Many more turkey seasons like this one and I’ll have to carry a photo of a gobbler in my pocket to remember what one looks like.
I hunted three times – once in Watertown, once in Trousdale County and once in north Wilson County – and didn’t see a single turkey.
On the Watertown hunt partner Dustin Dowdy thought he heard some turkeys flying down off the roost shortly after daybreak. It sounded like they landed over a rise in an adjacent field so we made a stalk through a treeline and popped up, ready to blast away.
It wasn’t a flock of turkeys. It was a flock of buzzards, dining on a dead deer.
That’s what I’ve come to: stalking buzzards.
Next I hunted in Trousdale County with Clarence Dies. Clarence had earlier killed a gobbler in Wilson County, and with the TWRA’s new one-bird per-county fall limit he had to try a new county.
We sat in the wet, cold weeds, shivering from before dawn until 10 a.m. There was no sight or sound of a turkey.
The next day we hunted on Clarence’s farm in the north part of Wilson – or I hunted, while Clarence left his gun at home and did the calling. If there’s a turkey to be called, Clarence can call it.
At one point we thought we might have heard a distant yelp, but it could have been a woodpecker choking on a bug. Other than that, nothing.
In the past I’ve had good luck hunting on Roy Denney’s farm in Gladeville, but this fall the usual giant flocks of turkeys had dwindled down to just a handful, so Roy decided not to hunt.
He made one exception, having auctioned off a hunt during the spring Friends of NRA fund-raiser. Justin Morgan made the winning bid, and it paid off with a gobbler that came to Roy’s calling. (He was using a Three Tracks box call hand-crafted by Clarence, which was also a Friends of NRA auction item.)
During the spring season I managed to bag a jake on a hunt with Clarence. It came on one of 11 spring hunts I went on. I didn’t fire a shot on the other 10.
For the year, I went on 14 turkey hunts, fired one shot, killed one turkey. They were hard hunts – rolling out of bed at 3 a.m., driving over 100 miles round- trip, stumbling up ridges in the dark, sitting in the cold … and not a turkey to be found.
For years I tried to tell the TWRA the turkeys had vanished on a farm I hunt in Giles County. The experts phoo-phooed. They said there were plenty of turkeys; I simply wasn’t seeing them.
Finally the experts couldn’t deny it: the turkeys had vanished. And now they are vanishing in other areas. Nobody knows why. Even the experts are stumped. Until they can figure out the problem, they can’t come up with a solution. So far all they’ve done is close the fall season in some counties and reduce the once-liberal six-bird limit to one turkey in others.
Hopefully eventually someone can find a solution and bring back the turkeys.
Otherwise, I may take up bowling.