April woods filled with gobble talk


The wind rose up with a shout the past few days of March, and showed no signs of abating during the first two days of April, my favorite month of the year.

I sat on my front porch Friday and watched the white petals of the wild pear and the purple blooms of the red bud flying in the air to sprinkle the lawn with color.

I thought of the wild turkeys and wondered how they manage to stay on the roost in the leafless trees of the woods of northeastern Kentucky and southern Ohio.

But they’re a tough and resilient bird and no doubt enough of them have escaped the jaws of coyotes and foxes to provide for another time of excitement for hunters when the seasons open soon now in both states.

Ohio’s spring wild turkey season is set for April 18 through May 15, while Kentucky’s season will open April 16 and run through May 8.


“There he is! Did you hear it?” said my wild turkey hunting mentor, Winford Porter, who lives on Music Branch in Boyd County.

Yes, I heard the faint sound of “gobble, gobble.” It came from the slope of the hill across the hollow from where we were hunkered down, camouflaged from head to toe.

Winford used his slate to sound off with a few hen clucks. Then we listened. The tom sounded again, this time closer.

“He’s flown down from the roost and we’ve got him coming our way,” Winford whispered.

This was service. Winford, who had already bagged his two turkeys for the season, was doing the calling, and I – who had undergone recent knee surgery – was using his shotgun and shells. The gun rested on my knees, pointed in the direction the gobbler was coming from.

When the old tom called again, he had flown across the hollow to our side.

A few more clucks from my friend’s caller instantly brought more gobbles, each time sounding closer.

Finally, looking down a deer trail that led straight through the woods to our left, we spotted Mr. Tom. He stepped out from behind an oak into clear view.

He fanned that tail out and ruffled his feathers. He seemed to be saying, “Look, you hens, how beautiful and strong I am. Come to me.”

He gobbled, gobbled, and gobbled some more. He was out of range. I wanted him to come within 30-35 yards, so I could get a clean shot and not wind up with an escaped, wounded bird.

Winford sounded a few more clucks on the caller. The bird continued to stay right where he was. He gobbled some more.

Finally, to our disgust, two or three hens came walking along the trail, from the opposite direction. My bird sidled up to them, and off they went, soon to be out of sight.

We later stepped off the distance to where he had been strutting and determined it to be 47 yards.

I label this tale “Forty-seven gobbles at 47 yards.”

Now, when I think about it, I find myself trying to pull the trigger on the long shot.


Comes an interesting e-mail from Ron “Bo” Hilderbrand in South Dakota, who says he read a column I did on Muskie Joe Stamper in the daily newspapers:

Mr. Piatt,

My son and I just took our annual trip to Kinniconick Creek in what used to be known as Commyville, Ky. We have gone down to muskie fishing Kinny for five years now with each of us landing one for the first time this spring.

You see, my grandmother was Betty (Stamper) Hilderbrand, the daughter of Joe Stamper. I have heard stories about my great-grandfather since I was a kid and have read a few articles about him over the years.

I remember when he passed at my grandparents’ home in Shirley, Indiana, not knowing anything about him as I was just 7 years old.

Kinny is not the same creek as in was back in the 1970s and 1980s. I tried to explain to my son how deep it used to be and how much cleaner it was before all the big floods that have happened since the 80s.

I would appreciate knowing any more information you might have on him.

Thank you for your time and thank you for your article,

Bo Hilderbrand

Lab manager

NuGen Energy LLC

Marion, South Dakota

Muskie Joe was a legendary muskie fisherman and guide who lived in Commyville in a little cabin home on the banks of Kinniconick, at about the mid-point of the stream, which begins and ends in Lewis County.

I have always credited Joe with catching the biggest muskie Kinny has surrendered, a 32-pounder which provided a fry for most of the inhabitants of the little settlement.

I think the column Hilderbrand refers to was one in which I wrote about Joe guiding for a preacher. The preacher hooked a big one and got so excited in fighting it that he dropped his rod in the boat and fell overboard.

Joe said he didn’t know if the preacher could swim or not, but he couldn’t take a chance on losing that muskie. He picked up the rod and battled the big fish into the boat.

Then he heard the preacher calling for help. He was going down for the third time when Joe grabbed him by the collar and pulled him in.

The biggest, most rip roaring flood to hit Kinniconick since the 1930s happened in March 1997. Some riffles were washed out and some pools filled in. Not many fishing cabins along the stream escaped flooding. Some of them were washed off their foundations.

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G. Sam Piatt

PDT Outdoors Columnist

Reach G. SAM PITT at (606) 932-3619 or [email protected].

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