Mid afternoon 5-7-18: My Uncle and brother had gone off and hunted one direction of an old logging road, and I went in another. I found some fresh sign, and some areas that just looked too good to not find a turkey. I found a little clearing and waited, calling every 15ish minutes or so but never heard a thing. After about an hour of this my radio squawked at me. They had located a bird. He was gobbling his head off, but they could not get him to come out in the open. He eventually got quiet on them and it was the middle of the day, so we went back to camp and made a plan for the evening hunt. Then we went to have a nice soak in a hot spring, which was just the ticket.
We set out on our evening hunt refreshed and hopeful, walked to the area where they had heard him and without even calling he started to gobble. He was hot. The problem was he was hanging out just uphill from us, and we didn’t have a good way (that we knew of) to get above him. We set our decoys near this old logging road and I started calling him with my voice.
The times I have done this before have been pretty successful, and often times I have been able to make quick work of the situation. Hell, earlier this year when I called in a big tom for my buddy Dan, the hunt was over in about 5 minutes from the first gobble. This tom was a different story. He was cagey, and did not want to come out in the open. He had a ridge he was working, he liked it, and he felt pretty safe. I felt like we needed to relocate our setup in order to have a chance, but we were also worried we were going to bump him if we moved. My Uncle taught me almost everything I know about hunting turkeys, but we have hit a bit of a point where we don’t always see eye to eye on what we ought to do on a given hunt. He is big on decoys, I have had a lot of success without decoys making the difference. I like to be as mobile as we can be in case we need to “run & gun” so if I carry a decoy often times it is one hen, a feeder from Avian X. He has an assortment, and he has had a lot of success doing it but I honestly just don’t like having as much to carry, or having all the setup of 3-4 decoys even if they do look really good...
Anyway, we had a bit of debate between the two of us as to whether we should move, and then the bird sounded off and he was much closer. He was coming, but I was feeling very doubtful as to whether or not he would come out in the open. He would get closer and then trail away a bit. He seemed to respond better when I was aggressive with my calling, but I was worried I would over do it. Despite all the safety warnings against doing this I actually let out a few gobbles myself, thinking maybe he would get worked up over having some competition in the area. He went quiet. I figured it was over for the evening when all of a sudden he came out of the trees about a hundred yards from our location. He never saw our decoys. He was strutting, and started gobbling again once in the open, and now he was even downhill from us. I thought for sure he was going to come up, but he walk through this little depression in the terrain, and over a hill. I suggested one of us running on him, but my uncle didn’t like it and felt like we were going to spook him.
I had a scenario like this play out with another tom last year, and when I ran on him quickly the bird returned without hesitation, but I was unable to get a shot at that bird with my recurve bow. That bird would have been dead if I'd had a shotgun though. So I felt that we needed to get to the crest of the hill he had just gone over and get him, but we waited, and talked about it too long. Sometimes this is the problem with hunting in a group, decisions take longer. We missed the opportunity and listened to this bird make a big circle back up to the area he had been when we first showed up... Damn it. The good news was that we felt pretty good about our prospects for the morning hunt. We knew approximately where he had roosted. We knew he was hot, it would be a matter of getting in a better position in the dark in the morning.
We returned to camp, debated a bit and went to bed with a plan for the morning.
Stay tuned for Part 3 the conclusion!