Who's the Real Turkey?

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It was the holiday season 2008, our 2 other kids, Matt and Monica, were up from Georgia visiting for the holidays. They live with their mom and try to visit with us when they are out of school and I am not out of the country playing Army somewhere. As I do most every chance I get during hunting season, take one if not more of the kids hunting with me in our own back forty behind the house.

I had decided on an early wake and give the elusive back yard turkeys a chance to grace us with their presence. Since it was going to be an early am wake up and then throw in the fact of a temperature in the mid-30's I only had one volunteer to brave the elements, Matt the oldest and according to him of course the wisest child.

As our weapons of choice I picked my 7mm Mag just in the event we happen to see Mr TV Buck come by and Matt wanted to try my new crossbow. So the plan was set and everything prepared the night before. I awoke at 4:57 am and made my way to the night stand to turn the alarm clock off before 5 so it would not wake up my better half, Mary. Its a very bad habit, blame it on the Army but I over the past 20 years have always woken up just before the alarm buzzes, weird I know.

So I stumble through the dark to our huge walk in closet and find all my hunting gear I laid out the night before. After getting dressed I grab all my stuff, give the Mrs a bye kiss as I always do before I leave for anywhere and head downstairs to wake up the boy. He is a pretty light sleeper, just as I am, even after staying up half the night conquering the Xbox world with our other son and youngest of clan, Kevin.

So we are all dressed and finished with the last minute equipment check. All is good to go and out we go. I got out my little red flash light and navigated our way across the 50 yard distance from the back door to our fence in the back yard.. We made our way to the 2 trees picked out for our hunting spots about another 50 yards down the hill from our fence. I gave Matt the spot with the best view of the most likely avenue of approach and I took a sit about 10 yards to his left and about 3 yards up hill. To my left about 25 yards was the thick tree and brush line that started back at our back yard fence. The thickets ran the entire length of the long gradual slope down hill, maybe another 125 yards to the “bottoms”, as we call it, and there it meets a barbed wire fence that runs from right to left.

Across the fence the bottoms open up into a thumb shaped 7 acre pasture running from right back up another hill to the left. On the lower end of that thumb shaped pasture sets a small pond. If you viewed this from the air the field would look like a giant thumb slight bent at the first knuckle with the pond representing the thumbnail. Now back up to our spots.

To Matt's right hand side about 20 yards distance, runs a barbed wire fence that starts at our fence and runs parallel to the tree line all the way to the bottoms where it hooks into the other fence. Across the other side of the field begins an up hill stretch of several hundred acres of forest. To the right of the thumbnail pond sets a basketball court size patch of forest then opens up into another pasture that leads to my neighbors big pond. I tell you all of that detail just for the simple fact of this bottom field pasture and pond is the hub and crossroads of all the game in our area. A mecca of hunting of grounds. Not to mention it is also the crossroads of 4 property lines as well. Mine, the thicket and hill we are own, the thumb pasture is the 2nd, the up hill forest on the far side is a 3rd and the 4th is to the right of mine across the barbed wired fence. So you have the total lay out of the land all around.

So here we set in our spots facing down hill towards the bottoms. Between us and the bottoms are sparsely spaced and sporadic groups of trees. Spread out enough to shoot and see most of the way down but just enough trees towards the bottoms that you can not see the open field. We set for about a while. The sun was slowly climbing high in the morning sky causing the temperature to increase which helped our spirits a lot.

A few seasons back I created hand signals to be able to communicate with my kids in case we seen an animal but couldn't make any noise. A buck signal is the old “rock on” gesture with your index and pinky finger extended. A doe signal is just a simple fist with you bending back and forth at the wrist a few times. A squirrel signal is a thumbs up sign with you wiggling your thumb. And the one we have used the least of all, representing those dang elusive turkeys is the four finger hand sign with wiggling fingers. Yes it sounds crazy but its simple and effective.

Back to searching and scanning. We were siting and waiting when out of nowhere a big tom turkey appeared off to Matt's right had side about 40 yards away at a 45 degree angle from where he is sitting. He was walking up hill just a couple of feet on the far side of the fence heading towards a large fallen oak tree. The tree was laying parallel to the fence about 4 feet on the neighbor's side of the boundary. There is another huge oak tree standing on our side of the fence about 10 feet from where the large stump end of the fallen sets. Tom the turkey walks around the back side of the fallen tree out site. I motion to Matt to see if he seen it and to get him to turn to his right a little anticipating him to come out from one of those trees. As fate would have it, here he comes.

Still oblivious to us Mr Tom makes a right hand turn around the fallen tree and comes around in front of the big standing oak and stops and starts scratching the ground. A Godsend, you could not ask for a better set up. I can tell Matt was nervous cause he turned to me as if what to do. I gave him a subtle gesture to take the shot. I watched him raised the crossbow, eye up to the scope, pause for a few seconds and boom trigger squeeze bolt away. The bolt from the crossbow went about 6 inches over Mr Tom's back into the tree, a loud thud more amazing than the miss itself was Mr Tom's reaction. He casually looked up from the ground turned to look at the tree, looked down where he was scratching about 3 more seconds and just non nonchalantly walked around the back side of the tree and disappeared out of sight, forever.

You ask why I didn't shoot. Wasn't worth the risk. From where I was sitting to the turkey I would have had to shoot about 5 foot in front of Matt. I wasn't going take the shot. It was his turkey anyway. The funny part of the whole story was as soon as we got back to the yard I had Matt shoot at one our archery deer targets. Every time and at various distances he would hit the small vitals area on the deer. I can only say that who knows, game fever set in. To this day he still hates that miss more so because I tease him about it and he so wants to one up me. Its all in good fun and that is what it is all about.


ManOfTheFall's picture

That was a great enjoyable

That was a great enjoyable story. Too bad your son didn't get that big old Tom. It would have been nice for him to get some ribbing in on his dad. My son and I and even my other two kids always messed around like that. Who will shoot the biggest buck this year? The most deer this year? Who will catch the most fish, biggest fish, and the first fish. The competitions go on and on. Thanks for sharing your story. 

Ca_Vermonster's picture

Funny story.  Gotta have a

Funny story.  Gotta have a little humor added in, huh???

jaybe's picture

That's Hunting!

That's Hunting, isn't it?

(I also say that about fishing - "That's Fishing!")

Too bad your #1 son missed (the wise one :>)), but that's hunting.

Good decision on your part to let the old Tom walk rather than shooting in front of your boy.

I'm guessing that since you are in the service, you and some of your comrades may be used to that situation, but it's not something that you want to subject others too unneccesarily.

Thanks for your service, and for the good story.