Hunting Wild Turkeys in the Ozark Mountains
I've only been in Arkansas for (3) months now. I began pre-season scouting (6) weeks ago. I happened to be out looking for places to hunt. One thing I must warn about new comers to Arkansas: If you're used to getting permission to hunt on someone else's land with ease, FORGET ABOUT IT when you're in Arkansas. I've found that I fall behind sons, daughters, uncles, aunts,in-laws....you get the picture. I did happen to find a guy, Buddy Wofford, is his name. I'd like to thank him right here for gving me permission to hunt his land. I also got permission from a guy I work with here at the University of Arkansas. I haven't mentioned it, but I am a graduate assistant strength & conditioning coach here at the university. Thats what I am doing in Arkansas. Before that I attended the University of Colorado. Colorado's turkey population is very sparce. Needless to say, I didn't hunt them there.
I begin my scouting back in early February, thats when I got permission from Buddy. I walked around, ALOT. Found some sign, but nothing to get excited about.
February 26, 1997
: I happened to mention to fellow worker, Sean, that I was scouting for turkeys in Crosses, AR. It just so happened that Sean owned land up there to, and it borders National Forest. He told me how to get there, and my weekend was planned.
March 2, 1997
: I headed up to Sean's land. My girlfriend and I found it and began our walk. Sean's land was on top of a mountain. Which way to go down the ridge? Right or left? We chose left. After walking for about an hour, a few scratchings were all the evidence I could find. As Judi and I walked back, I had a itch to check the right side of the ridge. Not more than 100 yards from where we began our trip.....I found heaven! Scratchings galore! It looked as though the birds had just been through. I had found my spot. Funny, I could see Buddy's land from where we stood, and there was hardly any sign. Huh?
Weekend of March 8 - 9
: Weather was not cooperative. I didn't feel like getting up early.
March 17 - 23...Spring Break!
The early part of the week the weather was crap.
Wednesday March 19, 1997
: The weather finally broke mid-morning. I couldn't take it, I had to get out. My time was rushed because at 330, I had to pick Judi up from work. I left at Noon, and got there, speeding of course, in less than an hour. My pace for my walk was going to be intense. I took my topo map and hoofed it. I had found a ridge that the birds had been hitting hard. I began there. As I looked through my binoculars, I could see a field. It was there on the map, maybe a strutting area?
The field wasn't cut, the grass was high, with fresh cattle tracks. The topo map showed some flat 'tables' below from where I stood in the field. The time was 130, and I had two hours, but at least one was needed to get Judi. I figured I'd get a feel for the land and come back later. Good choice. I began walking down the side of the mountain and immediately found scratchings. Then, I heard it. A yelp. Then another. A few more, then it stopped. That was good enough. I was psyched, and would be back.
Saturday March 22, 1997: The alarm went off at 5am. It was hard, but I got up. Got dressed and out the door I went. I was excited, I saw the Hale-Bopp comet. Very Awesome. I wanted to get in the woods by sunrise, I figured the birds would be gobbling by now. Nope. And to top it off, it was windy. I HATE THE WIND! Not a gobble.
I drove down to Buddy's land. I walked onto his land and there were fresh scratchings. How do I know they were fresh? Well, the yelping kinda gave it away. Funny, a month ago, hardly any sign. Now there were birds...huh? I walked around, and ended up spooking them. Oh well.
Sunday March 23, 1997: Back up at 5am. Ths time the wind was calm and it was going to be a beautiful day. There's the Hale-Bopp again. I got to Sean's land by sunrise. Nothing, again. I was pissed. Don't you hate getting up that early and hearing nothing? It bothers me. Anyways, I began my walk. The sun was very bright.Then I heard it. A gobble! The tom was very far away, but he was loud enough to know it was a gobbler. I headed to the ridge where I heard the yelping. No fresh scratchings to be found. I walked and found an four-wheeler trail. I walked it and it switch-backed the mountain. Do you ever get that feeling deep down inside that knows something's up? Well, I had that feeling. I thought I had heard some clucking, but I didn't pay attention. I should've. Not looking up and all the sudden the woods came alive. I could hear the foot steps running through the leaves. The birds were rightin front of me. Fresh scratching everywhere! I walked the rest of that mountain. The birds were hitting that ridge hard. It was 815 when I spooked them. They'll be back. So will I.
Saturday March 29, 1997
: I got up at 415 this morning. I just knew there'd be lots of gobbling this morning. I got to Sean's land just before sunrise. Oh yeah, backing up. Saw Hale-Bopp again. Alot lower in the sky than the week before. OK. I got out of the car and listened. And listened. And listened. Nothing! How can it be? It's gobblin' season...don't the birds know that?! Needless to say, I was upset. More than anything because I could be in bed.
I took a drive to Buddy's land. Nothing. Not even any fresh sign. Monday I'm gonna call the state and talk to Mike Widner. He's a renowned turkey biologist. I'll get to the bottom of the silence.
: I was gonna go out.
Wednesday April 2, 1997
Called Arkansas Fish & Game yesterday. Asked why there has been silence in the woods? I talked with a turkey biologist, I forget his name. He told me that right now the gobblers shoud begin to gobble. Arkansas patterns its spring season after Missouri's. When the gobblers go into a "lull", as he called it, that is when the spring season begins. What a "lull" is, it's when the gobblers are henned up and they gobble very little. Great, I've hardly heard the birds to begin with. Now I'm going out first day, Monday April 7, and its gonna be silent. Wonderful. Just wonderful.
Friday April 3, 1997
Finished my turkey shopping by picking up a push-button box call that I can attach to my gun. Its made by Lohman's, I believe.
Sunday April 6, 1997
The weather these past days has been terrible. Yesterday it rained all night and into the morning. Today it is very windy. Opening day is supposed to be cool. I don't care, I'm even lying to my boss to get the day off. I love turkey hunting and work sucks. No, my boss is a jerk. Anyways, I'm heading up to my spot this evening to camp for the night. I've waited all winter for this. Spring Turkey in the Ozarks is here!
Monday April 7, 1997
Opening day! :-( I went to my hunting grounds last night to set up camp. I thought I had all my gear. I thought wrong. At about 1130Pm last night, I woke up to realize that I forgot my bread & butter, i.e., my camo jacket with ALL my calls! And I couldn't do a thing about it. My girlfriend dropped me off and she took the car. I was up shits creek without a paddle.
Anyways, I went to a spot where I had recently spooked some birds. Sure enough, I got there at 830am and not 2 minutes later a gobbler went off. I couldn't do a thing. Besides, he had hens. And, later in the day, I spooked a hen from the same area. All in all, today was a scouting trip. I'll be in the same spot, with my calls, and let the gobbler come to me.
Last Update: Monday April 7, 1997 9:45:33PM CST