Hunters share their fall gobbler stories

Wilkes-Barre (AP) — Turkey hunters do a lot of waiting for gobblers to come within range, but sometimes while sitting quietly in the woods for hours, they enjoy unexpected glimpses of nature.

Mary Joe Casalena had a bird land on her shotgun barrel.

A bobcat answered Chip Sorber’s turkey call.

Jack Cherba, while anticipating a turkey’s approach, had a close encounter with coyotes instead.

Casalena, the wild turkey biologist for the state Game Commission, watches songbirds while she hunts Pennsylvania’s largest game bird, for which the fall season began Saturday.

“I always get a kick out of songbirds landing next to me,” she said in an email in which she told of taking cues from black-capped chickadees. “It’s great to watch them fly from tree to tree checking out small cavities until they find one suitable for the night. Shortly after that I know it’s time for me to find my roost site, inside!”

Rules permit hunting from one-half hour before sunrise, which will be 6:57 a.m., to one-half hour after sunset, or 6:31 p.m. on opening day in eastern Pennsylvania.

Turkey season lasts until Nov. 12 in most parts of the state, although hunters in Wildlife Management Unit 4E that includes western Luzerne, Columbia and Montour counties have an extra week until Nov. 18.

Across the state, except in the southeast where there is no fall season and the northwest corner, hunting reopens around Thanksgiving from Nov. 24 to 26.

Cherba, who lives in Weatherly and found a second career making turkey calls after he retired, said he was hunting on the Broad Mountain in Carbon County a few falls ago. He set up across a creek with a ridge to his back and watched the sun come up. He tried some light clucks, louder clucks and then yelps.

No turkeys answered, but two deer happened along. They were within 15 yards of him, but moving hesitantly and checking the trail behind them.

Less than a minute later, Cherba saw what worried them. Two coyotes — one tan and gray, the other almost black — padded along the trail.

“One would advance, stop, put its nose up to get a scent, and the other would come up (and …) pass. They were hunting like a team,” Cherba said.

The coyotes came within 50 yards of him, the closest he has ever been to their kind, but they didn’t detect him.

Cherba watched breath fume out of their nostrils on the brisk morning and saw the sun glint off their impeccable fur.

“It was so vivid to me. It’s like it happened yesterday,” he said.

For Sorber, his first memory of turkey hunting remains vivid even though he didn’t take home a bird. He was in college in the late 1960s, and had a shotgun and a turkey call that cost $6.95. He was wearing blue jeans and a red flannel shirt, colors neither he nor other turkey hunters would wear today for safety reasons.

Hunters avoid red, blue, black and white — the colors found in a gobbler’s face and feathers — so they won’t be mistaken for a target.

A turkey gobbled, so Sorber started calling. “He came right in.”

Perhaps overanxious, he fired before the turkey came close enough, and the bird escaped.

“But I was hooked. Like the greatest thing — the gobble. Every time he gobbled, you knew he was 10 yards closer,” Sorber said.

His closeup with the bobcat occurred more recently on game lands near his property in Noxen. After sitting and calling, Sorber noticed something moving behind a log 30 yards away. All he could see above the log were two black tips. He realized they were the ears of a bobcat that crept along the log and intended to pounce on the source of the turkey calls it heard.

To make sure the bobcat knew he wasn’t a turkey, Sorber moved enough to make the cat run away.

Wayne Potts, a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation and resident of Drums, said he and his daughter, Kalina, twice saw a bear with cubs while hunting turkeys. They also watched a coyote catch a rabbit.

“But the favorite feeling,” he said in an email, “is just to be in the outdoors with my daughter, enjoying the time together and forgetting about the rat race.”