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Last Call

The colors of a late season turkey

A recent conversation with a legend in the turkey woods told me, “I always save my last tag for the last day of the season. There’s something about watching the sun set on the last day that makes my season complete.”

For true turkey hunters there is a lot of truth in that statement. Most of us are out there on opening morning watching the sunrise in anticipation of the first morning gobble that brings in the season. Few hunt the last day – and fewer still, sit and listen for the gobblers to fly to their roost on that last day, and listen to the birds exclaim – “maybe next year.”

As a turkey hunter for the past thirty four years, I can attest that every part of the season has its ups and downs. Anticipation of early season often finds birds willing to gobble, but plenty of hens to distract their attention from our subtle calls. By the middle of the season either we have grown weary or the birds smarter. Most likely it’s both. Some hens are setting, others are wandering around looking for Mr. Right. This time of year later in the morning seems to be more productive. Then there are the die-hards who hunt until the last day hoping to get that bird. Late season turkey hunting can be and often is entirely different than early season. However, if I could only hunt one day of our South Carolina turkey season – it would be the last day.

Killing turkeys on the last day is always a bit more rewarding for me than killing one on the first day. You are expected to kill one on opening day. But the expectations of killing a mature bird on the last day is, how do you say – nonexistent.

It takes a different approach to kill turkeys on the last day. Fortunately I have been able to kill birds on the last day many times. And while nothing in the turkey woods is a sure fire approach – not in the least – it seems that when hunting late, softer is better.

This past season as the last day approached, I staked out a bird that I wanted to dedicate to the last day. He was roosting along a very large beaver swamp. As morning awoke, he gobbled on the other side of the swamp, a good four hundred yards across from where I was set up. I decided to wait and start my soft calling.

Last day Bird

I set up near the crest of a ridge but instead of being on the side he would fly to, I set up over the ridge about fifteen yards so he wouldn’t see me if he flew over. Beginning with soft yelps from a trumpet call I started my serenade. For over an hour I never heard a sound except my soft yelps and clucks made with my trumpet. Then a few scratches with my tried and true M.L. Lynch World Champion box call that is in its 34th season with me. An hour passed when I heard him gobble on my side of the swamp. I never heard nor saw him fly across. From the time he gobbled on my side he was maybe one hundred yards away. A few more soft clucks from the trumpet put him at thirty.

Now is where the patience steps in. While he was well within range, I couldn’t see him clearly through the deadfalls and brambles of the ridge top. A flash of his blue-white head brought me to atttention. My Benelli eased to my shoulder as I watched, at fifteen yards he gobbled again, just as the bead steadied itself on his neck, the sun broke through the clouds and his bronze, teal colors emerged causing me to pause and watch as he very slowly eased through the forest looking for the hen calling to him. One more step and the hunt was over.

Wingbone trumpet call brought this late season bird to the gun

After the shot, I just sat and marveled at the beauty of the bird, the morning, and the satisfaction of a late season turkey. Soft, subtle calls, patience and a little luck, out this fine trophy in my lap to culminate a great season of chasing turkeys in South Carolina.

I have to believe, that while I love the whole season. The anticipation of opening day, birds gobbling constantly, often running into calls and decoys. That hunting turkeys on the last day, is for this hunter the most satisfying day of the season. And when I am fortunate enough to kill a mature bird, it culminates the season that finishes with the last call.