I Don't Deserve a Turkey!
It was the last weekend of the fall turkey season. Rob decided to sleep in. So it was just my hunting partner Gene and I meeting at the Adams’ farm in Whitehall. Gene had introduced me to Ed Adams and invited me to hunt on his dairy farm where we had seen turkeys for the last several years. It was a turkey hunters' paradise where you could see turkeys any day you hunted them. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
After a quick stop at the milk house to leave donuts and coffee for the land owner, I walked away from the lights into the predawn darkness and toward where I had taken my spring Tom. Gene went to the opposite side of the property to his favorite spot to await the dawn.
I had seen turkeys roosting in one particular group of trees for two seasons. I was afraid of getting too close to them in the dark and upsetting any turkeys that might be there with a noisy approach. So I swung wide around the area and set up on the far side of the field with my decoys visible in the center of the field just in time for 6 AM dawn. By 7 AM I had given up trying to call turkeys to me and begun to work my way around the field. As I circled back to the point where I had seen turkeys roost before, I heard clucks. I called to the turkeys and they clucked back (no gobbles). But they did not seem to be moving. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get them to come closer. I eventually worked my way toward the birds discovering that there was creek and a page wire fence between us. There was no way those birds were going to come to me. Then I saw 5 or 6 of them fly down from the roost. I could hardly believe that they were still on the roost an hour after dawn. But they were enormous. And there were at least a dozen. BUT they were 50-60 yards away. And that is too far for a shotgun shot. I worked my way as close as I dared while the last few birds flew down. There was only one bird left visible and even though I knew it was a long shot, I fired at the one bird I could see – bad choice - they all flew away!
I tried to call them back together but I was still on the wrong side of the creek and the fence. They simply would not come to me and when I eventually tried to get closer to them, the one that was calling flew away leaving me behind. My search revealed no sign of a wounded or dead bird. So I started from scratch. I tried to figure out where those birds had gone based on where I had seen them last. I eventually came to an open pasture with sunlit hardwoods on the far side. The oak leaves were bronze in the bright morning sun. The ground was covered with those auburn leaves and likely a good crop of acorns too. It looked like the perfect spot for turkeys to come and feed. I knew that if I crossed the open ground any turkeys already there would see me, but I gambled that they were working their way through the longer route under cover in the woods that circled the field. If I could quickly cross the open ground I could get in position to ambush them when they arrived at the sunlit oaks. But as I stepped into the edge of the hardwoods – turkeys erupted into flight! I brought my gun up and centered my bead on one of the big birds as it flew over the open pasture and squeezed the trigger. But I had neglected to push the safety off. By the time I remedied the safety, the birds were far out of range covering the open ground in a fan shaped pattern until they flew into the trees I had just left. I thought “after blowing TWO opportunities this morning, I don’t DESERVE a turkey!”
But I hurried after them, entering the woods smack in the middle of their spread so that I would have turkeys on my left and turkeys on my right. I pushed 75 yards into the trees, sat down and began to call. Even though I didn’t deserve another chance, God is good and I heard them calling to each other on all sides of me. I hid behind a big oak and called back as they worked toward me from three directions.
When a hen stopped with her head up at 25 yards, I dropped her with a load of #5 pellets. As I walked up to her a second bird flew up and I knocked it down with my second shot. The first bird showed a tendency to want to get back up so I persuaded it to stay down with a tap from my butt stock. But while I was busy giving her my full attention the second bird evaporated into the underbrush.
About this time Gene spoke to me. He said that he had heard the birds calling and was only about 100 yards away when I shot. We both began to look for the wounded bird when he heard a turkey cluck. Then I saw one fly on the far side of him. Because he was closest and because I already had a turkey down, I held back and Gene went after it. For the next 20 minutes, I could hear Gene and the turkeys calling back and forth as the flock reassembled and he worked his way closer and closer to them. Then BOOM he dropped a big hen about 200 yards from where we parted. We both had birds down just 20 minutes apart. It was a great way to wrap up the turkey season.