Quickly we need to go back to opening day April 25, 2012. As I sat in my blind watching the beautiful sunrise on a perfect day in a fence row near a small stand of timber, the noise began. Toms Gobbling, landing in the open field, 600 yards away. The big boys were picking out their hens as the younger boys watched on from a distance. The count at that time was 6 adult Toms, 2 Jakes, and at least 25 hens.
My set up, 1 bobbing hen and a brightly coloured Jake had little chance of attracting a Tom when all the birds stood in a field with no view of my birds. My calling seemed to get the interest of a couple of younger Toms until they would see an older Tom with hens. I sat until 10:30 am and decided to leave for lunch, with the thought of returning late afternoon.
At 1:00 pm I returned. At 2:00 pm three Toms answered my calls and decided to attack my Jake decoy. The first bird being the most aggressive looked the biggest. I quickly decided he would be the one. Slowly I lifted my shotgun and pulled the trigger. As the dead bird lay where it dropped the other two Toms decided to beat him up, an old grudge no doubt. All together I had five birds around my blind and set up.
Two of the birds hung around for a couple of hours. My partner Ryan, who I frequently hunt with, left work early, did a sneak to the blind and would have shot one of the birds if not for an ATV driving through the field scaring them away. I mention this because of the impact this day had on Ryan’s whole season. His words to me at that time were, “I hope this is not how this season is going to go for me”. “But it did!”
On Friday of the same week I had another opportunity to take one of the two birds that had previously attacked my first kill. Unfortunately they had become educated to the set and did not come in close enough for me to seal the deal.
This was the last time we would see Toms except for one boss bird. This guy ran the roost. He was there every time Ryan and I went out, whether we were together, alone, or with the property owner. This Tom never went where we thought he would. If we went north he went south. If we put him to bed, he would not be there in the morning. Bottom line ….. this Tom was very unpredictable. Probably the reason for his longevity.
Now to the day, May 30, 2012. Ryan and I decided we were going to give him one last shot. By 5:10 am we were sitting on our spots along the north side of the timber stand. The last two times out Ryan had identified where the Tom was roosting, north of the timber stand near a creek. Naturally on those two occasions Ryan was not in the right place to finish this guy off. We were confident we had him pegged on this morning.
On another note so far this season you could set your watch for the time this guy would start his morning conversation at around 5:50 am. But as usual, this morning was different as mister unpredictable started gobbling at 5:15 am right behind us in the trees. Ryan’s text to me was basically, “not again”!
Ryan and I started to have a conversation with our friend using a variety of calls. He would sound like he was getting closer and then he would move away. So as Ryan and I watched a real hen walk up to and try and have a conversation with our decoy, we had 4 Jack Rabbits chase each other out into the same field, stopping occasionally to eat the farmer’s young bean crop. Again we both had that sinking feeling we were not going to get a chance at him again.
Once the hen had moved on, which seem to take forever, Ryan decided to take a chance and look down the south side of the bush we were hunting. There he was, strutting his stuff, running all over the place looking for hens. He was probably 600 yards away from us at this time. We decided to take a chance, to sneak around the bush and see if we could get closer without being detected.
Ryan and I walked around the north side of the bush, staying in the shadows. Naturally as we approached the first corner we came to on the west side of bush, there stood a hen who ran quickly into the bush. As we crept along the west side of the bush and approached the fence row that split the property, the hen flushed. We just hoped we had not spooked our Tom.
We set up in the fence row, Ryan crawling through the cover to try and see our foe. Guess what, not there? I began to call, using my old trusty box call. We could faintly hear a gobble. It sounded like he was on the next farm. I moved up about 50 yards and began calling again. An answer, which seemed louder. Ryan moved up with me. We decided to move even closer. We thought we had nothing to lose.
Ryan and I moved up the fence row another 75 yards. We were about 250 yards from the blind where I had shot my first bird opening day. Ryan set up in the middle of the fence row, which is about 30 feet wide. There he could watch the middle of the fence row as well as see the open field to the south. I set up on the edge where I could see the open field to the north. I began to call and got an immediate response.
The conversation continued over a 5 minute span. All the time the Tom who had shown no interest in our calls for weeks suddenly seemed very interested. It seemed obvious the Tom had decided to check us out and came straight down the middle of the fence row. I thought for sure Ryan would get his bird but he could not see anything through the dense cover as I continued to call him in. Ryan had held his gun up so long that he had to let it down and rest.
I decided it was time for me to get ready just in case “Mr. Unpredictable” stepped out in front of me. I have a shooting stick, which is too long when I sit on the ground. I have to place it on an angle to get a proper target line. I used a cottontail about 30 yards in front of me eating beans for a mock target to ensure I could aim correctly. The rabbit had another purpose. Every time the Tom gobbled the rabbit would look into the fence row. I figured he would run if the Tom got too close.
I continued too call and he continued to answer steadily getting closer. Now I started to slow down my calling to purrs and soft clucks. The Tom went silent, which tipped us off that he was closing the gap fast. Ryan could actually hear the Tom, which I found out later but could not see him. Just a further continuation of his frustrating spring hunt.
Now my mock target/sentinel, the little cottontail became my tell tale sign. I could see him looking into the tree line when suddenly he jumped back and ran into the fence row. I focused on the edge of the brush. Out came the red, white, and blue, unmistakable head of a Tom Turkey. He took a slow step into the field showing his beard, appearing to be looking at the movement of the 4 Jack rabbits running in the bean field. He then took a second step, which unfortunately for “Ryan” and “Mr. Unpredictable” gave me a perfect shot. My trusty 30 inch full choke did the job.
Ryan’s reaction was one of joy. I know his excitement was as much or more than mine. Happy that we had closed the deal on one of the most exciting Turkey hunts we both have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I truly believe Ryan would not have been any happier if he had shot the bird himself.
Our illusive friend was a true trophy carrying an impressive 1 3/8th spurs and a 10.5 inch beard. A bird any Turkey hunter would be proud to take. Even more for Ryan and I as we got to know him so well during the spring season of 2012.
Contributing Field Staff Member
of “The Hunt Blog”