The other morning I set out to go turkey hunting, which is pretty much the norm for us at this time of year. But it was different this time, this time I was hunting by myself (no camera man) well that’s not exactly true, I would be filming myself. Which normally you would hear me complain about, but this time was somewhat intentional.
See years ago when I first started turkey hunting, Karin and I had no money and there wasn’t much of a selection of decoys and other fancy turkey gear like vests and box call holders etc…. if you wanted something like that you made it yourself.
Well the last two weeks or so, we have noticed that our Iowa birds seemed more educated than normal with several call ins, only to have the birds hang up just out of shooting range. Not wanting the turkeys to win these battles I began thinking how can I get close to them and be able to get a good shot? What I came up with surprised me at how good I thought it could be, but I would need to test it to be sure, and only having one I couldn’t take the chance of bringing someone else with me.
Which brings me to the other mornings hunt. I arrived 45 minutes before sun up and snuck onto a ridge I hoped still held some of the turkeys that had been whooping us the last couple weeks.
With my new decoy I snuck in closer than normal having the confidence that they would not know what was up. When the first booming gobble bellowed only 60 yards in front of me I felt my pulse begin to quicken and as the woods came alive and gobbles could be heard from almost every direction, all I could think about was “how can I properly thank God for a morning like this”? So, I did what I thought was the best thing I could, I bowed my head and said “thank you”, hoped that was enough and threw out a couple soft yelps only to be cut off by several gobbles that almost shook the ground.
Not only were the birds on the ground already, but I now could see them and they obviously had seen my new invention and were headed right at me. Only a couple minutes and they are now 40 yards and closing, I am thinking the big strutter at 22 yards is close enough, but I have to find a shot through a few brushy spots. As I am concentrating on getting a shot I never saw the other toms sneaking in at 7 yards.
Even though my decoy was working perfectly it couldn’t hide the oh _ _ _ _! look on my face when they saw me moving to adjust the camera. Fortunately the decoy played such a key role they never spooked completely, they just moved out to 15 yards. Time to really test the new decoy I came to full draw and they never had a clue, now all I needed to do was pick out the best shot. I began to focus on the head of the closest tom since they had gone down hill just a bit I couldn’t get a good shot at the shiny spot. The head it is, I thought, you got this just put the pin right on his head and you got him, I squeezed the trigger and he ran off.
What the heck that shot felt awesome, but I could tell it was a clean miss. Wait a minute they only ran 80 yards and they are already gobbling again at other distant toms. I wonder if I could use this decoy to sneak in on them again?
Wanting to do the ethical thing first, I needed to be sure it had been a clean miss, so I snuck over found my arrow, licked my wounds, and moved on. It wasn’t until later that I reviewed the footage and found the little limb just in front of the red head that saved the turkeys life.
So now I am heading after them once again, and as I move across the ridge with the decoy held in front of me, as it is mounted securely on my bow I am positive they will have no idea a hunter is approaching, and I was right, but before I can get to them another tom has seen me and is running right at what he thinks is an intruding tom on his turf.
“Damn cameras” as I caught a glimpse of the tom running at me I sat down immediately and began trying to set the tripod, the tom makes it to 18 yards as I am still fiddling with getting the camera situated with only one hand.
The extra movement confuses the tom and he turns to leave, but a few yelps and he is now walking around me. At 18 yards we square off with a thicket of brush between us. I can see him strutting, feel him drumming and hear every spit as if he was spitting on me, but I can’t shoot through the brush. Eventually he walks up the hill toward the other gang of gobblers. So I follow, and then like magic there they are, I can see a bird strutting at 45 yards and the other toms walking around him. I contemplate my next move with the worst thorny thicket between me and the big gobblers I think I an stuck where I’m at.
Then I look again and there is a very faint deer trail going through the thicket, only problem is, it ain’t gonna be quiet at all. I figure I got nothing to lose and I bale off into the tangle of thorns busting my way through. As I cuss and squirm and put my hat back on for the 3rd time is when I realize these turkeys are gobbling more at what they must be able to see as an approaching tom making a ton a racquet coming through the brush. This is crazy and incredible. I now realize I have closed the distance to 25 yards, but again I only have a small opening to shoot through.
I am within bow range and this morning has been more turkey action than I can remember in years, so there’s no wonder why my heart is racing and I am frantically trying to get the camera set and find a clear lane to send an arrow down range at the big strutting tom. So here I am again, farting with the camera just about to get it fully focused on the 25 yard toms when I hear a “CLUCK”, the kind that says something is wrong hear!
You got to be kidding me, again a tom has popped out at 7 or 8 yards and has seen something with this intruding tom that doesn’t look quite right. Well this time I come to full draw and none of of the others no whats up, but the “Clucker” reminding me of the doe that blows at you repeatedly 30 yards away from your favorite deer stand is making my blood boil more and more. If you do that one more time I am shooting you!- I thought. CLUCK, whack I shot him square in his back and he only took a step or two and fell over.
The other turkeys never had a clue and took several minutes to finally work off. It wasn’t until they had worked off a 100 yards or so, that I felt I could crawl up and find what I thought was one of the big toms. To my surprise my big tom was actually a clucking Jake. But I couldn’t get the smile off my face and the thought of all the encounters and how I had been hard hunting for several hours now and how many encounters I had been in.