2019 spring gobbler season

It's that time of year again for us to stalk and kill our mascot (sort of, I guess). Spring gobbler season opens up this Saturday and I'm stoked to get back into the woods. The recent sunshine and warm weather in my part of the state (extreme SWVA) has the birds very active and vocal. Numbers appear to be down across the state, but there seems to be birds out there if you can put down some leather and find them. I was unable to get my son out this weekend for youth day but did go out Saturday for some scouting and was able to call in one group of jakes and a flock of 5 mature gobblers all bunched up. I'm hoping that pattern holds for this Saturday.

I thought this would be a good place to catch any stories or reports for the few hunters that lurk the boards. Here's hoping for some deep fried turkey breast and an ice cold beer in time for the spring game this Saturday. For those of you that hit the woods stay safe and good luck!

DISCLAIMER: Forum topics may not have been written or edited by The Key Play staff.


Not going out this year saw a few hens out near my normal spot, I think the SC season opened a week or two ago? Getting reports from my buds in Nebraska. They're opening day is today(?) the'yre also supposed to get 26" of snow over the next 48 hours so that's gonna be a tough hunt.

(add if applicable) /s

Sounds like Walmart might be the best bet for those boys

Directions from Blacksburg to whoville, go north till you smell it then go east until you step in it

Thanks for starting the thread! Can't wait for Saturday. My goal this season is to get as close as possible without actually getting fired or divorced...

Good luck!

Is spring gobbler season going on right now? Is that why there are so many names in the transfer portal?

If you're not sure if my comment warrants a "/s", it probably does.

The season is closed. We can classify the transfer portal as poaching. It fits the definition.

I've been regularly passing a flock around Draper, on my way to work. That's probably as close as I'll be getting to any this year.

I do plan to be out looking for morels in the next couple days, though.

After the rain this weekend I'm sure they will be up. People around here call them "dry land fish", so I guess a spring meal of turkey breast and morels could be called hillbilly surf and turf.

My favorite way to cook them is to split them into small pieces (small black ones are good whole), wash them thoroughly in salt water, give them a buttermilk wash and then coat in cornmeal with a little flower. Fry in oil or bacon grease if you have it. Good eating. I've had them cooked in risotto too and it was pretty damn good as well.

Since we are in the same area, see if you can get your hands on some Big Spring Mill (I think that's the one sold locally. I usually empty the bag and trash is pretty quickly) seasoned flour. Mix a bit of that in with the cornmeal.

I keep them whole, rinse them well and dry them. Cut an asparagus tip and put it in the morel along with a sliver of pepper or jalapeno jack cheese. Dip whole thing in Tempura batter and deep fry. Serve with soy, ginger, garlic wine sauce with chopped spring onions. It don't get no better than that. In Giles County, the locals called them "miracles" because of how they pop up all of a sudden, and I've heard them called "wood trout" and more often, "merkels", likely because of the way some mountain folk might pronounce miracle. I miss them here at the coast.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

The risk with keeping them whole is missing the slug inside. Always have to check...

I've not found a slug inside them, but have found a bug or two, usually in ones with a hole in it. The fact that they are a one piece fruit keeps most stuff out of the center, but as suggested by someone, a quick soaking in salt water takes care of all that. I used to do that, but in the long run, didn't get much buggery as a result, so pretty much quit doing it.

One year, they were so plentiful that it was as if they all came up. I found a small false morel that year, rare enough I guess, but it was the only one of the thousands my friends and I found over the decades. Morels are so distinctive, but the false one looked right, just was a two piece 'shroom, which gave it away, but not until we divvied up the harvest that afternoon.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

If I ever find myself on death row, this will be my last meal. Add in some "salmon" cakes made of smoked rainbow trout and a 6 pack of PBR to wash it all down...

I didn't have any luck with the turkeys this morning, but I found a few morels. It was a beautiful morning, just silent for me for some reason.

Had a great first morning. On the board with #1 at 7:18 am. 22 lbs, 9-3/4" beard, and 1" spurs. 7 hens, two jakes, and the longbeard came in together.

Had a great morning as well. Went with a long time friend and couldn't guess at the number of gobbles we heard on the roost. Birds flew down and messed with some hens for about an hour. Just before 8 we heard a group of gobblers working towards us. Within a minute or two 5 gobblers came out on the other side of the field about 100 yds away. They gobbled together a couple of times which was awesome to watch. They got within about 35yds and my friend smoked one then I got another. I got some awesome video but I somehow forgot to turn my mic on. Oh well. Unreal morning and felt so good to be back out in the woods after a long winter. I'll try to post a video link when I get it uploaded.

