On The Ridge with Joe Judd: Late-season highlights of the hunt

Published: 05-29-2024 7:48 PM

As the first moments of daylight crept over the horizon like a sedated manatee on the last day of turkey hunting season, I was mesmerized at how long it took for the sun to appear that day. I honestly don’t know why this was, or what was making me more anxious than usual. While thinking about it being the final day, I found myself lying in bed looking at the ceiling, waiting to get up and into the woods again.

And then once awake, feeling the sting that always accompanies the final day of another long hunting season, sitting on a ridge somewhere in my beloved Shelburne. As usual, consoled by the “guarded” knowledge that I was probably alone today, yet certain that a mature gobbler, maybe more, was somewhere on this ridgeline with me. And it was this confidence that had me believing that soon, the early morning darkness would be breached by the roar of gobbling turkeys. But as dawn slowly turned into 8:30 a.m., without hearing so much as a single turkey sound, I began to wonder if these birds had packed up and moved to another county? Or maybe aliens had beamed them up for breakfast?

All that aside, I was still confident that I knew why they were quiet, I knew basically where they were, and that they’d eventually either sound off, or I would go find them! So, I relaxed a bit, and let the morning come to me.

I began to think about what a great season it’s been for so many hunters throughout our region, and beyond. I started thinking about my best mornings, and about how I was able to spend time with others, just trying to help them have a chance of finding success! I was thinking about the many stories I’ve heard thus far, and about how much fun I’d had throughout this entire season. And as the morning wore on, other thoughts and experiences just continued coming, which leads me to one of the best stories relayed to me this year – though I’m not quite sure if it’s funny or sad, you can be the judge of that. But I can tell you this with extreme certainty, it is, without a doubt, totally entertaining!

The story begins with two good friends of mine, who just happen to be best friends themselves, Keith Fritz and Tim Gribbons, both members of the NWTF Board of Directors, and I would venture to say, both excellent turkey hunters. Their story starts on opening day near Spencer where they were in the woods and ready to go well before first light. Around 5:45 a.m. a distant sound caught their attention almost simultaneously. And just a short while later Timmy was calling to a nice gobbler moving carefully along the wood line where they had scouted a few days prior. As the bird kept coming, Tim masterfully coaxed him along with a mouth call as the bird cautiously eased his way toward them. Eventually, he began heading into the field and away from the wood line, slowly moving into range with his eyes still focused on a hen decoy. It was clear now that Keith would get the shot, but he would have to lean to his left to get on the bird. And just as he was finally able to shoot, the arm rest on his turkey seat broke, thrusting him earthward with the shot spraying onto the ground. As the gobbler began scooting out of there, Keith quickly pumped another shell into his 870 Remington, leaning even harder now to the left! And as he did this, the rest of the chair gave way under him with Keith crashing down flat on his back, lying prostrate on the ground at the edge of the field.

Keith went on to tell me that he didn’t know who was laughing the hardest, Tim, himself, or the hen decoy who just stood there staring at them! And as my mind slowly wandered back to Shelburne, still sitting in my own ground chair waiting for something to happen, I was chuckling at the very thought of this, just loud enough I’m sure, to frighten off any self-respecting turkey that wandered within hearing distance.

And for Keith and Tim, the hilarity of that hunt will stay with both men far longer than the memory of other “successful hunts” they are sure to share together in the future. And this is really what it’s all about. Good friends, having fun, sharing good times, memories, and laughing together, all on the last day of another memorable Massachusetts turkey hunting season!

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and sportsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association, and a 2019 inductee into the N.E. Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame. Joe is also on the Quaker Boy Game Calls and Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Pro-Staff. He can be reached at jjontheridge@comcast.net

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