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Double Up On Georgia Mountain Turkeys

First double after 14 years of hunting.

Nathan Unger | March 7, 2019

Hunting eastern wild turkeys in north Georgia might just be one of the most invigorating hunts a Georgian can experience. It is hard to beat the chilly, crisp mornings when gobblers are hammering on the roost right before their thunderous fly-down. The anticipation builds as the gobbles echo through hollows that stretch as far as the eye can see.

I grew up turkey hunting with my dad and brother, and by the time I was 10, I carried my own little single-shot .410 into the woods while my dad hoisted his Mossberg 500 12 gauge over his shoulder. I thought I was something. Every spring, we would make the trip to Helen, grab a bite to eat and then head to our primitive camping spot for the weekend. We would set up camp and try to cast a line for some north Georgia rainbow trout before sundown.

I would hardly sleep knowing that in the morning we would make the trek up the mountain to an open bluff or plateau at a nearby WMA or national forest. Nine times out of 10, public land was the only option for us to hunt, so while hearing gobbles wasn’t unheard of, you still had to cover some ground to find the birds in what seemed a sparse wild turkey population. Otherwise, you would just have to sit and wait them out. Man, those were good days.

Fast forward 15 hunting seasons later. I’ve tried to take what I learned from Dad and apply it to my own turkey hunting. It took me a decade and a half to kill my first double, and I learned a few lessons about hunting turkeys in the mountains along the way.

Most Mature Toms Have Heard Every Call In The Book

While the Georgia mountains provide some rural areas, it’s hard to find a bird that hasn’t interacted with a human at one point in its life. Compared to the rest of North America, eastern turkeys seem like the hardest bird to kill. A lot of times you can cheat and get away with messing up a cluck, purr or cutt. However, you better believe if you call too much, you might never see or hear a bird the rest of the hunt, especially on public land. I’ve learned that the hard way over the years.

I’ve seen and heard turkeys at long distances but failed over and over again trying to get those birds in close. If you’ve turkey hunted any number of times, you probably have, as well. Do not call at these birds a lot. If they respond to you once, they know where you’re at, and your job is done. The No. 1 thing on the mind of the gobbler is a hen. If there’s one in front of him, good luck trying to get him to come to you. You’ll have better luck trying to get the hen to come to you.

Hunt Above The Bird

Time and time again in the north Georgia mountains, birds above you that gobble at you will do so until they are blue in the face, literally. They will more than likely not come down. Oftentimes, we get the misconception that the hens call the gobblers instead of vice versa. That gobbler, no doubt, wants that hen to come to him but more than likely it will not go down a mountain to get to her. To date, I still have not had a gobbler come down an incline to check me out. I know it can happen once in a blue moon, but it’s unlikely.

Persistence Pays Off

During the 2017 turkey season, I embarked on a hunt one early morning. It was crisp and cool. I got to my spot early and had already heard some gobbling in the distance. I decided to set up over a clover plot where I had seen a lot of turkey sign prior to this hunt. It was at the base of a mountain with a combination of hardwoods and pines towering above me.

As daylight broke, I caught some movement. My heart started pounding as I fought to remain as still as a statue. It was not even 7:30 yet, and two birds had crested the other side of a gully at the base of the mountain in front of me without even making a peep. My Mossberg 500 was barely resting on my leg. I strained for what seemed like several minutes. Finally, the birds distracted each other momentarily, giving me enough time to get my gun up and shoot. After the smoke from my muzzle cleared, I could see a bird flop a couple of times and then lay 20 yards in front of me. I found myself shaking with joy and adrenaline.

I walked over to the bird, looked at it and was thankful for my first bird. I corralled my things, which would take two trips to the vehicle since I now had a bird to lug.

Upon my second trip, I climbed a hill that overlooked a cow pasture, and as I walked into the field, there stood four strutting birds eyeing one lucky hen. Had there not been an island of trees between us, those birds surely would have spotted me as they weren’t but 80 yards away. I jumped behind a tree and quickly came up with a plan to harvest my second bird of the season.

I army crawled about 15 yards closer and hit my trough call lightly to let the toms know that I was there. Then I quit. While they didn’t sprint toward me, they did peek their heads up to check out the situation in case their attempts with the hen failed. The small flock inched closer and closer, following the single hen wherever she went. Finally, they had inched close enough to provide a shot.

As soon as the first bird presented its curious head, I pulled the trigger. The bird did a complete flip and went down. The 40-yard shot put the bird down. I had harvested my second bird by 8:30 a.m. I now was tasked with carrying two birds to my vehicle, but of course, I did not complain one bit, as I had just taken my first double ever while turkey hunting.

Truthfully, I thank my dad, even though he was three states away, for teaching me the woodsmenship of turkey hunting. Through countless hunts of more failures than successes, all of it had brought me to that point in the middle of a cow pasture with two birds in hand. It was a Georgia mountain hunt I will soon not forget.

Editor’s Note: Nathan Unger is the host of the Whitetail Guru Hunting Podcast.

 

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