Just Your Average Day of Turkey Hunting…?
Russ Chastain 04.11.17
Like most days of turkey hunting, this one contained a good bit of excitement and plenty of heartbreak.
As I’d done so many times before, I stood by Lulabelle in the pre-dawn woods to listen for gobbles. The hunting had been slow all week, and I hadn’t heard many gobbles due to the cloudy weather and the generally fickle ways of fowl.
At 6:40, I heard one. It was south and it was far away, but since it was the only option there was, I grabbed my gear and started hot-footing it down the gravel road, keeping to the soft clay roadside rather than the crunchy gravel surface.
The turkey must have been as ready for action as I was, and he kept gobbling. His calls led me down the road, down a trail, through a long food plot, and along a skinny ATV trail to the creek bottom where he’d roosted. By then, I’d hoofed it more than half a mile.
I slowly eased down the trail, almost to a skinny creek as I zeroed in on the gobbler’s location. He was still on his roost about 50 or 60 yards away, somewhere up the opposite slope of a narrow wooded valley. At 7:03 I hunkered by a lovely Georgia lily and unlimbered my box calls. I coaxed out a couple sweet, soft “come-hither” yelps and waited. My pulse increased as my anticipation grew.
I could see it all unfolding in my mind’s eye: the tom would fly out of his tree and saunter down the slope coming towards me, and I’d drop the hammer from behind my brushy cover. My adrenaline would spike, a bird would die, and I would once again be able to call myself an accomplished turkey hunter. The reward for all of my long, hard work was mere moments away.
That was the plan.
Unbeknownst to me, I’d managed to set up directly below a roosted hen, as I learned when she flew one tree closer to the gobbler and perched there eyeballing me. She wasn’t sure what was happening, but she wasn’t upset enough to make a fuss.
I made some nice friendly turkey sounds, and she gave me the sideways eyeball. But she also came out with a soft tree yelp.
Well all right.
Suddenly, I had the best gobbler call there ever was: A real live hen turkey. The gobbler had to be hearing it. I used my turkey calls to add a few of my own comments.
“Come here, you blankety-blank gobbler,” I said.
The gobbler kept on not coming. Didn’t he know how hard I’d hunted and that it was my turn? Perhaps he simply didn’t care.
The hen continued to give a soft yelp every now and then along with an occasional putt. The gobbler thundered in reply to any call I made, but remained on the roost. I attempted to get him moving–and to mask the sounds of alarm made by the hen–by yelping, cutting, fighting-purring, and gobbling.
From somewhere east down the creek bottom, there came a pair of overlapping gobbles.
The hen was eyeballing me hard, but I tried to ignore her and avoided making eye contact. I’m sure she was befuddled by hearing so many turkey calls below her but only seeing me. It was finally too much for her, and she suddenly flew towards the gobbler. I heard her light in a tree near him.
My quarry’s gobbles became less frequent and the addled hen soon flew down. Two minutes and a few yelps later I heard the gobbler follow. The time was 7:13.
I knew what was happening, though I couldn’t see it. The gobbler suavely approached the hen and put a wing across her shoulders while whispering soft, calming words in her ear. And then he led her across the property line and far out of reach. Every now and then he tossed an occasional gobble back over his shoulder at me, just to rub it in.
Sometimes, a gobbler will return after romancing his morning hen. I knew that he knew exactly where I’d been when I’d called that morning, and he might circle back later on. So I snuck off east a little ways, slightly closing the distance to the pair of gobblers I’d heard earlier, and hunkered down to wait him out.
His gobbles faded away to the west, and the pair of gobblers to the east refused to shock-gobble at passing crows. I figured I was just as well off to hunker where I could see my original setup in case gobbler number one made a return. Meanwhile, I’d hope something would come from the other way.
I’d been sitting for eight minutes and had produced a few soft yelps when the rain began. I tucked my wooden box calls under my low stool, draped my vest flaps over my old shotgun, and leaned forward to help shelter it. The old gun had been my father’s favorite and now it was mine, but like him, I took it afield in any sort of weather.
Three minutes later, I heard a flydown over my right shoulder towards the earlier double gobbles. I also heard a putt nearby me and some raspy yelps towards the flydown I’d just heard.
The nearby putt suggested I had been busted, but I turned my gun that direction and yelped softly. The rain began again so I draped a vest flap over the gun’s receiver. Sadly, I failed to turn and face that direction.
About an hour after the original gobbler had flown down and 12 minutes after I’d heard the flydown to the east, I heard a low putt over my right shoulder. I turned my head in slow motion, and ten yards away stood a tom turkey. I could clearly see his large red head and dangling beard, and another turkey of some sort beyond him.
Moving slowly, I removed the vest flap, got the gun in my hands, and began to shoulder it for a left-handed shot. The gobbler seemed to become a little more alert, although he didn’t immediately spook and run. Just before I got the gun into shooting position, he turned tail to leave. His head seemed to disappear, hidden by his body as he hurried away.
Hoping to stop him or at least get him to stick up his head, I made a small noise. The head popped up. I put the bead there and pulled the trigger.
He took wing for a short distance, staying low and no more than two or three feet off the ground. Within less than a second, he descended and disappeared from view. I jumped up and ran over there, only to find a whole lot of nothing. I had definitely missed.
I returned to my seat and stayed another hour, nursing the hope that the original gobbler would return. His sporadic gobbles finally did start to come closer again, and by the time he had closed the gap to about a half-mile, the rain REALLY started.
I tolerated the downpour for thirty minutes, then decided to move to a deer stand with a roof about a quarter-mile away. When I tried to shoulder my turkey hunting seat, I found that the strap had somehow been ripped in two.
Once I was under cover, I spread out my gear in hopes that it might one day become dry again. The rain shower became a thunderstorm as I dutifully recorded the morning’s events in my hunting journal. A day like this one deserved to be remembered.
After two hours under the roof, only a light rainfall remained. I gathered my gear and gave up, committing myself to the slick and soggy trudge back to my vehicle and on to camp.