That's awesome!!!! Congrats!!! My buddies and I had the polar opposite hunt lol. Walked 4.5 miles and heard 5 gobbles, all at daylight.

The rain hit at the wrong time heavy thunder showers from 5 till 10 got soaked and skunked at the same time they were talking but not moving very much today

Directions from Blacksburg to whoville, go north till you smell it then go east until you step in it

The fog had them off to a slow start but they were fired up after it lifted. Had 3 or 4 birds around us all morning until around 11. We were making a move on a bird and ended up having a coyote come in instead. She stopped behind a tree but luckily my dad had a shot and took her out so it was a pretty successful day.

Absolutely gorgeous morning and absolutely dead silent. Heard 1 gobble at sun up and it was forever and a day away. Did end up with 3 jakes working over my Flambeau deke though, do believe sweet Lulu may have to hit up counciling after this morning.

Got to go out this morning and set up blind looking over a grown up field as daylight was fast approaching. We heard two different groups of birds: one below us and one above us. Did some soft tree yelps and called a little more aggressively after flydown and the group behind us was pretty vocal so we decided to move on them.

Moved up where we thought the birds where but they went silent. Had a couple more gobbling way up the ridge in the woods but couldn't get them to move. It started to drizzle so we put some decoys in the field and called sparingly for the next 1.5 hrs thinking the birds would hit the fields with the rain. Nada.

Made it back to the truck and called it quits about 10:30. As we were leaving the property we saw a gobbler strutting in a field with a jake and hen. The jake spooked but we tried to circle around and set up on them hoping they would come to the call. After getting soaked for another half hour we called it quits and went home. Fields were full of birds on the drive back. Oh well. 3 day weekend coming up so looking forward to Friday already.

Got a video uploaded of our opening day double. I'm still kicking myself for somehow having the audio turned off, because when 5 gobblers sound off at once it's something you want to hear back. This was my first hunt ever behind the camera and I was also packing a shotgun (hence the double), so it's not the best quality but some good raw footage. Thought you guys might enjoy.

Opening day double

Wish I had the hunt this morning on video. Kept a very pissed hen around for over an hour while she systemically attacked my decoy and yelped constantly. After an hour or so a long beard showed up in the field and hung up around 75 yards. He slowly worked his way into 20 yards where he dropped. Spitting and drumming the whole way, 11 inch beard, 1 and 1/8 inch spurs.

Had another good morning this morning. Called in two gobblers early but couldn't get a shot on either. We went and checked out another area for a little bit but didn't hear anything so we went back to the original field from earlier. Ended calling in a solo gobbler in from about 300 yards and knocked him out at 45 yards. He had an 10 1/4 beard, 1 1/8 spurs and weighed 23.5 pounds.

Nice! That's a good bird!

Hoping to get out again in the morning. All the first week was messed up so hopefully week 2 I'll have some time before work to get out.

That's an awesome bird!!!! Congrats!!! Me and a buddy went out and heard one gobble at daylight wayyy off then nothing. Went to another property and had three light up at 10:20; gobbled like crazy for 20 min and called them in to 40 yards but they hung up at the property line offering no shots. Two of the gobblers were very nice but they live for another day.

My film review:

Shoot that bastard. Then eat it. Enjoy.

He is dad's "pet" and mom's regret. Dad puts out cracked corn daily and he is the last of three gobblers which comes a couple times a day. Now he also gets into my mom's bird feeder and he likes to "hide" on their back patio.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

Hunting a place with nothing but tall winter wheat fields tomorrow so will be going the old school in the hardwoods been a while since I've got into big blocks of woods but they won't go near the tall winter wheat anymore

Directions from Blacksburg to whoville, go north till you smell it then go east until you step in it

High grass is the bane of my late season hunting. I try to hunt all my hayfield areas early because once May hits they quit using the fields. TBH I'd rather hunt in the big woods if there's birds around. Something about it just draws me in. I cut my teeth hunting the woods so maybe that's it, but something about walking a logging road or ridge trying to locate a bird and set up just feels better than watching a field. Best of luck to you.

Amen. Screw hunting field turkeys unless it's small clearing in the timber. I'd rather go fishing.

Well it was a beautiful morning but apparently not good enough for at least one turkey to gobble. Quiet woods today. Hope yall had better luck.

Had a couple good mornings so I'll break into two posts:

Had the day off yesterday so got the kids to school and tried to formulate a plan to hunt. A buddy and I ended up riding around glassing a few areas as it was pouring and we didn't feel like getting soaked. Ended up spotting a couple gobbles with a hen at one of our properties - hen went one way gobblers went the other. We circled back around and made a stalk up to a wooded point where they were headed. Set up under the hill and called with no response. It was absolutely pouring so we moved to the crest of the hill thinking they may not have heard us. Got set up and started calling - sure enough they popped out from behind some trees to our left. I called to them to get them to move a bit and the both gobbled at 25 yds. It sounded like they were 100 yds away due to the conditions. We waited until they cleared a tree and counted to three. Ended up with my second double of the season. One bird was pretty good : 1 1/8" spurs and 10.5" beard. Other was a typical 2 yr old 7/8" spurs. Was a nice ending to a wet morning and always feels good to double up.

