I didn't need an alarm opening morning, as usual. You'd think the excitement of going hunting would wane as I get older, but if it does, I haven't experienced it yet.
I heard a gobble first thing way off, and hooted a couple times to make sure there wasn't one closer by before I took off after him. When I got most of the way to the gobble, I never heard him again, but heard a different bird 90 degrees in another direction, but not too far off. Well, I THINK it was a different bird altogether, but it could have been that my bearings were that confused.... But anyway, it was getting late by then, and on the way to that bird, I spooked a hen off the ground. So, I stopped there to calm down, catch my breath, and listen for another gobble. He gobbled again, and was on the ground so I eased off that way to start working him.
To make a long story short, he had hens, and they took him almost directly away from me, not wanting my warm company. I trailed them for a bit, with no way to circle around in front due to the terrain. Never got them to let me get closer than 100 yds away, and soon they disappeared from my radar completely when the gobbling ceased. In the meantime, I'd heard another bird gobble way off, so when the first bird quit messing with me altogether, I went off after the other bird.
To make another long story short, that bird had hens also, and those hens also didn't want my company. It's relatively abnormal for me to have hens on opening day (when they are typically more sociable than later on) avoiding my company, so I was a bit miffed. And I'd spent the best hours of the day chasing and fooling with contrary hens and their gobbler escorts. Both birds would gobble only occasionally at me, and the way they walked off and gobbled had the earmarks of accompanying hens. I got close enough to see the 2nd bird and hens, already off the property scratching around, and slowly heading away. While I had them in sight, I called to watch their reaction, and sure enough, their slow feeding changed to a quick walk.
Feeling a tinge of frustration, I decided to go to a couple other areas of the property and do some cold calling. I did, and I got no action. By then I'd walked a long way, and was pooped. So at about 12:30 I decided to go get some lunch, and then head off to my favorite lazy afternoon spot a couple counties away. So I did.
With a belly full of Eastern NC BBQ and fries, at about 2:20, I quietly sneaked into my spot via the strategic undercover route to avoid as much disturbance as possible, calling quietly as I got close to make sure no birds were in there before I was. Finding the coast was clear, I sat down under that familiar holly tree, in the shade. I'd killed several birds from that exact spot over the last 10 years. I had granola bars, pop tarts and water in my vest - prepared to stay right there and call from that spot till dark. Snoozing was on the agenda if nothing showed up promptly. I was feeling the effects of the early wake up and physical exertion, and at my age, a nap is welcome any day; particularly in the shade, on a pleasant, sunny afternoon like this one.
At about 2:40, I made my 4th round of yelps, and was contemplating laying down to catch a needed wink. But that thought was rudely interrupted by a gobble, about 80 yds away. I simultaneously answered him back, whirled around to face him and clicked off the safety - feeling certain that he would materialize within range shortly. I was set up so that I'd be able to see him before he could see me from that direction, and he'd be well within range.
Sure enough, about two minutes and a quiet yelp later, I saw movement through the undergrowth quartering to me, left to right. And then I saw a second black object, in full strut. Then a third.... Turns out there were three gobblers, with no hens. I put the bead on the head of the middle strutter, and waited for him to stop and look around for that hen...
To make the encounter that much more satisfying, the two surviving gobblers hung around, reluctant to leave their fallen comrade, apparently oblivious to what caused him to lay there so still and unresponsive. (1-1/2 oz of TSS 9-1/2s at 20 yds tend to elicit that muted response.) I sat motionless in that semi-awkward position with no back-rest, and watched them for the next 45 minutes until my left leg started to cramp in two places, and had to move to get some relief one way or another.
Did I mention how much I like that place?