only 8:30 a.m.
All three birds had over 10-inch beards and over 1-inch spurs, all mature birds. I still can’t get the smile off my face when I think about that morning.
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Hunt stories should be close to 1,200 words and contain at least one photo at least 2 MB in size. To submit Hunter’s Journal stories and photos, e-mail to [email protected] or mail to: GON Hunter’s Journal,4331 Seven Islands Road, Madison, GA 30650.
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