4 amcame very early, but where we had this bird roosted was a bit of a drive. We were a little slow getting out of camp, groggily making coffee and since Charles my brother had to work later that afternoon, he was breaking his camp down in the dark so he would have more time to hunt in the morning. Eventually, a little later than we would have liked, we were on the road. We hit our access point and walked in in the dark. It is also spring bear hunting season here in Idaho and not very conducive to turkey hunting were all the bear hunters with their hounds in the area, or the bait sites. The evening before, we had noticed, a few hundred yards from where we were going to try to set up on this gobbler, what we thought might have been a bear bait site. So I was feeling as though we needed to be very cautious moving in in the dark even though we had a lot of distance between us and that site.
We reached the area where we had hunted the evening before and heard a gobble right away. It wasn’t even quite light yet but it sounded as though this bird was already on the ground. We continued up the old logging road and found an area for us to hide and set out the decoys right in the old road. The bird was above us still, but judging the terrain and what he had done the evening before, I felt more confident in getting him to see the decoys.
He was gobbling his head off, he would respond to my call every time, he liked the area he was in. We could hear him moving back and forth, staying in the same general area, but not moving downhill. Every time it seemed like he was getting closer, the next time I called he would move a bit farther away. I tried mellowing out the calling a bit, soft clucks and purrs, but frankly when I did that it sounded to me like he was losing interest, he certainly wasn’t coming closer. I tried shutting up for a bit to see if his curiosity would get the best of him, but again that made it feel as though he lost interest.
Up to this point, all of the calling I had done had been with my voice. So I grabbed my Uncle’s Quaker Boy Grand Ole Master box call, just to see if adding another voice to the mix might stir things up, but that didn’t do the trick either. The night before, I was worried about overdoing it on the calling, but now I was worried that perhaps I wasn’t being aggressive enough. So I changed up the strategy, become very aggressive with the yelps from my voice and every now and then throwing in a few yelps with the box call. It sounded like he was getting closer but we still couldn’t see where he was. Then he shut up. My brother whispered to me that he saw 4 turkeys walk up the ridge. I was worried maybe he was following some hens away from us. So I did something stupid. There was a lot of cover in between us and where I thought the bird might be, unless he followed those hens. I stood up to see if I could get a location on the bird. It worked! I stood up just in time to see him walk down an embankment and onto the the logging road we were set up on. At this point I felt like we probably had him, but he didn’t gobble again for a bit and when he did it sounded like he had gone the opposite direction on that logging road. I was worried maybe he had seen me when I stood up. But, the aggressive calling coaxed him downhill to our level, so I decided to continue with it, and sure enough he started moving closer. He gobbled a few more times and then shut up again. I couldn’t see him but at this point, according to my brother, the reason he shut up was because he finally got a look at our decoys and he was running for them. Sure enough after at least an hour of calling this cagey old bird I finally had him in the decoys. My Uncle took aim with his Weatherby shotgun and pulled the trigger.
Folks say that when a bird goes down you should be running for it to get ahold of it as fast as you can. Nobody moved when the bird was flopping on the ground. What happened next was nearly a nightmare: I stood up and ran toward the bird because no one else was. But my shotgun was back at the tree. I got up near the tom and he stood up. Shit. Now not only do I not have my gun but being that my Uncle wasn’t right behind me, I was standing down range. I ran to get out of the way and my brother backed up my Uncle’s shot because my Uncle didn’t have a shot from where he stood. Being that my brother had already filled a tag, my Uncle tagged this bird even though he had some back up. We have seen that happen before. In fact, we almost lost a beautiful tom a few years ago that did the same thing-- we thought it was dead but sure enough it got up and ran 300 yards into the woods. We were very lucky to have found that bird. I definitely recommend moving if you shoot a turkey. Make sure your shotgun's safety is on, and hustle.
As I am writing this, I still have not filled a turkey tag this year, and tomorrow is closing day. I think I might make one last effort for a morning hunt tomorrow, but in truth I have had a hell of a season and am proud to have called in two beautiful toms for both my Uncle and my buddy Dan. It isn’t always about filling a tag, I wouldn’t be in the woods at all if it weren’t for my Uncle, and with hunter numbers declining, it is incredibly important that we as sportsman are introducing new hunters to the sport. Dan shot a really nice Tom on his second ever hunting trip. If that doesn’t hook him to the sport I don’t know what will.
But I better get a move on if I’m gonna give it one more shot...