Got out this morning with another friend and set up at the point of two hollows in a grown up cow pasture. It was cold with mist and a fairly steady wind. Not much gobbling on the roost but we did hear one in the woods on the backside of a wooded point. We waited until about 7:30 then headed up to a small clearing below the point to try and locate him.

Got in position and called softly - sure enough had one gobble in the woods a couple hundred yards away. We set up on the fence line hastily around an old locust with a jake and hen decoy 10yds in front of us. I got the camera going and we called and he answered. This went back and forth for several minutes but he wasn't moving closer. Two jakes then came out of the woods and made a beeline for the decoys. They flogged and pecked the jake decoy for a solid 10 minutes. Both of us were about to pass out from the strain of sitting so still as they stayed inside of 12 yds the whole time. We finally noticed the gobbler working down the ridge and I called to him when he got below a small dip not knowing what the jakes would do. He answered and I called back aggressively which made the jakes gobble right on us. Gobbler finally came in spitting and drumming the whole way. Buddy dropped him clean at about 25 yds. Watching the video it looks like the wad may have hit one of the jakes as we thought it became collateral damage. He finally jumped up and ran off as if nothing happened. It was an awesome hunt getting to have birds that close for that long. I'll try to upload video later.

Lol dude you're a boss, congrats!!!!! Again!!!

It helps to have some solid places to hunt. I've missed one morning since opening day but I'm going to have to take this weekend off due to a commitment. Hopefully get back in the swing of things next week. Birds are still gobbling good and responding well to calls so hopefully that pattern holds for a bit. Hens haven't seemed to be a big problem at least later in the morning. It's worth noting that out of the 5 birds I've watched fall all did so after 8:00 am.

Called in a small Tom I saw last weekend as well seems to be the only talkative bird on the whole farm and from what I've found the only one I can seem to find. Kinda dissapointing when I can't find any birds over 500 acres but we will persist. The little tomorrow got frightened by my strutting Jake decoy so yeah I gotta find some longbeards

Directions from Blacksburg to whoville, go north till you smell it then go east until you step in it

Uploaded the video of the final few minutes of Saturdays hunt:

Week 2 - Gobbler comes in with jakes flogging decoys

Looked at the footage and the jakes were at the decoys for nearly 30 minutes (hence it laying on its side in the video). Looking frame by frame it looks like the shot column clears the jake on the left as the gobbler starts to fold up before the jake moves. It looks like the jake flew up and the wadding may have hit it under the left wing and stunned it. It hopped up and ran off shortly after - hopefully he makes it. After sitting motionless with eyes on you from inside 10 yards for a half hour, I was glad my buddy took the shot. I'll try to upload some video of the jakes flogging the decoy this afternoon.

Reminds me of a hunt I had a few years ago where a big Tom tried making love to my hen decoy for well over half and hour before I figured something wasn't right and popped him. He had gange green and a bad infection all over so he must've been pretty delirious. Looked like he had been spurred a whole bunch and it all got rot and infected. I'll see if I can upload the video its about 15 minutes of me chuckling as he tries to mount my decoy before I finally ran out of patience.

Directions from Blacksburg to whoville, go north till you smell it then go east until you step in it

Anyone hunting west of the Blue Ridge hearing much? I've hunted about 5 days so far and I've heard about 12 total gobbles. That's 12 total gobbles, not gobblers. I was fortunate enough to get that bird opening day because I know how the birds act on our property even when not gobbling. But now that I'm confined to the Jefferson National Forest it's a bit tougher when not hearing anything. Just curious if it's my area or just this part of the season everywhere that has them quiet.

Man, it's been one of toughest seasons I've ever had. I've hunted 9 days...4 days heard absolutely nothing, 4 days heard 1 gobbler (who happens to be the most contrary bird I've ever dealt with) and 1 day I heard 2, 1 of which was on the wrong side of the road. I've hunted 2 different counties, at places I've killed quite a few birds over the years. I have called in a shot 2 coyotes on my primary property, which may have had something to do with the lack of gobbling, but overall it seems the local turkey populations, at least where I've been hunting, is way way down

Sorry to hear it's been tough for you as well. Somewhat glad it's not just my area, but still frustrating. Hope things work out towards the end of the season, for both of us.

