Drove up to Vermont with a buddy on a spur of the moment trip this past weekend. We didn't have a lot of time to take off from work so we were only able to hunt 3 days. Luckily we didn't come home empty handed! I'll post the story below for those that are interested
I did a lot of research before going and talked to several guys here and elsewhere. General consensus is most guys go around Rutland and there are birds there. I typically stay away from the crowds so I decided to go to the Northeast Kingdom part of Vermont. In 3-1/2 days of hunting/scouting we put 800 miles on the truck. Nearly a tank of gas each day scouting.
Vermont is the first state I have hunted with the non-posted ground law. If it is private land that is not posted it is legal to hunt. This sounds great until you get your boots on the ground. Most fields with turkeys in them are also littered with posted signs. Coming from the South I went in with the mindset that even if it wasn't posted I would do a courtesy call to the landowner to let them know we would be hunting. Every time, other than one time I ran into a nice guy, I made a courtesy call on the trip I was told that they did not want hunting on their property. This is property that I could legally hunt otherwise. I was not able to get permission on a single piece of posted ground. The moral of this story is that if the land is not posted you should hunt that bird, because if you wait on a call back the next guy coming down that road is going to kill him.
The first two days of hunting were tough. We had found a few birds and hunted one the first morning that should have been an easy bird. He turned out to be extremely henned up, and when we called the hunt quits and went looking for him we found him in the middle of the road around the corner breeding a hen.
There was very little gobbling activity and not many clues as to what the birds were doing each day. There was one little field that maintained its consistency though. At some point in the day a gobbler would be there. Our last day was the third day and I figured that was as good of a place as any. The evening before I had seen several trucks scouting that field and one truck parked with binoculars on the bird. I determined at that point I would be up early and beat them to the field.
At 2:45 AM my alarm went off and I was off. I dropped my buddy off to hunt another spot he had struck a bird in the day before. I pulled into the spot I wanted and no one was there. Unloaded my gear and started the walk in. No sooner than I had started walking a truck came down the road looking to park where I had parked to hunt. He saw my truck and slowly pulled off. I had beat him to the spot, but only with a couple minutes to spare!
I had brought a pop tart and plenty of water and was prepared to sit there until the 12:00 shooting time cutoff. I put a single hen decoy out as they had been super shy and not looking for a fight. According to what we heard them do the first day of hunting they should have been roosted about 100 yards to my right. Finally, a good little while after shooting time I hear them gobble on the roost. The problem is they are about 300 yards to my left. It took everything in me to not move and go to them. I knew that they would come by me at some point where I had setup, but with them gobbling a couple times on the roost I figured I could get close. I decided to stay put and let them do their thing.
Two hours went by after shooting light and they had only gobbled once or twice while on the ground. I would call at them each time they gobbled or every 30 minutes or so, just to let them know where I was. The last time I heard them gobble they were still a good 150-200 yards away in the next field and didn't sound like they were coming. I had my phone out texting my buddy to see if he had any action. I look up and a gobbler and 2 hens are 30 yards to my left. My gun was in my lap and I was in no position to shoot. I was using some thick green spruce bushes to hide and I had a big one between me and him.
I slowly put my phone down and pick up my gun. He is in full strut looking at my hen. I try to lift my leg to use my knee as a shooting rest and as soon as I ever so slightly moved he picked me out, I was busted. He stuck his head up high just knowing something was up. At this point it was now or never, so I quickly shouldered my gun and turned my red dot on while doing so. He was putting off and I called to stop him. Put the dot on his head and let it fly. By the time I got my shot off he was farther than I would like to admit, but the 28 gauge shooting a 8.5x9 tss load dropped him like a rock. No flopping
I had to sit there and collect myself for a minute as we had worked very hard for these birds. I finally walked out to him and discovered something odd. I had seen him in full strut at 30 yards so I knew he was a tom. Beautiful full fan and a big bird. I looked for his beard and couldn't find it. After digging through his feathers I finally found a little nub about 2.5" long. Not even as long as a jake beard. He had 3/4" inch spurs and weighed 19 and a half pounds. All I can figure is that he is a 2 year old bird that didn't develop a proper beard. Either way I am thankful to get him and was tickled to punch a tag in Vermont. They made us work for it but we were able to at least bring one home on the last morning!