Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring Bank Plantation - Opening Day Turkey Hunt

Turkey Rock overlooks the Cave Field
Mature gobbler with longbeard and snood

The terrain in the foothills of North Georgia is quite different from the Lowcountry and so are the turkey hunting tactics. The pre-planning for the March 22 opening day hunt for wild turkey at Spring Bank Plantation included prescribed fire and lots of scouting. Wet weather may have hampered the start to the S.C. turkey season, but the Georgia forecast for longbeard success was more reliable.
Spring Bank Manager Lyle McClure and Guide Rusty Gwin
Visiting Spring Bank Plantation in Bartow County I spoke with manager Lyle McClure the afternoon before our hunt. The Georgia Forestry Commission was on site and the quail woods were on fire according to the property’s management plan. “We have plenty of turkey hunts booked for our season which runs until May 15,” said McClure. “I expect the turkeys will move from the north end of our 1800-acres over into this burned section before too long.”
“It will be daylight here about 7:20 tomorrow, and I’ll have you meet your guide at 6:30 at the clubhouse,” said McClure. “Rusty Gwin and I go way back in terms of turkey hunting and you’ll be in good hands with him.” I could only agree since he had been my guide for a Spring Bank quail hunt on a previous visit. Rusty Gwin is a full-time firefighter for Bartow County and is a hunting guide on his days off. When Gwin broke out his smart phone and showed me a topographical map of the hunting area and pinpointed that we would begin by setting up on a nearby hilltop, I knew I was in for something completely different.
“I roosted a gobbler yesterday evening and he is past the hilltop, so we will set up there and call to him,” said Gwin. “A turkey in this area prefers to use the advantage of height to leverage his keen eyesight, and this is one of the first tactics I learned while turkey hunting with Lyle’s father as a youth.” Despite a near silent ascent of the hilltop and a picturesque set up, that roosted tom gobbled once and left the area quickly that morning. Gwin and I both knew that we were now entering Plan B territory.
At daybreak we had heard another tom articulate a triple gobble from his roost tree when the vocalizations from a flock of Canada geese caused him to shock gobble.

Georgia Forestry Comm. on station at Spring Bank Plantation
 With no leaves on the hardwoods due to winter, and with the gobbler at the same level on the adjacent hillside, this added dimension of topography increases the challenge in the chess match between turkey and hunter when learning these foothills. Moving on to the next hilltop in pursuit of our prize, we soon bumped a full strut tom that scurried off over the ridge upon seeing us. Only a quiet confidence kept our spirits up after this second disappointing encounter with a gobbler.
Continuing on to the crest of the hilltop, Gwin used his Redhead optics to glass the Cave Field roughly 80-yards below our position. He told me to set up on a nearby tree since he spied a flock of hens, and used his Woodhaven mouth call for a series of yelps. A gobbler answered quickly and began coming towards our position, with Gwin spotting him first and instructing me to be ready. Going in and out of full strut during his approach, the tom hung up at 25-paces. At 8:37 a.m. I closed the deal on my first Georgia turkey hunt, and the gobbler weighed 20-pounds and sported a nine-inch beard.
To view this feature article in the newspaper click Colletonian.

To view past blog entries from Spring Bank Plantation click for quail or pheasant.

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