As the harsh winter months toil on, I sit by my fireplace and reminisce of hunts of yesteryear. All the days spent scouting and preparing for that coming season. All those days spent a field where the only thing I managed to kill was time. All those days are made worth it when that day finally comes, the day that makes it all worth it. One such hunt always sticks out in my mind as the most memorable I’d ever been part of, my very first successful harvest of a spring gobbler.
The Story Begins…
It was the spring of 2017 after a winter that lasted well into March. We turkey hunters were anxious for the land to start thawing out and for those old toms to start up their bird love orchestra. I had secured permission to hunt a friend’s farm not far from where I had been archery hunting every year. The interesting thing about this property was that my friends were actually have trouble with several wild gobblers coming onto their property and bullying their domestic farm turkeys. For a turkey hunter, this is a very good problem to have. Although it presents an interesting challenge; how do I tell the difference between the wild birds and the domestic farm birds? The farm birds regularly wandered into the fields that I would later be hunting so I knew I would need to be absolutely sure of my target before pulling that trigger.
Opening day came and went with no sight or sound of birds anywhere in the fields and woods I was hunting. Did that old tom bullying the farm turkeys get shot? Did he get hit by a car? Or did he just get wise? All these questions raced through my head as I gear up for the second Saturday of the season. I had decided to bring along my brother and friend Cody to add a couple more bird brains in the blind. We walked about 400 yards out through a cut corn field and set up on a finger of woods jutting out into the bottom of the field. It looked to be the perfect spot to ambush an unsuspected turkey.
Just after daybreak we scratched that old slate call a couple times and then we heard the old tom let out his first gobble of the morning. It thundered through the hollow and our hearts started jumping out of our chests. I called again and again he bellowed back at me. Then my brother whispers to me “I think I see him”. I turn to his side of the blind and see a turkey, but I notice the bottom portion of his breast feathers had been pulled out, and then I realized that was one of the farm turkeys. I clucked a few more times, then we heard another gobble from down in the hollow behind us. We then realized what was going on, we actually had a wild gobbler and a farm gobbler both coming right at our calling and decoys. I turned to my brother and said “keep your eyes on the farm boy and I’ll stay focused on the old tom”. Every time we would scratch that call both birds would let out a thunderous gobble. There was no doubt in my mind that wild old tom was coming right for us.
When the wild tom seemed to be just about 100 yards from us, he just shut up. We didn’t hear a peep out of that bird for a solid 15 minutes (although it felt like 3 hours). Discouraged and thinking we’d been beaten, I exited the blind (like a fool) to shoo the farm turkey away from our set up, fearing he’d pushed the wild bird off. I finally convinced the farm bird to leave our hollow and start making his way back to the farm. As I turned to head back to the blind, I look up and realize that I see the red of a gobblers head sticking up just over the crest of the hill between us. In a moment of disbelief, I turned and looked back at the farm bird and then back at the one in front of me, and I realized I had made a big mistake. The wild bird had simply shut up and began working around us to come into the field on the other side of the hollow. I had two choices, I could either lay low and hope that old bird didn’t spot me, or make a charge over the crest of the hill like a scene out of braveheart. Well, this crazy turkey hunter chose the ladder. As I charged up over the hill, that old tom had no idea what was coming for him. As I crested the hill the bird turned to move back toward the woods and I knew I wouldn’t have much time for a shot. I pulled up the old 12 gauge and let the lightning fly. The next thing I knew, my first gobbler was on the ground.
It was an unorthodox hunt to say the least. I don’t know many guys that have charged a turkey like a character from a Mel Gibson movie, and actually came out of it with a bird. After it was all said and done and it was time for pictures, my brother Kyle, Cody, and I couldn’t help but sit there and laugh at the chain of events that led to getting that bird on the ground. It’s a hunt that will live on in my memory forever. It doesn’t matter if your hunt plays out like a hunting show or like a cartoon show, what matters is the experience you had along the way. I appreciate the opportunity to harvest that bird, and getting to do it with my brother and best friend made it all the better.