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2019 Ohio Opening Day Gobbler – Brett Bueltel

Opening day for the 2019 Ohio wild turkey spring season was finally here.  I had prepped well before season again this year and had “that” feeling when I woke up on the morning of April 22nd.  I was not dissapointed.

Preseason Prep

I’ve found that my preseason preparations have had a huge influence on the amount of success I have during the early part of the season.  Obviously there is also a bit of luck required.  A couple of weeks before season begins here in Ohio, I’ve made it a point to get out and setup a few blinds so they are ready to go on opening day. 

Utilizing trail cameras and boots on the ground scouting during early spring has given me intel on where gobblers typically like to hang out and what time of the day they are passing through areas.  My blinds are then setup in locations based on my understanding of the birds habits leading up to the season opener.  It is always a good feeling to get a picture of a gobbler strutting a few feet from a blind that was just setup a day before.  A side benefit to setting up my blinds ahead of season is that I am now carrying far less equipment into the field every morning and my setup is both quieter and quicker.

The Evening Before

Even with all of the preseason preparations I mentioned above, I am somehow always behind on getting my hunting and camera equipment together prior to opening day.  2019 was no different than years past. 

By the time all of my equipment was packed up, camera batteries charged, Firenock batteries replaced from last year, Grim Reapers spin checked, etc. the evening before had rolled into the morning of opening day.  The alarm clock was set for 4:30AM and the clock on my phone showed 12:30AM.  It was going to be a short nights rest.

The Setup

One of my favorite setups I like to hunt is on the edge overlooking a long/narrow crop field.  The field runs north to south and at it’s narrowest point is about 75-80 yards wide before opening up to about triple that. Due to all of the recent rain we’ve received here in Ohio this spring, the crop field was sitting dormant from last fall’s harvest.

I setup my Xenek blind on the eastern edge of the field, keeping the sun at the back of the blind, and utilize the narrower field to funnel the turkeys past the blind/decoy spread.  A DSD 3/4 strut jake decoy and mating hen were set out approximately 10 yards in front of my blind with a leading hen offset to my right.  

Morning Erupts

After doing an initial interview and confirming my bow was all ready to go, I sat back in my blind chair and watched as the world came alive as the sun rose behind me.  It wasn’t long before I heard the first gobble of the season off behind me.  Then another gobble followed in the distance in the other direction.  I was setup in the perfect spot I thought to myself.

Slow Morning

Although the morning started off exactly as planned with gobbling from the roost, after the birds hit the ground things got quiet.  Deer entered and exited the field off in the distance and song birds sounded off all around.  It was peaceful, but at the same time frustrating to know the gobblers were henned up.

Every half hour or so I pulled out a call and tried to strike up a gobble.  Nothing.  Finally, around 10 AM, a few yelps on a friction call drummed up a gobble.  Another yelp from the call and another gobble.  It was getting closer.  

Game Time

I gave another series of yelps when all of a sudden I look out in the 2 o’clock direction and see two birds walking the far edge of the field from the north heading my direction.  Reaching for my camera, I powered it up and began filming.  The birds wasted no time closing the distance to about 150 yards before the gobbler blew up in full strut.  They had obviously noticed the decoy spread and were now coming in on a string.  About that time I noticed the other bird with the gobbler was a single Jake.

The birds followed the far edge of the crop field until they were directly out in front of the blind.  Finally, the jake turned to head in my direction, pulling the gobbler behind him.  The Jake ended up in the decoys for a brief moment before working off behind me to my right.  The gobbler was more hesitant and refused to close the distance any more.  Strutting at 21 yards, he skirted back to the north passing the front of my blind. The Jake had now become suspicious which also put the gobbler on alert.  At that time I decided he wasn’t coming closer and I needed to get ready to make something happen.

The Moment of Truth

Quickly, I pulled up my rangefinder.  32 yards.  The gobbler started moving to my right as I put the rangefinder away and moved the camera to make sure he stayed in frame.  After getting him centered in frame I came to full draw and gave a quick couple of yelps to get him to stop walking.  He gobbled and just as he finished I sent an arrow his way.  The arrow found its mark, and just like that tag #1 in Ohio was filled on opening morning!

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