Outdoor Chenango: Sometimes You Miss
Published: April 26th, 2023
By: Eric Davis

Outdoor Chenango: sometimes you miss

This past weekend I was a mentor for the Chenango County Youth Turkey Hunt as part of the special Youth Turkey Season. This was the fourth year of my participation as a mentor. Each of those years, I have requested and received NWTF Superfund money to help support everything that happens with the hunt.

In late March, I assisted in teaching a Hunter Education course for a church group in Greene. Once the course was over, I asked if any of the students would be interested in participating in the Youth Turkey Hunt. Two brothers who took the course said they were, so I provided them with the flyer and application form. We went over the form, and I told them that I needed it ASAP since the deadline was that week. Once things all shook out, my brother-in-law and I were mentoring one of the brothers.

Saturday morning, we headed to a farm in Smithville that had given me permission to hunt only on the youth weekend. I had tried to roost a bird Friday night, but the wind was too strong making it hard to hear. So, we headed for the top of the hill, figuring we could hear turkeys from any direction from there. As it got light, finally a turkey gobbled across the road. We waited a few more minutes to try to see if there were any turkeys closer before trekking across the road. Instead, another turkey started gobbling also across the road but closer to where we were. We hopped in the truck and drove to a pull off down the road. Once we got out, we could tell the closer gobbling was a group of jakes. Not knowing the lay of the land in the woods where they were roosted, we set our decoys up in a field that seemed like it might be close enough to get them to check out. After a few minutes, they stopped gobbling completely. We sat there a little bit longer just in case they were coming in silently, but nothing materialized.

The farmer had told me about a roadway that led up towards where the first bird gobbled, so we decided to check it out. There was a field at the end of the roadway, and we stopped short of it and called. No response. There was another trail that met the roadway, so we walked it for a half mile or so. Stopping and calling every few minutes, with no responses. When the trail turned to a steep uphill section, we turned around and made our way back.

When we got to where we could see the opening in the treetops for the field, I stopped and called. A turkey yelped back and didn’t sound too far away. I quickly set a hen decoy in the trail as my brother-in-law got our youth hunter situated against a tree. Once I sat down, I called again. Within 30 seconds I could hear something walking in the leaves behind us. I tried to swivel my head to the right to see what it was but couldn’t.

I heard my brother-in-law whisper, “Left.” I swiveled my head the other direction to see a jake standing about 17 yards in front of us. Then three more jakes made their way out of the brush. They all walked over to the hen decoy. I got the hunter to take of the safety of his shotgun and then spent the next few minutes trying to pick a turkey to shoot safely. They were so close together he would likely shoot more than one turkey. Finally, one bird moved to the right from the group, and I asked him if he had the bead aimed at the base of the neck of that turkey. He whispered he did so I told him to take a breath and squeeze the trigger. POW! All four jakes jumped up and came back down. They slowly started to walk off. I tried to get the youth hunter to run the pump on his shotgun to get another shot but when he did, the turkeys got into the brush where he couldn’t get a shot.

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I think in the chaos of trying to pick which turkey to aim at, the hunter picked his head up off from the stock and didn’t put it back down before shooting.

The jakes worked off back to the field but started gobbling like crazy. So, we circled around to the other side of the field and set up again. They came out of the field and walked by at about 35 yards, right on the fringe of where I would want a youth hunter to shoot. We got his safety off, and he was ready, but they wouldn’t come any closer. They worked off again and we decided to try checking another spot since they were skittish after the miss.

We checked two other spots without any success. Our hunter seemed a little disappointed in missing, but we had to reassure him that missing is part of turkey hunting. I dug up some old wounds while talking about the turkey I missed in high school, in college, and as recently as 2021. Knowing that he wasn’t the only person to miss a turkey seemed to help him get reset mentally.