Sounds like you lost two of those days to shooting the coyotes. Probably worth it to lose a morning, though.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

Yeah, the yote pack waxes and wanes there. With it being this time of year hopefully it'll help come fawn drop/chick hatch time. I did pass up a shot on a jake so it hasn't been a total wash but I just happened to walk up on him in the wet leaves, he didn't even know I was there. The gobbler I've been dueling with is a real nice bird but I think he knows he's the only show in town on that property...he expects all the girls to come to him and not the other way around.

That's the fun and reward, isn't it? Trying them to do something that goes against all their instincts to come looking, and some of them just won't do it. But, when you fool 'em into doing it, harvest or not, it's a real kick.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

Very true...I've killed quite a few over the years, some easy some hard. 1 thing I've always remembered...you can't make a turkey do ANYTHING he doesn't want to. This one..I call his 2 hens into range, he's strutting across the field and not noticing they are walking off..then he does, breaks strut and watches, gobbles once, then it literally looked like he shrugged his shoulders and just walked off the other direction...I'd strangle that sucker if I could get my hands on him

It's been very hit and miss. There have been mornings where the birds are very vocal and then other mornings they were silent. They seem to be more responsive on days in proximity to a weather front, as it seems most of the fair weather days I've hunted I haven't had much luck. It has been a strange spring as the majority of the gobblers I've seen have been in bachelor groups with other gobblers for some reason.

A good example of what my area has seen this spring - a hunting buddy of mine went with his son to one of the properties we frequent this Saturday. His son killed a gobbler and as they were taking pictures they heard another one gobble. The sat back down and called over the same decoy spread and ended up having 4 mature gobblers come and flog the jake decoy. They both ended the day with a bird. Yesterday, knowing that there were at least 3 more mature gobblers in the area, nothing. This plays right into what we've seen as a whole - it's almost as if you're going to have one of the most exciting hunts of your life or you're not going to hear anything within 500 yds.

One more observation - we had one of the poorest years for hard and soft mast I can remember in this area. Most of our luck has been in the proximity of fields and open ground. The deep woods birds seem to be so scattered they're hard to find let alone hunt.

Any of you guys ever read Tenth Legion by Tom Kelly? If not, and you find yourself similarly afflicted with the turkey hunting disease, you absolutely must pick up a copy.

Yes a great book....you'll find yourself laughing out loud because if you do this crazy stuff long enough you can relate to all his stories

Absolutely. I have read it like 10 times. It's really the perfect turkey hunting book. Great stuff.

Thought I'd give an update on this past weekend. Went out Saturday to a new property that I know holds a bunch of birds and got skunked. We heard a few distant gobbles before flydown and then the woods went silent. We moved around the property and did what we can to get a response but never heard another gobble. We did see a couple of hens and called one up on us, but that was it. The farm we were on looked like it was designed for turkey hunting and given the hens I know there were some around, it was just one of those mornings.

Got up Sunday to hunt and there were some heavy storms rolling through so decided to sleep in. Met up with a friend as the rain slacked off around 9 and hit some fields hoping the turkeys would be out getting dry. Saw several on the ride to the property so I thought we may have some luck. We set up blind in a grown up pasture that was full of cedars and rose bushes, with a jake decoy about 15 yds in front of us. There was a large open pasture behind us where the birds like to hang out, so I had confidence in our setup. We called a bit and finally got a hen to answer us down the ridge below, but she hung up and didn't want to move. We tried a kee kee run to entice the hen and a couple of gobblers cut loose. We coaxed them in a bit but they hung up around 75 yds out. After some more calling we hit the kee kee again and it sounded like they were right on top of us - you could hear the air come out as they gobbled. After some soft calling two gobblers finally came up the ridge right below the decoy, but when they got to the front of it they spooked a bit, flying up in the air and circling back where they came from. There wasn't a chance for a clean double as the situation was deteriorating, so I anchored one of the birds right at the decoy. Was awesome having them that close and having them nearly knock our hats off with those last gobbles.

A couple of observations from the last week - I think the birds are starting to settle into their late season patterns and are certainly not responding like they were earlier this year. The jake decoy we had out seemed to spook them, when just a week ago they were running to it. I think a single hen decoy would fit the bill right now and be much more effective. I'm also a new believer in the kee kee run. I know it's traditionally a fall call, but given what I saw Sunday and a similar experience I saw last weekend shows me there's something to it. If you get some birds hung up out of sight or are having trouble getting a response late morning, give it a try. I tend to do better with a ghost cut call to make the high pitched whistles on the front end. Put that and a purr in your arsenal when things get tough and it may sway some birds.

I'm relegated to camera duty the rest of the season, so I'll try to get some good video to post. Good luck to everyone and stay safe.