It was a weird hunt Saturday through Tuesday. I arrived in the Northport area late Thursday afternoon. We were seeing plenty of birds in larger groups with some strutting. Saturday morning, I just plain saw and heard nothing. Sunday morning the boys were going loud and strong seemingly until they flew down, then silence. Sunday afternoon I took a break to split some wood. A bird kept gobbling up the hillside from our cabin as the firewood piled up. I finally had enough. I told Vince, "I'm going up there to kill that bird." I threw on some camo over my jeans and romeos and headed across the road and up a skidder trail.
I crept slowly up the trail through the overgrown brush and small trees hoping to follow the gobbling. Unfortunately that had stopped immediately after "my death to the turkey" proclamation. As I made the first switchback, the overgrown brush thankfully thinned out a bit. As I continued a bit more quickly up the hill, I noticed a fir tree down across the trail. I arrived at the tree and froze as I saw movement up the trail, on the other side of the tree. As I fought to remain still while trying to catch my breath, a hen's head appeared, rising over a berm on the skidder trail. The hen was moving toward me cautiously, followed by more heads rising over the berm. The hens milled about, seeminly unsure as to where to go next. It seemed like they knew something was up, but I was still enough that they couldn't zero in on me. After few seconds, the Tom came up over the berm. It was a standoff at about 15 yards. There I was at port arms, staring intently at the Tom, who was surrounded by hens. All of them were silently looking here and there, as if confused about where to go. I was silently calculating the odds of swinging my 20 gauge up, aiming, firing, hitting the Tom, and not hitting any of the six hens around him. Not good... After about 30 seconds, that seemed to me like eternity, a couple of the hens headed back over the berm and back up the trail in the direction they had come from. The Tom then followed, all the while surrounded by his posse of hens.
When I no longer saw any movement up the trail, I hit the ground and belly crawled under the tree. I got over the berm and continued up the trail which opened up into an burn/cut area. As I cleared the trees and into the cut I saw and heard nothing. No sign of my Tom. Almost immediately, the trail Y'd. One trail went basically straight in front of me around the side of the hill. The other climbed up to a landing I'd called from that morning. I took the one straight in front of me which only went about 100 yards before coming to an end. Nothing. I went back to the Y, sat down and did some calling. Nothing. Then, after a series of yelps came a reply. A hen spoke back to me from up above and to my left. It sounded like where the trail went around the other side of the mountain about 200 yards up. I started up the other side of the Y, eventually arriving at where I had called from that morning. I headed down the trail and after a few minutes rounded the shoulder of the mountain.
I still hadn't heard the Tom at any point, and was basically just walking down to the house of an older couple that we know. By now, I could hear my buddies were down there, sawing on some deadfall timber that we were working on clearing out for them. I rounded the first switchback on the way down and walked about a hundred yards down. On the trail ahead movement caught my eye around a slight curve. Hens! As I hugged the side of the trail (trying to get small!), I could see that there were several of them. After a couple of minutes, I saw a Tom in full strut with them. They were slowly travelling down the skidder trail as a group as the Tom herded them along. I followed, hugging the brush while hoping for the Tom to step away from the hens. Eventually, I could see that there were six hens. This had to be the same Tom. I followed as the group slowly ambled down the trail. The Tom was strutting along keeping the girls in front of him. His wing tips dragging along the ground, sounding like rakes in gravel. I followed, trying to keep next to the brush. Eventually they got to the next switchback, and continued down and around the corner. They paused as I got to the switchback. I was now above them, trying to keep some brush in between me and them while trying to find a shot on the Tom. Two of the hens turned around and started coming back up the trail, butt the Tom quickly turned and shooed them back down the trail. I could see that the Tom now had some separation from the hens. I stepped left, put the red dot on his noggin. I saw him slightly deflate and glance my way as I pressed the trigger at about 10 yards. At the blast the hens took to the air voicing their displeasure. The Tom dropped and began thrashing and rolling. I could see his head flopping limply as his body gyrated into the brush and over the edge of the road. He was done, but didn't know it yet. The Tom continued about 20 feet down the hill and stopped moving. All total, it had been about an hour since I'd first seen the Tom. Quite a stalk. He never gobbled or made any sound other than some huffing and puffing while corralling the girls. It wasn't until I had pulled him back up the bank that I realized I'd shot him about ten yards from where I shot my first Jake five years ago.
That was it for my turkey hunting this spring. I spent the next couple of days helping my injured buddy around his property near Colville. My other buddy and his son continued hunting the next two days, but the birds had gone really quiet and weren't cooperating. Good luck to everyone!