The day started with a 3:30 am alarm after a nearly sleepless night. My knee hurt enough to keep me awake and make me grumpy. Then I pulled muscles in my back while getting ready to go. Wasn’t this just going to be a great time. We knew where the turkeys should be and I wasn’t missing out on a hunt.
We drove to a spot close to home, got our gear out, walked into a great spot and got ready. Steve set up our decoys, Ethel, Lucy and Ricky. This was going to be the morning I got my turkey…my first turkey. I settled against a hardwood tree and Steve moved further into the woods, behind a few feet and to the right. He was ten feet away. It was just after legal time when we were ready to go.
Steve gave the first call. A tom gobbled before the yelping was done. I smiled. This was my day.
Something scurried in the brush right behind me. Skunk? It’s always the first thing to come to mind when I’m on the ground and hear something in the brush. It moved away, and I stopped thinking about it until Steve said, “Rob, look at the rabbit.” A snowshoe hare ate while we hid in the brush.
After a few minutes of back and forth yelps and gobbles it became obvious that there was more than one bird. They weren’t in a rush to get close. Steve called for ten minutes, then suddenly got no response. After the third unanswered call I wondered if they were moving toward us faster or were done with us. Seven or eight minutes passed before I heard a gobble further away.
I’ve been disappointed so many times when hunting (I’ve shot only partridge so far), and completely blown the one chance I’d had to shoot a turkey two years ago, that I don’t get excited when I think I might be going to finally shoot. Still, it was a let down when the gobble came from further away. We didn’t have a lot of time this morning.
Movement in the woods caught my eye. I couldn’t see them, just movement through the brush. “Here they come!” I heard dead leaves rustle, watched, waited, watched, and was a little disappointed to see a whitetail doe step into a clearing. She looked at the decoys, first with her tail up, then down, her ears relaxed. “Deer,” I whispered so Steve could see her. He called again to find the turkeys, and it didn’t bother her. Then I moved, just a little, and she heard me. I stayed still while she stared. Busted. I was going to be busted by a deer. She took three steps toward me. Steve called again and this time, a loud round of gobbles came back. The deer continued to watch the decoys. There were several of them and they were much closer. After several minutes I moved to startle her, convincing her to leave before the turkeys were in sight. Flag (tail) up, she bolted toward the road, and a yearling I hadn’t been able to see followed her.
Steve called again and this time, a single tom gobbled back. It wasn’t from the birds we’d heard. This one was directly to my right and further away. I listened a couple of times and decided it was coming up the road behind us. Steve moved to put himself in position to shoot.
It didn’t occur to me that this wasn’t going to be my day after all. I was glad that Steve was going to get his first turkey of the year, and we’d be having turkey breast for supper.
This one meant business. He came into sight quickly, spotted Lucy, Ricky and Ethel, and strutted in circles, puffed up and displaying like he ruled the forest. Steve brought the shotgun up, ready to shoot as soon as the tom gave him an opportunity for a good shot. It walked down the narrow path, into the clearing, and I smiled. He was big.
Steve hesitated, lowered the gun a few inches, then picked it back up and looked down the barrel. It was interesting to watch this first hand rather than on television. I’ve never been with anyone when they’ve taken their turkey. The turkey walked directly into the clearing, neck stretched forward, head out for a perfect shot, and Steve lowered the gun.
He lowered the gun. He didn’t shoot.
The tom walked out of my sight, close to the decoys, and I didn’t see him again.
Turkeys came out of the trees to my left, which was then behind Steve, and into sight. I clicked off the safety and raised the shotgun, a Remington 870 Super Mag Bone Collector Steve gave me for my birthday last month. I made sure I didn’t have brush between myself and the birds. My strict rule: clean shot, or no shot at all. I counted twice; five jakes. They looked about the same size. No one bird seemed larger than the rest.
Steve hit the button on the call and gave another yelp.
Five jakes gobbled at once, 25 feet from me. That excited me. They hesitated as they looked at the big tom and three decoys 20 feet ahead of and to the right of me. Steve called again. One jake took the lead while the other four stayed still. I thought I’d wait until one bird stood directly in front of me so I could be sure I didn’t miss. The pattern is very tight with the turkey choke. I was turned to my left a bit. I could be patient, but opportunity knocked. One more call. The jake in the lead took a few more steps, put his head up straight and tall, and I pulled the trigger.
“I got him!”
“Where’d he go?”
He didn’t go anywhere but down. One clean, perfect shot to the head. He didn’t know what hit him.
I did it. I got my first turkey. It really was my day.
I shot my first turkey today mostly thanks to Steve. Ya, I made a great shot that I’ll shamelessly brag about for a while, but I got to make that shot because Steve chose to pass on the big tom to give me a chance to see what was coming through the woods. I wouldn’t have been upset if he’d taken that turkey. We still have almost a month to hunt. I’d have been happy for him. He lowered the gun, and he let me have mine.
My small turkey weighed 14 pounds, 14 ounces. I’m calling it 15 pounds. I have one permit left. It doesn’t matter if the next turkey is bigger. As long as the population is thinned so they cause less damage to my young fruit trees and gardens, weight is just a number.