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Brett Bueltel – 2016 North Carolina Gobbler

It had been a couple of years since I had made the trip back to North Carolina to hunt.  To say I was a little excited when I got the call from my good friend Forrest to come on down and spend the weekend chasing gobblers would be an understatement.  North Carolina wild turkey season was already in full swing, and I was itching to get back to chasing the elusive thunderchicken after a dismal whitetail season last fall.

I checked out of work around noon on the 16th and made the 430 mile drive from Cincinnati, Ohio down to western North Carolina.  Minutes after pulling into Forrest’s driveway, I hopped out of the truck, threw on my camo, and we were on the road again to head to a property to scout for the next morning.  Less than 30 minutes after arriving at the property, we were watching a Tom strut 300-350 yards away.  He was going to be in a perfect spot for the next mornings hunt.  As the sun started dipping behind the horizon in the distance, we packed up and started the short trek back to the truck.  Gobbles erupted off to our left 100 yards or so away and immediately smiles hit our faces.

After making it back to the truck, we headed back into town to meet up with SELFILMED’s Brad Blackwelder and our good friend Ben for the evening.  The 20 minute drive back to town gave us time to discuss our plans for the following morning.  After grabbing a bite to eat, we headed back to “The Shed” where we ended up staying up much later than we should have game-planning for the next morning, telling stories, and shooting the bull before finally getting to bed around 1:00 AM.

When the alarm clocks started going off around 5:00 AM that following morning, the thought of the strutting gobbler from the night before made crawling out from under my warm/comfy sheets just a little bit easier.  I threw on my HECS suit, Sitka Gear, and a couple extra layers to help fight off the unseasonably cool temps before loading up the truck and heading out to the property we were going to be hunting.

Under the cover of darkness, we made our way to a point in the field within approximately 75 yards of where we had watched the strutter the night before.  We setup a couple DSD hen decoys about 20 yards in front of us, and positioned ourselves a few steps inside of the wood-line.  I’m usually a bow hunting strictly kind of guy, but ultimately, we decided to go after that bird with the shotgun based on several factors.  Forrest had actually killed this gobblers friend from a blind less than a week prior, within yards of where we were setup.  Knowing he would be much tougher to call into bow range of a blind, coupled with the short amount of time I would have to hunt before heading back to Ohio, we decided this would be our best option to get a bird on the ground.

We weren’t setup more than 5 minutes before we hear a couple gobbles ringing through the woods behind us.  Then minutes later one sounded off less than 100 yards away in the direction we saw the gobbler work towards the night before.  Several more minutes had now passed and by this time we could tell the birds behind us had now flown down based on the sounds of their gobbles.  All of a sudden movement catches my eye and I turn my head to see a bird pitching down into the field in front of us…then another.  My first thought was it was a couple of hens, but after hitting the ground their heads immediately started changing colors and they hesitantly started in the direction of the DSD hen decoys.  I could hear spitting/drumming off in the distance the gobbler had sounded off from earlier in the morning on the roost, but the field topography kept him hidden from my view.  A couple more minutes passed and I finally catch sight of the gobbler about 75 yards away.

By this time, one of the two jakes and another hen had almost made their way into the decoy setup.  The gobbler was just about into gun range when all of a sudden another jake comes sprinting in from our left.  I hear Forrest say “kill him”…”kill him now”.  I pulled up the gun and settled the fiber optic sight square on his waddles as he turned in full strut to face my direction…BANG!  The birds in the field scattered and headed off in every direction, except for one…  Laying there at 51 yards was bird #1 for 2016.  Less than an hour after sunrise and turkey tag #1 had been filled!

After gathering up my bird, a few congratulatory high-fives, and a few pictures we headed into town to get some breakfast to celebrate.  While enjoying a warm stack of pancakes and country ham, we decided we would go and try to fill Forrest’s 2nd turkey tag.  Long story short, after an intense 30 minute encounter with a longbeard at 8 yards, we got it done and he stuck a Grim Reaper whitetail special in the 11 ring.

The following morning ended in an unsuccessful hunt for Forrest, Ben and I.  We saw and heard birds, but nothing in range.  Brad, however, was able to fill his first tag for the year.  I’ll let him fill you all in on the story.

All in all, it was another successful trip down to North Carolina and I was able to spend time with old friends doing something we love to do…turkey hunt.

Bird Stats:

  • 19 lbs. (estimated weight)
  • 9 1/8″ beard
  • 1-1/16″ and 1-1/8″ spurs

Brett’s Gear:

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