The cool pre-dawn hour was still and calm on that March morning in the LowCountry of SC… the dew lay heavy on the grass and made walking across the fallow field almost silent.
Burdened by what seemed like a preposterous amount of gear (just to chase a darn bird), I made my way across the field.
Good Lord, I thought….seat, blind material, stakes, 2 decoys, shotgun, slate call, box call, reed calls, owl call, crow call, Thermacell, coffee thermos, flashlight, face net, gloves – what ELSE could you possibly need????
A deer blows noisily at the end of the field as if to say – “hey – hunting season is over, you are not supposed to be here”. Right, I think… I could still be in bed sleeping, where I ought to be.
On this my second ever turkey hunting trip (my first trip was 2 years earlier and involved going to the base of a tree, promptly falling asleep, waking up three hours later and going home), I feel like a walking advertisement of “turkey gear”.
Nonetheless, I persevere… down to the end of the field… daylight is just starting to peek.
I look around, I am at the end of a field that tapers down to a V and is roughly 40 yards wide at the end. The Coosawhatchie river flows silently just to the south of this field and I think (hope?) that some birds are roosted in the swamps surrounding the river.
I put the decoys out, feeling rather silly as I do so – turkeys are supposed to have great eyes, right??? How are these rubber birds gonna fool them?
I put up the blind and get settled into the seat, hiding as best I can…
It is still early – aaaahhhh, let’s relax and have a cup of coffee before we call.
Glug, glug, glug sounds the thermos as I pour…
GOBBBBBBBLA, GOBBBLLLLAAA, GOBBBLA, GOBBBLA GOBLA, GOBBLA – no more than 50 yards away, a gobbler sounds off!
The sound, which I can hear to this day, sent absolute chill bumps down my spine!
Spilling the coffee all over my leg, I grab the shotgun, head net and slate call. I put my best “game face” on behind the face net and sit listening.
Moments pass… and nothing.
I pick up the round slate call and just start to give a little yelp – urrrhhh, urrrhhhh, uuurh, uurh…
Silence – all around.
THWAAAAP, THWAAAAP, THWAAAAP, THWAAAAP, – I hear him as he flies down – or at least I hear a turkey fly down!!!!
No calling however….
Yet, not knowing what to do… I wait.
5 minutes pass – and then GOBBBBBBBLA, GOBBBLLLLAAA, GOBBBLA, GOBBBLA GOBLA, GOBBLA – but this time from further away…
Uh-oh, I think… he is going away.
Urrrhhh, urrrhhhh, uuurh, I call again.
Desperate, I call one more time… still no response.
I hear the gobbler 3 – 4 more times, each call is further away. The property I am on is narrow at this end as it relates to our lease, I can not chase the bird.
The sun, now up, shines into my little blind… I feel sleep tugging at me and fight it off with a cup of coffee.
The sun continues to shine as I drowse in the building warmth of the rays.
I doze… hunched over in the short chair.
From seemingly a hundred miles away, I hear the sounds but it is like I am under water and can not surface… sleep is heavy on me as I come slowly awake.
My eyes open – as do finally my ears – and I hear the steady clucking of birds!
The repeat, repeat and then repeat again…. My goodness, I do believe they are coming closer!
I give two short clucks – and a purr – as seductively as my “call challenged” ability will permit… and am rewarded with even more clucking from the woods.
I see them coming, picking their way through the underbrush – and they are headed right to the decoys!!!
I see a hen… and 4-5 more birds behind!
Into the field they come…. The hen walks right up to the decoys and I realize now that it is jakes and not full toms behind the hen.
5 birds come out into the open area… and I note that one of the jakes is more mature than the others and has about a 6” beard.
Rattled now, I decide to take a shot… slowly I move the shotgun to my knee.
I said I moved the shotgun slowly… and it was slowly to me, but it was NOT slowly to the turkeys! They spotted me a mile away! (must have used my "deer approved slowly" move!)
Immediately, three bolt for the safety of the woods…. “my” jake was in the process of turning around and I managed to get the gun to my shoulder, line up on him and pull the trigger!
BBBBBOOOOOOOOOMMMMM – the sound – and recoil (which I hate) are staggering!
I recover, to find “my” bird dead on the ground and not moving a muscle – and yet another flopping around just behind him. Seems some of the pellets missed my bird and killed another jake as he was attempting to escape!
I run over and finish him off – he can not fly, so I clumsily break his neck…
WOW! Two with one shot!
Oooops! Is this legal?? I know a jake is legal – but is two??
I have a buddy who is a judge and quickly call him… yes… ok, yes… I see… yessir… ok, thanks!
Yep, all legal!
OK then… what is so hard about all this turkey hunting!
Well, in the coming weeks, I found out.
I scared more birds off – and never saw another one – the rest of the season.
I can recall, with clarity, the booming gobble almost right over my head that morning!
Chilling.. very chilling.
Come on April 2011!!!!