Monday, May 27, 2013

Then and Now

As I write this, I am almost 38 weeks pregnant.  I finished up my first season (more like sample) of turkey hunting with Dad and have found some things are vastly different than then were 22 weeks ago when I was deer hunting.
For starters, Dad and I are novices when it comes to figuring out how turkeys operate.  Give me a rainy weekend and I can tell you the times of day that the deer will be moving and when they will bed down.  With these turkeys, that rule doesn't seem to apply; they are out in a complete downpour.  When I make noise by rattling antlers or using a bleet, I know if I am trying to imitate another buck or a doe.  I have no idea what sort of bird I sound like when I use my box call.  In the fall, I can sit in a tree for hours and as long as I dont move too much or make too much noise, I can shoot a deer from 30-100 yards away.  Dad and I learned this spring that not only do you have to be hidden, but you have to be close to those birds in order to get one. 
One of the oddest things I noticed was my physical "condition."  Dad bought us a ground blind for spring turkey hunting and as we sat there Saturday morning in the rain and wind, I tried to sit on my hands.  When deer hunting, I can tuck them under my hamstrings and keep them warm when I don't have my gloves and hand warmers on.  On Saturday, I couldn't do it.  The baby has prevented my hips and legs from coming together comfortably, to be a heat source for my hands.  It is so weird how things shift and move when you are growing a small human!  On a positive note, I was not nearly as tired this spring as I was last fall and I could still walk to our blinds and wear most of my hunting clothes. 
It was fun getting out, hearing some jakes and toms reply to our calls and seeing turkeys everytime we went out.  We didnt get any meat to bring home, but it was a whole new experience and Dad is already planning modifications to our attack for next spring.  I am counting down to the start of deer season - 5 months as of yesterday =)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 2 of turkey hunting

Well, we know we are in a good area and that our calls work.

We got into the woods by the Sky Condo a little earlier than we did on the first day.  The weather predicted rain so we wanted to get in as much time as possible.  We got to our ground blind, set up the decoys and settled in to start calling.  This morning though, we didn’t have to start anything.  We heard a gobble within five minutes of sitting down.  I got my box call out and called back.  He answered almost immediately.  We had a great conversation for a steady 30 minutes with him often double or triple gobbling.  Then the gobbles became more spaced apart but did not stop.  Dad decided that be would circle down to the power line where we were pretty sure the turkey was hanging out.  We hadn’t been able to get him any closer in the past hour and knowing the area as well as we do, if I could keep him gobbling, Dad could find him and get him.

I kept using the box call and tried to do something to get him to call back.  I tried a relaxed couple of calls and I tried some with a little more intensity.  Nothing, but I knew he had to be right there.  He hadn’t left in over an hour.  Dad came back before there were any shots fired.

The turkey was hiding in some of the thick brush right where we thought he was.  But, he was closer than Dad thought and when he started onto the power line, the turkey made a quick chirp and flew.  Dad compared it to flushing a partridge; he was gone before Dad knew it and flew down into the woods near my tree seat.

We tried the other spots that we had tried the day before but no turkeys.  We did go into a field and saw four deer.  Being first and foremost deer hunters, we stopped for maybe ten minutes and watched the deer eat and play, oblivious to the fact that we we there.  Then we snapped out of it and realized we needed to find some turkeys.

We did the rounds again, checking the spot where the three jakes had been the day before.  We ended back up by the Sky Condo where we sat for a while.  By 9am, the on and off sprinkles started to get a little heavier and the sky started to get a little darker.  I made the decision to call it.  The last thing I needed was to get chilled and risk catching a cold with just four weeks left of my pregnancy.  We made it back to the house, Dad started a fire and the skies opened to a complete downpour.

For our first weekend, the turkeys win.  We may try it again over Memorial weekend depending on how I am feeling.  I think for the first two days of us ever going turkey hunting, we did ok.  Lots of calls back, seeing a hen and 3 jakes… Good start to a new type of hunting.

Monday, May 13, 2013

First day of turkey hunting

It is hard to hunt anything when there are rain drops falling off the trees.  It is probably the worst during deer season when everything sounds like the snapping of a branch.  But, this was my first day of turkey hunting and having never been before, I had no idea what I should be listening for besides a gobble.

