The bird’s in the freezer. The shotgun’s back up on the wall. There’s a stubborn gobbler out in the holler that won’t shut up. 2007 Gobbler season is looking good. It did not start that way.
Opening weekend was abysmal. Saturday was constant rain from midnight to after sundown. Sunday was dark and blustery. After a miserable morning with the Moose, we came in early. Too cold. Too windy. The birds were lackadaisical. I did hear a few hearty gobbles off in the distance past our campground however, and that was where I thought I would start this morning. I got out early and walked to the back of the farm and set up in one of the prepared blinds Angus and I had set up prior to Yute Season.
I could have stayed in bed. There was nothing for a quarter mile or more to answer my calls. The sun started to come up, and I was alone. It was time for a new plan. We had been having good luck earlier in the year at a place the kids had helped me prepare three years earlier. It was about half a dozen good setups in a 50 yard stretch of fenceline running between three pastures. It overlooks some one nice strut zone in the corner of one pasture, and watches the gate between two others. Angus, #3 son, and nearly bagged a nice one during Yute season. However, it had proved empty the day before with Moose.
I figured that the difference had been sunshine. All three days were going to be windy. This one was going to be no exception, but it hadn’t built up to it yet. It had been much colder on Angus’ hunt, but still sunny. It had been dark and gloomy for Moose. My guess was that the turkeys were coming out into the pastures to warm themselves in the sunshine, and staying back in the cedars when it was cloudy. The sun was peaking up, so I would know soon. Meanwhile, I had to work out the intricacies of working with an extra layer of clothing, a heavy coat and a wool balaclava to ward off the uncommonly cold and windy morning ahead.
At sunrise, I got a visit from three hens. I’d chosen Angus’ favorite spot, sitting on a log under a cedar tree. It afforded a good view, easy movement, and excellent cover. When the hens came in I managed to duck down without them seeing me. They came in, fed amongst my decoys and then departed, never the wiser.
I had been keeping track of a total of four gobblers. My friends, the crows and the red-tail hawk, kept them busy betraying themselves all through flydown and beyond. The crows were particularly helpful this morning. I do not know what their problem was, but they were quite boisterous.
I had a spread of three dekes out—two hens venturing into the brush in front of me on the eastern side of the fence line. I had a jake out in the pasture about 10 yards between them and ten yards out, looking straight at me. As the hens left, one of them started sparring with her buddy, and the one hen let loose with a huge cackle. That got three gobblers interested—one behind me and two out in front. After the hens left, I repeated what I had heard using my new homemade slate/glass call. That sealed the deal. From there, a few clucks every few minutes was all it took.
I am just not certain what happened next. In some ways, it mimicked what had happened to Angus on his first hunt there. A gobbler seemed to be coming in from behind, but another snuck in from the front. In Angus’ case, if I had not moved him, Angus would have had to poke the gobbler away with his gun barrel, just to get him out far enough to make a shot. As it was, the gob came in from behind us in our new setup and drummed in my ear before our eyes met and he took off.
For a good long while the gobbler to my left sounded like he was making a repeat performance. However, he got hinky and after starting to come from directly behind the jake decoy, he zigged and went into the fenceline about 30 yards from me and slightly uphill.
Now here’s the weird part: I lost him. He hung up, and I did not hear him for the longest time. Much later, having not moved a muscle for some time, I heard a gobbler putt off to my left. In the pasture to my west. I’d been busted. But how? What had happened.
I hadn’t. The game was not over. I yelped a little on my mouth call and clucked a time or two and soon I was hearing rustling off to my left. I do not know if the putting gobbler was doing and end-around or if there was a second or third gobbler involved in this dance. However, I heard rustling of leaves and then a spit, followed by a drum loud enough to sound like someone turning on the clothes dryer. Maybe the eager one that came in and then putted his way out got scared off by this guy. I do not know. All I know is that I had just a moment to shift myself and bring the shotgun over the top of the log I had been leaning against. There were additional spits and drums, the top of a fan glinting in the sun, a long silence and then a head peaked out about 10 yards away. He was strutting in the rut we follow when we drive to the campground. In my sight I found the base of his neck, flipped the safety and fired.
There was eternity in that next second or so. At ten yards, #4 Federals coming out of my choke are about as dense as it gets. Had he ducked the shot? Had he slipped out? Was I just going to find an empty pasture when I got up?
The inside of a wing arced over the top of the bushes, and I knew he was done. I sprang up and shucked another into the chamber, but he was down and twitching. I was careful though. Sometimes they just get stunned by the wad and come back to life in a hurry. As it was, he had nearly had his neck blown off at the base. I was surprised to see the body try to get up and walk away twice, but the head was totally disconnected.
Back at the house, my gobbler weighed in at 21 lbs with change, and sported a 10 inch beard and three-quarter inch spurs. He also was sporting one of the largest fat deposits I have ever seen on a Spring gobbler. My turkeys must have had plenty to eat over the winter. Cincinnati had weeks of ice and frigid cold. Down here, the ice was just rain and the winter must have been much milder. The wind is picking up again and blowing my gear about. As soon as I can get in and get a pot of coffee going, I’m going to curl up next to the stove watch for Mister Natural strutting in the far pasture.
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