Mornings to remember
Mornings to remember.
Spring Turkey 2012
As with all hunting and outdoor adventures, every day is a gift, and the time you watch the world wake up as the sun rises are memories that you will cherish forever. Every once in a while you have some extra special events that make the hunt even more special, and I was blessed with multiples this past turkey season.
On one of my first trips out this year, I had 3 big birds gobbling near the edge of one of the pastures I hunt. The only rule I have on this leased land, is all coyotes are to be shot on sight. The owner requests this as his calves have a high mortality rate from the ever increasing population of coyotes in the area. I slowly moved in a huge quarter mile circle to move to the north of the birds, while keeping out of their line of sight. Once in place, I set up a DSD jake and hen decoy and sat behind a holly tree, against a large dead oak. It was a just a few minutes past 6:15 and the woods were becoming alive. I had the morning glow of the sunrise behind me, and three gobblers anxious to come to my tree yelps. For the next ten minutes, I quietly called and they hammered back. At 6:24, motion in the high grass of the pasture caught my eye. There was no way it was a gobbler, they were still on the roost. Then it moved again, and I saw the pointed ears of a coyote stalking my calls, and decoys. She would run a few yards closer then lay in the grass and belly crawl. When she got 40 yards out, she sprang and made the mad dash at my unyielding decoys. When she was a few yards from them at full speed, I brought her down with a load of Magnum Blend heavy shot.
I knew my morning was over, and was concerned by this. Not only do I not get many days to hunt, but I had just shot under three good birds. I reluctantly got up and stood over the yote. Then, three birds hammered….they were still on the roost, there was still hope. I dragged the coyote into the woods with me and sat back down. After a few tree yelps, I removed my hat and beat it in the air as I mouthed a fly down cackle on my diaphragm. The gobblers followed suit, but flew down away from me, into the swamp bottom. For the next 35 minutes, we danced…I yelped, they hammered back, and began to circle me. Could this really happen….A coyote and a gobbler on the same morning….from the same spot? Almost to answer my question, there they were, in full strut, 40 yards off to my left. The biggest bird was out front, and when he saw the DSD Jake standing behind the submissive hen, he could not stand it. Seconds later, he was laying in the exact spot I had dropped the coyote. I remember lifting both arms doing my best “Rocky” pose and celebrating life’s little victories as the rays of sun, began to light up the pasture.
For me, the turkey season was a complete success, but this season was one to remember. Later that week, a very good friend of mine asked me to call and help him get his 10 year old daughter on a long beard. We had roosted them before, and knew their routine….but they knew ours as well. We switched it up a little, and set the double bull up on the far side of the clearing, and instead of busting through the woods, we walked early through the fog, straight to the blind. I set out two hen decoys and we settled in for the morning. The fog was thick, but not thick enough to dampen the gobbles that thundered in response to my first morning yelps. Was that 3? No, that was 4! We had four thunder chickens calling back, louder and more frantic each time I called. As the smaller birds like cardinals and wrens around us began to sing, all four gobblers flew down and strutted in the middle of the clearing, 60 yards from us. Caroline, my friends daughter tried to contain her joy and excitement, as the birds synchronized their gobbles after each stoke on my slate. After 10 minutes, all four were in full strut at 23 yards. Caroline was sitting in front of me, and Lee had the barrel of her 1100 20 guage propped in his shooting sticks. I was kneeling behind her chair, helping to align the steady the gun. After a few failed attempts to get the safety off, she was ready to shoot. I plugged her ears with my fingers and whispered for her to shoot when ready. She was in complete control of the gun, and she had it dead on the big guys waddle. With two flaps of his wings, the big bird laid still, and she had bagged her first bird, and etched a memory in my mind I will cherish forever. Her smile, and joy over the hunt was immeasurable. We slapped high fives and she gave me a big hug, and with a smile, said “Thank you Mr. Roger….thank you so much”. I was proud and still swell and tear up thinking of that morning.
The final morning to remember from this turkey season involved a subject I have written about before, dear old dad. While I have called in birds for him before, he still had not taken what he considered a full mature long beard, with spurs over a inch and a quarter. After hunting birds with me and alone over the last 4 years, it was starting to wear on him. To compound this, almost every time I took someone else, we harvested at least one good bird. He was feeling jinxed. We made it our mission to find the big gobbler this year, and have the opportunity. After two hunts of little or no response from a thunder chicken, he was about to hang up his calls for the year, but my buddy offered his farm to me to guide my father on a hunt. We jumped at the opportunity. So the next morning, we found ourselves in a double bull waiting for the woods to wake up. Off in the distance three birds gobbled, and so began our quest. I called, they gobbled, so I yelped again. Close to sunrise, the birds were still on the roost, so I did a louder than normal fly down and shut up. They gobbled a few times and then the woods went quiet. My father’s stress level began to increase. He was sure the birds would hen up and be lost. After about 15 minutes I fired up the slate again, with some loud boss hen yelps and clucks…only to be answered by the real boss hen, just behind the blind…and three gobbles. The birds works around our right flank, and entered the field 100 yards east of us, through the peninsula. When they spotted the two hen decoys, it was green flag racing. They dropped their heads and sprinted into us. 12 birds in all, three Jakes, 7 hens and two long beards were coming in hot. As the long beards got close, the biggest blew up into full strut and gave a quick show. My father’s B-80 was sticking out of the window by now and his breathing had definitely increased. It was awesome. As the hens and jakes milled around, we waited for the moment when the big guy was alone, and with no one behind him. It was over, and at 17 yards, laid my father’s biggest bird to date.
I know all of you have had morning like these, and have many stories to share. I thank you for reading this, and hope it has inspired you to take someone hunting with you. There are few things in life that rival the feelings I get watching mother nature wake up, and sharing that with a child, friend or father…or in my case this year all of the above. To have the friends and family I have, how could I not feel blessed.