My turkey season went great as you already know if you read my last article, but there was one bird that kept whipping my behind. I hunted him five or six different times over the course of two weeks. I could usually find him no matter when I went, afternoon or morning, and he would gobble back at my first call or two with what seemed like great enthusiasm. After the first couple of gobbles, he would gobble at crows or other sudden noises, but he would usually only answer my calls if I waited for 10 or 15 minutes to call. Anything sooner than that would be met with silence.
I got him close enough one morning that he would gobble at me scratching in the leaves, but he would not come any closer. Another afternoon I followed him for three hours as he gobbled, steadily moving farther away, as I tried to figure out a way to get ahead of him. I tried taking my son, Wesley, one morning so we could sound like several different hens, but nothing we did could get him to come closer. I used my last tag on a different bird on April 9, but this bird was haunting me. I was determined to get him, even if someone else had to be the one to pull the trigger, so I invited my cousin, Ed Hall, to join me with the hope that two callers would work better than one and maybe we could catch him without hens.
Ed and I have been hunting together since we were kids 45 years ago, shooting the sparrows that flocked to my uncle’s chicken coops to eat the feed that the chickens missed. We hunt well together since we have similar hunting styles and personalities. We seem to know what the other one is going to do without having to talk about it. I enjoy hunting with other people as well, but it is different when the two of us get together. We started turkey hunting at the same time and while we don’t get to hunt together much these days, when we do, something good often happens.
This particular turkey could usually be found in one or the other of two adjacent blocks of woods, so we arrived well before daylight and got set up against a couple of comfortable trees where we could hear him gobble no matter which one he was in. Daylight came and, soon after we heard the first cardinals and crows of the morning, his majesty gobbled directly in front of us about a hundred yards away. neither of us saw any reason to move from where we were, so we sat and listened to him gobble, over and over, from the roost. Once there was enough daylight for Ed to be able to see the sights on his shotgun, we did a few fly-down cackles and some light yelps and then hushed to wait until the turkey flew down.
We waited and waited and then waited some more. the dang turkey gobbled until I was sure he was on the verge of laryngitis, but he wouldn’t fly down from the roost. in my younger days, I would have called to that turkey for as long as he would answer, but I have learned over the years that the only thing calling to a turkey in the tree does is encourage him to stay there longer. He will sit up there for hours waiting on the hens he can hear calling, so it’s usually better to wait until you can tell he has flown down to start calling. We both refrained from calling and eventually he flew down and gobbled once from the ground.
Thirty minutes later we hadn’t heard him again and couldn’t make him answer. We discussed which direction we thought he might have gone, but it really was anybody’s guess since he had only gobbled that once after he flew down. We finally decided to ease down the road in the direction we thought he might have gone and try calling again. We walked about 200 yards down a logging road and yelped a few times. It only took a few seconds for a bird to gobble back. We were both sure it was a different bird, but a gobbling turkey is a gobbling turkey.
He was a couple of hundred yards away but plenty close enough to try, so we piled into the woods and tried to find a good tree to sit against. If you don’t turkey hunt, one tree may look as good as another to you, but you don’t know if you might have to sit there for five minutes or an hour so you want to find one that is fairly comfortable. you also never know when a bird might decide to stop and stand there for 30 minutes in plain sight, but just out of shooting range, so you want to be hidden as well. you have to do this while not knowing if the turkey you just heard is on his way and will be there in a matter of minutes either, so you have to find the best tree you can, as fast as you can, and hope for the best.
Anyway, we found a tree that worked for Ed, and since I didn’t have a gun and didn’t have to worry about shooting, I lay down with my head against the base of a tree that was too small to lean against.
We both called a few times and the turkey gobbled right back, clearly closer than before. We waited a few minutes and called again and sure enough he was coming closer. I couldn’t see to Ed’s left, which was the direction the bird was coming from, so I kept an eye on Ed as well as the woods directly in front of us. the bird hadn’t gobbled for five minutes or so and I was debating whether or not to call again when I saw Ed ease his head down on the stock of his gun, so even though I couldn’t see it, I knew the turkey was close. Ten seconds later, the gun went off. We both jumped up, but I couldn’t see a bird so I asked, “Did you get him?”
Ed replied “I’m not sure, I don’t see him.”
We both ran toward where the bird was and sure enough, there he was, a fine 3-year-old bird with an 11-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. We hooped and hollered like a couple of kids while we replayed the hunt and talked about what we could see and couldn’t see when the bird came up. We posed the turkey for pictures and then paced off the distance to see how far of a shot Ed had made. As we were walking back to the tree to pick up the different calls and vests we had left behind, the turkey we originally started out with gobbled again.
We grabbed our gear and headed back in the direction from which we could hear the bird gobbling. When we got back to where we had first started that morning, the dang turkey was about where we last heard him when we decided to move. my best guess is the first bird Ed killed was a subordinate gobbler who was trying to sneak in and catch an unattended hen from what I feel sure was the boss gobbler of the area. We decided that, what the heck, we already have one turkey, so if we mess this one up, it has still been a great morning, so let’s get closer than before and try it.
We moved away from the logging road and deeper into the swamp toward the still-gobbling turkey. When we were as close as we felt like we could get, we picked two good trees within whispering distance of each other and started calling. this time the turkey decided he would answer our calls, so we called again.
Ed was using a box call, I was using a copper pot call and we were both interrupting each the calls with diaphragms, trying to sound like a whole flock of lonesome hens. I didn’t think it was working at first because while he would gobble back at our calls, it didn’t sound like he was moving any closer.
We talked about it and decided to wait on him to gobble one more time. If he was in the same spot, we would try to move a little closer. the turkey didn’t gobble for the next 10 minutes so we decided to call one more time and once we knew where he was for sure, move closer. We called and there was no need to move. the answering gobble, 75 yards away, told us he was on the way.
There is something about a turkey’s hearing that, while he can pinpoint a single yelp from a hundred yards away and walk directly to it, he can’t hear two people whispering back and forth. Ed and I both saw movement at the same time and I soon saw the turkey step out into the open. I told Ed I could see a beard and that it was a grown bird, so shoot when he could. Ed whispered back that he could only see it’s head and that it looked like a hen. Later, after everything was over, Ed told me he thought we might be looking at two different birds, but at the time I just knew I was seeing a long beard that needed to be shot.
The gobbler kept walking toward us, stopping behind every tree and bush along the way. I told Ed at one point, “Don’t shoot now, I can’t see him.” I never watch turkeys once they reach good shooting range, but that’s how bad we had that bird fooled. even if he had turned and run, he was well in range. Ed had a bead on him and by this point knew it was a gobbler. When the turkey got to about 25 yards away, he stopped. I said, “Shoot, I can see him good now.”
While I could see him fine, there was one sapling lined up between Ed and the turkey’s head, so he had to wait for the bird to come forward another step or two, which he did soon enough. at the sound of the shot, bird number two for the day was down and flopping.
What a way to end turkey season. two big turkeys, including the one that had been haunting me, with the first person I ever hunted with. I don’t know how it could get any better than that.
Wes Murphy can be reached by e-mail at