|NC longbeard! One week before opening day, 2009. (Photo by Mark Degan)|
Let's take a look at a short list of my most recent infractions in the turkey woods that resulted in blown opportunities, fleeing gobblers and rough language:
My first turkey hunting partner, Dave, and I make our inaugural attempt at his hunt club property in Jones County, NC. In the lead-up to opening day (2002 I think) Dave has self-taught himself to proficiency with a diaphragm call, while I have convinced myself the squeaky squawks emanating from my shiny new box call sound exactly like a hen turkey. As dawn approaches, half a dozen gobblers are sounding off from their roost trees all around us. We call back to them like anxious school boys so that by the time the birds fly down to start their day, not one of them thinks we're anything but a couple of idiots - which we are. Over the course of the next four hours we 1) try to close in on a gobbler we think is several hundred yards away, only to walk right into him as we come around a blind corner in the service road, 2) miraculously get four gobblers to commit across an open field until they halt just out of shotgun range. I work the box call one too many times and they spot my index finger move at 50 yards - game over, 3) spot a tom turkey in full strut at the other end of an open field and decide to belly crawl 30 yards with no cover, place a decoy in the dirt and crawl back into the treeline to bring him in. By the time we settle our backs against the tree trunk, the turkey is nowhere to be seen - imagine that.
|Hopefully Sue "The Turkey Ninja" will join me again this year.|
2008 - Warren and I are hunting mountain birds in western NC. We haven't heard a gobble all morning, so we've gone mobile. We go slow along the path and I call a little every 50 yards or so to see if I can get a turkey to respond. We cover ground in this fashion for an hour or so. As we crest a short, but steep hill on our way up the mountain, we come face-to-face with the biggest gobbler either of us has ever seen at 20 yards. Had we been hidden and in position, he would have come straight to us. Instead we are busted. We drop to the ground (because maybe he didn't see us?) and listen to the bird, known forever more as "Gobzilla," run down the slope to somewhere across the state line.
I am on my own, sitting under a huge white oak in the middle of a creek bottom in Onslow County, 2009. I know I'm in a good spot because I could hear a turkey gobbling away from this creek bottom the day before. This morning I have moved to the place I think will be perfect to kill him from. I've learned a lot about turkeys since those early years. I am in position early and I don't even think about using my call. Dawn breaks and I still have yet to hear my bird. It's 7 a.m. when I finally break my silence. I throw out a beautiful sequence (I've learned a little about calling too over the past few years) and put the box call down. I nearly crap myself when the branches above me explode in a chaotic buzz saw of flapping wings and alarm clucks. My gobbler flies out of the creek bottom to parts unknown, never to be seen again as I kick myself for setting up directly underneath him. Later that same morning, I hear a distant gobble. Figuring I have plenty of room to close in, I race toward the sound, gradually slowing until I stop and give a soft yelp to relocate the tom. It's 9 a.m. and he's still in his roost tree, which is news to me when he too blows out of there like a missile. He watched me coming the whole way from his perch. I am a fool.