In my 25 plus years of turkey hunting, most of the time I kill a bird by either doing everything wrong or doing everything right. This hunt seemed to me to be a little bit of both, but I'll let you be the judge.
I started opening day on a farm I have bow hunted several times and have seen many turkeys. It was a very windy and cloudy morning. Walking in, I heard several different gobblers at first light. I headed for the first bird, and found myself across a ditch from the bird, uphill, and in thick cedars. Not a good spot! I called to him several times and he gobbled back. I was giving serious thought to moving on him as my prediction was that he would move to a strutting area near a field edge. By the time I had realized that he had stopped gobbling which was approximately 10 minutes, his crane neck was looking up in my direction at about 20 yards. I had never expected him to come in, so of course my gun was on my lap. He disappeared into the cedars. Dejected, I moved toward another gobbler. Of course he was out in a field with his harem. He stood out there until after I left at 2 PM.
That evening, I scouted a different farm and decided to hunt there in the morning. Why did I leave a farm I had called in a Tom on? The other farm is in a neighboring county and in 2008, I arrowed a 165 inch 11 pointer. I have turkey hunted this farm for several years and have become essentially obsessed with these birds. I had seen a large breeder flock and several satellite toms that night. I watched the turkeys fly up and felt I had a very good idea where to hunt in the morning. This particular farm has a healthy population of turkeys. However, it has many small winding ditches and medium sized woodlots. Not the easiest turkey ground to hunt. And these large breeder flocks always get me excited. Most turkey hunters know that the larger hen flocks with dominate toms are the toughest turkeys to harvest. As a bow and turkey hunter, I enjoy frustration.
The next morning, I thought I was in early. I heard some gobbling and I headed in. While putting out my decoys, several turkeys flew off the roost to my west and the gobbling in my immediate vicinity stopped. It continued to my west for the next hour. Presumably, one of the turkeys was the tom who had been gobbling. I bought a Primos Killer B decoy this year. His tail moves up and down by pulling a string. Probably the most realistic decoy I have used. About 30 minutes later, I heard a very close gobble. I did a series of yelps followed by some cutting. He immediately cut me off. I saw him first in the woods about 75 yards away. He was frantically moving without strutting with a clear purpose. He came within 30 yards but I couldn't get a clear shot. He looked at my Killer B a few times, circled around, gobbled and then disappeared to my northwest. He was earnestly searching for something and had little interest in anything else. I suspect he was looking for his hens.
I then moved my set up to the west about 50 yards. I deployed my blind and was in for the day. I did not hear another gobble until 7:30 PM. I had seen several jake groups and hens, as well as one satellite tom who was afraid of either my set up or the gobbler decoy.
At 7 PM, I watched a large tom following about 100 yards behind 3 hens. They flanked me in the corn stubble to my northeast. I would deploy the Killer B's tail feathers, and he would go into an immediate strut. The wind would grab his feathers like a sail, and he would do a little circle like a strutting tom. It was quite fun to watch. This flock moved near the woods to my east about 150 yards. The hens flew up into the woods, and I had suspected that my evening was over. After the hens flew up, the tom headed my way. He was again at about 30 yards but like this morning, he stayed in the thick brush. I was sure I had him. He then flew up in an oak tree about 40 yards from me. I watched him as he kept looking at my strutting decoy. I can't imagine what he thought was going on with those turkeys...........I waited until after dark and I snuck out of my blind. 14 hours in a blind is a long time.
I had a decision to make for the next morning’s set-up. Go back to my blind or try to get between him. It was obvious how frantic he gets without them. I decided to try a new set up east of him between him and the roosted hens. Having hunted this farm numerous times, I felt confident in the topography.
I awoke the next morning at 3:30 AM. I planned on being in the woods well before daybreak. Rarely have I had turkeys fly off the roost when it is very dark. Thankfully, we had a thick dew and that made walking very quiet.
I set up on the field edge about 10 yards inside the woods next to a creek. I figured the tom and hens were about 75 yards away, in opposite directions. As it became lighter, the birds started chirping. I then heard this "psst-woof" sound. I recognized the sound but my sleep deprivation was clouding my ability to retrieve that memory. And then it dawned on me (pun intended) that it was a spit-drum. With my binoculars, I slowly scanned the tree tops and spotted him about 35 yards away. Somehow, I snuck in within 40 yards of this tom twice without being detected.
I watched him for the next 45 minutes, spit-drum, strut on a limb and gobble his head off. He also appeared to be looking at my decoys. Once again, one wonders how his brain would process my decoys. I was sure I was in the perfect spot. I was within the safety zone of a tom without his knowledge and an open area inside the woods was within 20 yards. I was sure he would pitch down to the open area.
Of course, turkeys being turkeys, he pitched down into my decoys 75 yards from me. He strutted at my Killer B. I crawled to the woods edge under a tree limb. I yelped once and he dropped his strut and moved my way. Seconds later, my 3 1/2 inch #4 Hevi-Shot anchored him. A very rewarding as well as exciting hunt was over. I didn't weigh him but his beard was 11 1/2 inches long and his spurs were 1 3/8 inch. Truly a hard earned trophy.
Congratulations Chris. A great read of the challenges.