Waterfront living on the gorgeous South Carolina coast is indeed a wonderful lifestyle and one that I very much appreciate every day! However, there are some minor disadvantages when it comes to hunting. I have to travel at least an hour and a half to hunt, whether I am hunting deer, hogs, turkeys, or other game. My wake-up call is typically 3 a.m., so that we can get to our hunt before first light. On top of that, I am like a kid on Christmas Eve, excited with anticipation, and I cannot sleep. And, yes, I need coffee and makeup. To make matters worse, I have poor night vision, so if I am hunting solo, the drive is pretty intense. Luckily, there is very little traffic in the wee hours of the morning.
OPENING DAY HUNT:
On Opening Day of turkey season, my hubby and I hunted in the roughest terrain. It looked like a bomb had gone off, with miles of cutover, deep ruts, standing water, and a dreary landscape. That early morning hour navigating in the darkness was challenging. We spent the entire day setting up against trees, walking, running, and wading through trenches in this unforgiving terrain since we’d decided not to use a blind. And then I did the unthinkable—I faceplanted when my foot caught a branch. Luckily I was not hurt, but the fall prompted me to consider some options around getting up at such an early hour.
Go ahead, call me a day hunter. I have earned this title, I like it, and here is why.
Don’t misunderstand! For a hunter, there is probably nothing better than listening and watching as the woods awaken. Getting situated and quiet before first light is like sitting in the front row in a concert hall—peeks of light give way as the curtain opens and the beautiful symphony of songbirds fills the air. But if you are not up to getting into the woods at this very early hour, don’t let that ruin your hunt, and for sure, do not let that stop you from getting in the woods at daylight! I opted to start my second turkey hunt at 9 a.m., which gave me a lot of extra time to sleep and prepare.
I was so excited to hunt with my friend Kim Davis. We were hunting two open camouflaged blinds on opposite sides of a vast field. I had good coverage next to the wood line, with a canopy of shade trees. It was so pleasant not being in a pop-up tent so that I was part of the outdoors while still having some protection from the eagle eyes of the turkeys. Sitting was a nice break from the running and gunning I had done on Opening Day. Don’t get me wrong. Turkey hunting can bring out the crazy in almost everyone—I have belly-crawled in the swamp many times, but this year safety is uppermost in my mind.
Armed with my arsenal of slate calls and a box call (I left my mouth call and scratch call at home), I sat back in my turkey chair and started a series of yelps, purrs, and clucks. Warm breezes felt terrific, and I settled in, pleasantly relaxed. All was quiet—not one gobble and not one cluck! Only the sound of an occasional owl and a few crows pierced the quiet. Being outside surrounded by the beauty of nature around me was enough to fill my soul. Still optimistic, I continued to try different calls.
At 12:08 p.m., out of nowhere, there he came running toward my decoy—I was caught completely off guard. With my chair angled toward the opposing wood line, I never expected to see a turkey off to my left. I scrambled in slow motion to pick up my gun and ready myself for a shot, and I knew I didn’t have a moment to waste, as I felt very exposed. The tom posed in half strut as he maneuvered between my hen and jake decoys. I was almost sure I would put a lot of holes in my decoys, but I took a decisive shot. He went down hard, without even a flop! There was no time for my heart to race, and no time to overthink the shot. I was thrilled to have taken this mature bird. He was an 18-pound tom with a 10-inch beard and 1¼-inch spurs.
MY DAYTIME TURKEY HUNTING STRATEGY
I am not a turkey hunting expert by any means, but I know that once the turkeys fly down from their roost, there are plenty of willing hens for the gobblers to tend. Once the hens start nesting, they will go back to their nests late in the morning, leaving the toms to search for hens still looking for love. When most hunters have long left their hunts, there is always an opportunity to hunt these most challenging gamebirds!
This was the first turkey hunting season for Kim, and she took this fantastic gobbler at 6 p.m. Another day hunter! I am so proud of Kim. Check out this proud hunter and her gobbler weighing in at 20 pounds with 1½-inch spurs, and a 9½-inch beard. Congratulations, Kim!
MORE EVIDENCE FOR MY DAY HUNTING
Day hunting has been on my mind for a long time. Because of my limitations with night vision, deer hunting, and hog hunting have been super challenging. Yes, you get out there an hour before first light, and the theory is the big bucks will come out in the early morning or right before dark. Legal hunting hour for us in South Carolina is between one hour before official sunrise until one hour after official sunset. Even with one of the best scopes on the market, I can’t count antler points or properly age a deer. I have found it very frustrating getting to the stand at such an early or late hour and not being able to see well enough to take a shot. That’s when I realized that day hunting was the key for me.
Walking in right after daylight may keep you from bumping deer, and they typically will step out a little later in the morning to top off their stomachs with a last meal before they bed down for the afternoon. The last three bucks I took were all shot between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. What’s your Favorite Time to Hunt?
Okay, I am a day hunter and a proud one at that! For me, it’s an option. I love being in the woods at first light and will continue to do both!!!
Maggie–congrats on your fine bird (and your patience). Even after having taken my 301st career turkey on opening day–lawsy I’ve been chasing those big birds a long time–I still find it difficult to stay in place for long hours the way you did. There’s no doubt, however, that such tactics do at times pay dividends.
Thank you, Jim!!! You certainly have a ton of experience and amazing stories. Trippett also stays in awe of my ability to spend long hours, whether it is hunting deer or turkeys. Trust me, I carry enough snacks and drinks, and I have to admit that my cell phone keeps me connected and entertained. My friend, Kim and I saw a lot of action yesterday, but neither took a bird home. I got to the hunt around 8:30 and left at 4:30 and, she stayed until 7:00 pm. I guess you could say that we are passionate about the pursuit!
Do it your way my favorite huntress! Love you.
I always do! Love you!