Outdoor moments we live for
THERE WAS A TIME WHEN, like a lot of young hunters, I tended to be a little rambunctious in just about everything I did. I hit the woods and the water at 90 miles an hour and stumbled into successes along the way from sheer energy and time spent afield. And like a lot of hunters, I changed my approach over the course of time. My senses became more seasoned, and I slowed down to a manageable speed. I shifted my hours in the woods to take advantage of those times when I knew the hunting would be better, or just more pleasant. I began to appreciate the finer points of the hunt and not only the result.
For some, those finer points may be the morning breakfast with their hunting buddies before loading up to hit the woods. Others might love to stroll the ridges at midday, looking and listening for that lonely tom to set up on. These things tend to work themselves out over time. The senses are seasoned. Finer points rise to the top. For me, the best part of turkey hunting is the pitch down at daybreak—that much-anticipated moment when the silence of the woods is shattered by the fly-down cackle and the flutter of wings on the forest floor. It is the moment when the fun begins.
Pitching down, in turkey-speak, is the time in the morning that a turkey leaves its roost. Usually this occurs at daybreak. If you can set up close enough to the roost before daylight, you will hear the unmistakable sound that a big tom makes as he pitches down to begin his day—cackling from limb to ground and flapping his wings to break his fall. These sounds are evident in the quiet calm of the woods, conveying the turkey’s position to others in the area.
There is no better feeling than sneaking along a ridgeline in the spring and setting up close to a known turkey roost before daylight. If you’re lucky, the roosted tom will gobble just before pitching down, signaling his presence like a rooster crowing in the barnyard to wake the hens. And no matter what happens, you’ll hear the woods waking up as the sun rises slowly on the horizon. From owls hooting in the distance to the songbirds singing as the first rays of sunlight penetrate the leaves, this is the time I have come to love the most. It’s the culmination of all the things turkey hunters look forward to each spring.
As the season approaches, take a moment to think about your favorite part of the hunt. The sooner you figure it out, the longer you can enjoy it.
KEN MCBROOM, an outdoors writer/photographer, created RamblingAngler.com. McBroom grew up in Lynchburg, Tennessee, and now lives in western Kentucky.