Article by Alan Beckwith

Turkey I started my 2002 pre-season scouting at one of my usual hunting spots here in New York's "Finger Lakes Region." This is a land of vineyards, fields and wooded forest. It was about 10:30 A.M. the day before the May 1st start of turkey season. I had walked down the hill and across the top of a vineyard. I stepped into the bushes and let out a series of hen yelps. To my surprise from the middle of the vineyard came a booming gobble! I shot back with another series of yelps. The ole long beard came at a run, looking for the girl of his dreams. I sat still and watched him gobbling and strutting. He kept up his song and dance for about 20 minutes. Finally he gave up and wandered off into the woods. What a beautiful sight he was, displaying in the full sun! This bird's willingness to come into the call made me think I had a good chance of filling a tag the next morning.

Well it's never as easy as it seems! Opening morning I had this "Hillside Tom" gobbling on his roost at first light. When I heard him fly down he went away from me and down the hill. The ole boy started his morning down the hill gobbling up a storm. I also heard some hens clucking and yelping and at fly down they headed towards the gobbler. That was the end of the turkey talk for the morning. Just before noon I heard a shot from way down the hill. I figured another hunter had brought some in and taken a shot. I took my time walking back up the long hill, hoping my "Hillside Tom" was still able to gobble. There was no way to know for sure, so I crossed my fingers and decided to give this spot a rest. I had made up my mind to hunt elsewhere for a couple days.

Two mornings later I was back on the hill where I started my season. At first light I called and received an answer from the "Hillside Gobbler" and the rest of this flock of roosting birds. I thanked God he was still around and talking turkey! After fly down these birds came up the hill to my calls, but then they hung up just out of sight over the crest of hill. I tried sneaking back up the hill and calling like a hen going away. They would follow me up the hill and stay just out of sight. Sure seemed like these birds had been educated in the past few days! Noon came all too soon and I headed out of the woods for another day.

As luck would have it Matt and Mark (My 18 year old twin sons) would be able to hunt with me on Sunday. Our plan was simple, split up on the hillside and see what we could do with three of us calling. Long before dawn we took up positions across the hillside with 500 yards or so between us. It was a cold, damp and windy morning. As the dawn broke things started to happen on my end of the line. I started calling and had two gobblers sound off right away. One above me on the hill and the other located below. I spent some time walking up and down a tote road trying to tell which bird would like to play with this "Hillside Hen." The downhill bird seemed to be sounding off the most, so I headed through a jungle of low brush. I kept up calling with a series of hen clucks and yelps. I finally broke into some hardwoods and found a big oak tree to use as a backrest. After settling in I let go with a series of calls to this gobbler. He answered right back and came in to a point below me and then hung-up AGAIN. I could not see him due to the curve of the hill. I was beginning to think he does this to let me know who the "Real Turkey" is, "Gobble, Gobble, Gobble !"

Sitting there with this ole boy that close was frustrating. Time after time this "Hillside Gobbler" had done this to me. I didn't dare to move because I knew he would be able to see me if I stood up. He would answer every call I made but just not come up over that hill. I decided to try something different so picked up a stick that was lying next to me and started raking the leaves. I figured some other "turkey noise" was in order, as he wasn't coming any closer with the clucks and purrs I was sending his way. When he heard the "hen" scratching he came walking up over the hill looking for her. At about fifty yards I saw his head and neck pop up out of the ferns. As he walked in, his head would drop down into the ground cover hiding him completely from my view. At 35 yards away, his head went down again and I swung the 20 gauge into position. He kept coming in and when he lifted his head at fifteen yards a charge of # 5 shot went his way. At the shot he disappeared. I saw no signs of wings beating in the ferns where he had been standing. I was positive my aim was true. I walked over to the spot where he had stood and there he was hidden by the ferns.

This "Hillside Tom " was a big, beautiful, mature bird. I filled out a tag for him and I hiked over to where Matt would be. I thought he would have heard the shot and been looking for me. I spotted him first, sitting against a tree. When I was about 30 yards away I could hear him calling. I let out a short whistle to let him know I was there. He spotted the bird that was slung over my shoulder and met me with a grin and congratulations. I was surprised to find out he heard the shot but figured it was way off and not close enough to be me. It was really windy that day and made the sounds seem further away than they really were. Mark heard my whistle to him and headed over to see what was going on. He also broke out with a grin when he saw the bird and congratulated me. Sure is great to have your sons there when things like this come together on a hunt. The greatest benefit of having the boys there was that they carried "The Hillside Tom" up that long, steep hill we had to climb to get back to the car. Now tell me, what more could a guy ask for ?


On May 8th, I shot a "Hillside Jake" from the same tree Matt was resting against on May 5th. This "Jake" came in sounding like a hen to me ! I'm just glad I saw his head and little beard because I was going to pass on this "hen." If the boys could have hunted this day one of them would have been tagging it. The only drawback to that would have been me carrying their bird out instead of mine! Although the boys didn't get a bird this year we are learning a lot about how to out-smart them. I'm really looking forward to hunting more of these "Hillside Toms" with my boys !