Our turkey decoys
Dad and I had two decoys set up about 15 yards away from us.  I had a slate call, a box call and my camo on.  It was starting to get light out when we reached the blind; that time of morning when you can not tell if you really are seeing something move or if it is just your eyes.  It was probably a little later than we should have been in the woods, but we are new and learning.

About a half hour after we sat down, I saw a bird fly down.  There was still some ground fog so I could not tell if it was a jake or hen (or tom, but it seemed kinda small).  Dad couldn’t tell either.  I continued to call, but a little quieter than I had before.   The bird took its time and meandered through the grass, eventually coming right up to the decoys.  It was a hen.  We watched her walk around, unsure if I should keep calling or stop so I didnt spook her.  At this point, we had been turkey hunters for all of 1 hour. 

When she left, we called some more but decided to check out some other areas.  We headed to some fields near the house.  There was a slight breeze and the sun was out now (does wind direction come into play with turkey hunting the way it does with deer hunting??).  I tried my box call and on the second attempt, I had a response!  I kept calling and Dad headed off in the direction of the gobbles.  Not knowing if I should follow him or try to get the turkey to come to me, I slowly walked towards where Dad had headed and kept calling.  

Dad was pushed up against the side of an embankment peering into the fields. He held up 3 fingers.  I kept calling but started walking away from Dad, not wanting to draw the bird’s attention to where he was.  There was a shot and I stopped calling and headed back.  I joined him on the side of the bank and looked out into the field.  I saw all three heads looking around.  Then, they started to run into the woods.

“I missed ‘em” Dad said and started pacing off where he had shot to where the birds were.  About 60 yards.  Now, if this was a deer, it would have been dead with one shot, no problem!  But, this is a whole new animal with a shot gun and not a rifle. 

When we got home, Dad paced off the distance again and shot twice into a target.  The spread was about 5.5 feet and that was with the choke almost all the way on.  We went out again for another hour or so but we didn’t see any more birds that day but it was a fun experience to have on our very first day of turkey hunting.  We will get out a few more days this season, but we are already plotting how we will go after the turkeys next spring.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spot a fawn? Leave it alone!

Spring is a great time to have a baby (I think).  You get the summer off to enjoy the new baby, it’s getting warmer and the farmer’s markets come back.  But, I am not the only one who is planning to deliver in the next few weeks; many of Maine’s white-tailed does will be joining me in adding to the population.

Does will typically give birth in fields and along the tree line where they are comfortable and not in too much stress.   As we get out and about more to enjoy the changing seasons, it is vital that we stay away from does that may seem like they are in trouble (they could be pacing or have their tail up) because they are getting ready to fawn and do not need the added stress.  The bulk of the fawning will take place from the end of May until the middle of June.

Once a doe has her fawn(s), she will leave them in hiding for the majority of the day so she can feed.  The doe will normally return to feed her new fawn 2-3 times a day.  Like all new moms, these does need about 30-40% more energy than other does, in order to keep themselves and fawns healthy.

Here is the biggest issue we face as outdoor lovers:

The long absences can cause people who come across the fawns to think that the doe has abandoned them. During their first week of life, fawns will remain in hiding when the doe is not around, or if they are being threatened, as opposed to running. After the first week, fawns are capable of avoiding a predator on foot, but they still might want to hide instead.  Like any newborn, the first few weeks of a fawn’s life are the most critical and it’s really important that people do not handle them!  A doe knows exactly where her fawn is and assumes they are safe there until she can come back to them.

Too many people are uneducated about this and assume that when they come across a fawn that is alone, it must be abandoned.  They pick up the fawn and remove it from its home and take it away from its mother.  So, I beg of you PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not touch a fawn if you come across one in the woods or in a field!!! Chances are the doe is nearby and knows exactly where her baby is.

Keeping the fawns in the woods is the only way to ensure that the deer population can continue to grow and be healthy.  Last year, the Game Wardens and rehabilitation sites across the State saw a record number of fawns being brought in because people through they were abandoned.  We need to trust the natural instincts of this animal.  I want to ensure that there are more healthy fawns in the deer herd that can grow up and continue to help the rebuilding process.  The only way to do that is to leave them alone if you find them in the woods!