Editors note: this is our first story from new contributor Lake Boehm
“He’s gonna do it, isn’t he?” I thought to myself as he cut my yelp off on the second note with a thundering roar of a gobble. I set my slate down and settled in.
In the moments that followed, as I was plastered against that big white oak, I recalled all of the other times I had pursued this very bird and the lessons he had taught me about turkey hunting and patience. For 5 years he had lived in the same stand of hardwoods surrounded by the crop fields that are so common here in Indiana. He was a cagey old bird with a distinct and raspy gobble.
Somehow, he managed to effortlessly evade me and everyone else who had hunted him all of those years. He would roost in a different tree every night and every morning he would sound repeatedly until his feet touched the ground. The old gobbler would then proceed to shut his mouth and not say another word all morning. Since the woods were too open to close the distance without being seen, he would inevitably slip quietly into one of the many secluded fields and seemingly evaporate. That meant those who hunted him headed for the truck by 8:30.
Myself, I would usually find a more cooperative bird elsewhere and just leave him be. What I didn’t realize during those early days was that he would eventually lose his hens at midday and be on fire with all of the vigor of daybreak.
The first time I ever had him in range had been a year prior to this morning. It was business as usual; thunderous gobbling on the roost and then silence on the ground. That day I decided to sit until I couldn’t stand it. Every half hour I made a soft series of calls but got nothing in return. Around 11:30 a.m., mosquito-bit and extremities numb, I gave a final purr on my slate call but expected nothing. To my surprise and total disbelief, he sounded off 50 yards behind me off my left side then closed the distance to 40. Excited and a little unprepared, I plucked the trigger and harvested a maple sapling instead of that wise old gobbler! A little heart broken, I headed for the house hoping he and I would meet again.
Our next meeting happened when his spread tail crested a ridge to my left. Everything slows down. I’m acutely aware of the small details that make this beautiful scene. The sun reflects off his back feathers shimmering green and gold. I take a deep breath trying to calm my nerves, breathing in the earthy smell of tannins from the damp leaves around me. I breathe out and gently squeeze the trigger. In an instant I’m standing over him trying to take in what has just happened. An overwhelming feeling of gratitude and remorse washes over me. Gratitude for the honor to take a such a beautiful creature and remorse because it was almost like losing an old friend! I wish I could have breathed life back into him so he could have gotten away just one more time.
I’ve killed many turkeys in the middle of the day since then and although it may seem like common sense, many people are still not aware of the lethality this tactic can offer! Pack a comfy cushion, plenty of bug spray and a sandwich so you can sit tight on a that hard-headed gobbler.
Trust me, it can level the playing field. You’ll be glad you did!