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Patience, persistence and a first turkey: Tom Shank's Woods & Waters column

Posted 5/31/17

Two of the most important virtues of successful turkey hunting is patience and being persistent.

The 2017 Spring Gobbler Season for my cousin Donald Manning of Carlisle and his hunting buddy …

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Patience, persistence and a first turkey: Tom Shank's Woods & Waters column

Frank Artnak and Don Manning show off a turkey weighing 18 pounds with a 9-inch beard and 7/8 in spurs.
Frank Artnak and Don Manning show off a turkey weighing 18 pounds with a 9-inch beard and 7/8 in spurs.
contributed photo
Posted

Two of the most important virtues of successful turkey hunting is patience and being persistent.

The 2017 Spring Gobbler Season for my cousin Donald Manning of Carlisle and his hunting buddy Frank Artnak of Camp Hill is proof of that.

Don is a rather successful hunter when it comes to turkeys. He has brought into his sights, and to others, several mature gobblers.

His preferred method of calling is a slate pot call. However, he will change things up to a mouth or box call if nothing is responding.

In the spring, Don harvested his turkey off South Mountain in Cumberland County. As many hunters do after putting a tag on his own, they take the challenge of guiding family and friends. The biggest challenge Don faced for the last four years was to help his good friend Frank take his first Pennsylvania longbeard during the spring season.

Whatever could go wrong when the pair went out, did. Turkeys would be called into shotgun range and for reasons unexplainable, Frank couldn’t see them or may have moved at a time to spook an incoming gobbler.

Maybe Frank hadn’t killed a turkey, but it sure wasn’t for lack of trying. Don never gave up, nor did Frank.

The alarm clock would go off at 3:30 a.m., and out the cabin door the two would venture. Hunt they did from the beginning of light in the morning, to the quitting time at noon. Day in and day out, they did this routine without a break.

Cold temperatures were met with rainy, damp days and the complete opposite of subtropical temperatures in the high 80s. Talk about temperature variances. Days were long and at times boring, but the two continued to hunt.

Some days gobbling was heard in a distant. Young immature jakes were seen, as well as some hens, but no good opportunities presented themselves. Well, that all ended during the third week of the season in upper Clinton County on a high mountain plateau.

They previously had hunted this area. Not every day, but it was always in the back of Don’s mind. Gobblers had been seen in the past, and the sign of scratching in the leaves and tracks in the mud proved that turkeys were there.

On this morning they got to a spot to listen for any early morning gobbling. Right off a faint gobble was heard. They both looked at each other, trying to substantiate the direction of the gobble.

It was time to move and set up as best they could. Frank was the hunter, Don the caller. It was the typical tag-team approach.

Don positioned the hen decoy out in front of him and took a stationary calling position far behind Frank and the decoy. Frank got situated about 30 yards from the decoy. The time was 6 a.m.

Don began a series of yelps and got a response. This turkey was a challenge because it seemed to have gobbled only once, to the submissive hen yelps. It would later gobble 25 or more times. It sounded closer and closer as Frank waited.

It was a waiting game. Silence became the norm. Not a gobble. You could hear a pin drop. Did the bird decide not to come in like all the times before? Did Frank move and the bird spooked? Was it going to be another fruitless morning? Close, but the deal not closed?

Suddenly, the quietness of the mountain air echoed as a shotgun blast from Frank was taken. Don was so excited to at least hear a shot. Unfortunately, his view of the “turkey show” was obstructed. Don hurried over to Frank, to see him standing looking toward a flapping black mass of colors. Frank got his first gobbler!

Frank was so excited and told the story over and over again. Don did his magic on the call, and Frank watched as the gobbler came out of some thick underbrush only to erupt in a full strut and tail fan. This is the sight that all turkey hunters live for and dream about.

The gobbler focused on the hen and allowed Frank to get a perfect sight alignment. The distance was about 35 yards and the turkey looked huge to Frank. His red, white and blue head with coal black feathers was a beautiful sight. No more waiting his opportunity was now and Frank took it.

Frank’s 2017 spring gobbler is a true testament of never giving up and being persistent through the years of unsuccessful attempts. Lastly, it pays to have a good friend who sacrifices his own hunting to help others score on their very first spring gobbler.

As Don said to me, “Frank’s turkey is as good as it gets. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Tom Shank has been writing Woods and Waters for the Press & Journal for nine years. His expertise has been gained through 50 years plus hunting, fishing, trapping and exploring the full gamut of nature. The Susquehanna River and his cabin in Lycoming County are his true loves. Woods and Waters is his playground in life, and to write about it for the Press & Journal is a dream come true.