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Savoring a successful Turkey hunt

May 16, 2009
By JON MAGEE, For The Inter-Mountain

It is not often that things go right for me when Turkey hunting, so I don't know if the planets aligned or some other phenomenon occurred last Friday because I had one of those hunts that you hear about but rarely actually experience, or at least I never have, until now.

The morning did not start that well, however, because while crossing small creek in the dark, I ended up slipping off a rock and got in over my boots. Then I couldn't get a gobbler to answer my owl hoots on my way to the oak flat I wanted to hunt. To make matters worse as I was crossing through a small hollow, I spooked a Turkey off the roost. I didn't know if it was a hen or a tom but the morning was not starting out as I hoped.

I thought I would check out the flat I was headed for anyway and see if the birds had been using the area, and if nothing else, maybe I could find a few morel mushrooms since I had already blown one bird out of there.

As soon as I got on the flat, I could see where the turkeys had been scratching in the leaves, even in the pre-dawn light I could see that they had the place torn up. Then I heard it, on the opposite side of the flat a gobbler sounded off in the approaching daylight. It was five after six and I knew the bird was still on his roost so I quickly set out a pair of decoys and set up about two hundred yards from where the gobbler was. He gobbled a couple more times before I made my first calls to him, but once I did he lit up the woods gobbling several more times preparing for fly down. I was waiting for something to go wrong, as normal, either another hunter hearing the gobbler and coming in or it flying down and going the other way or any of the myriad other problems I always seem to encounter chasing turkeys.

Oddly, nothing happened and the bird flew down and landed just out of sight on the ridgeline about 150 yards away and gobbled twice. I made a couple soft yelps and waited. A few seconds later a form appeared on the ridgeline like an apparition in the fog, I could just make out the silhouette of a Turkey in full strut working up the ridge. I was about to make another call when he turned my way.

He was coming straight toward me still strutting back and forth, but coming closer, working his way across the flat looking in the direction of the calls he had heard.

He never gobbled again as he approached then at about seventy yards he spotted the decoys, a jake and a hen placed 20 yards in front of me with the jake facing to my left in order to bring the bird around into a good shooting position for a right hand shooter.

As soon as he saw the decoys he broke strut, closed the distance to about 40 yards, and went into strut again, displaying his dominance and trying to intimidate the smaller jake. By this time, my heart was pounding out of my chest and it seemed like forever for him to close the distance. Back and forth, the gobbler just strutted, his crimson head glowing as the sun broke over the horizon, waiting for the decoys to do something I suppose. He did not present me with a good shot since he had been in strut since he got into shooting range, I needed him to break strut for a clean shot at his head.

When he had closed the gap to about 25 yards, he must have decided something was out of place as he folded his chestnut plumage and tuned to leave. Just as he did, my nerves relaxed enough to allow me to move the gun barrel the few inches to settle on his head and when it did, I sent a load of No. 5 pellets into him and he dropped.

I was up and after him in a second, following as he flopped along the ground and sent another round at his head. It seemed like it took more than an hour for all this to play out with my adrenaline stretching out the time, but when I glanced at my watch it was only 6:30 a.m., about fifteen minutes from fly down to the shot.

Finally, it has been a couple years since I took a spring gobbler and watching him come in like that was a bonus. I'm sure that as I retell the story of the hunt I will emphasize my calling skills and the superior set up on this bird, but to be honest, I was just in the right place at the right time.



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