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Sometimes Doing Nothing Is A Plan
There was a time when in my youth, or let us just say when my body was younger, that no tom was safe from me. I would start out my mornings by being on a ridge top and whenever I heard that first gobble I would be after it if it came from the property I was hunting. I would hustle as fast as I could to get set up before it got too light. If there was time and if there was a location where they could be seen I would put out a couple decoys and then wait for the tom to come fly down. I depended upon the tom to gobble early, so I could get in position without bumping birds off the roost. Without bragging, it often worked. However, there were many times that it didn’t and I would be forced to go to plan “B” which was walking through the timber or the pasture that bordered it and every few hundred yards I would set up and call for a half an hour or so. This, too, paid off occasionally, but often if I didn’t call a bird in at first light, I would leave the hunt empty handed.
My turkey hunting has evolved over the years and even before pop-up blinds became the rage, I began being more patient and staying put and letting the toms come to me. It was rough to do it at first when a tom was gobbling like crazy on another ridge top, but by doing my homework and finding out where the toms like to strut or display, they would eventually show up a great deal of the time. Despite the hour or two that seemed that nothing was going to happen, when the tom showed up many times he would do so in silence. I would be sitting on my folding turkey hunting seat with my back to a tree and calling occasionally and out of the blue I would hear a tom spitting and drumming before I ever saw him. It made for some exciting hunts, and on at least a couple occasions I had to remain motionless as the tom would walk by me to get to the open pasture to display and look for hens. Once past me I could raise my shotgun when the opportunity presented itself, but on one occasion the tom didn’t display. This is always a good time to make your move because its head is block by its fan. So, I had to wait, as this tom was twenty or so yards in front of me just walking around my decoys. Finally, he struck my jake decoy and when he did, I raised my shotgun and slowly moved the gun to put the bead on him and pull the trigger. It was the moments that I was caught without being able to move that turkey hunters live for, and pulling the trigger is almost anti climatic.
But the pop-up blind has made staying put and letting the turkeys come to you a whole lot easier. Oh, it still tough to stay put when a tom is gobbling a few hundred yards away and refusing to come in. But if you have the time to stay put and can be patient, the pop-up blind will often pay off. I now have so many examples to prove that it’s so, and some of my most exciting hunts have been when toms walked by mere feet from me in order to get to my decoys. And sometimes the hunts have been rather boring until a tom just suddenly appears. Last year was one such hunt.
I saved myself some walking by riding my old 4-wheeler to within a couple hundred yards of where I would be setting up my blind as well as decoys. I loaded myself down with gear including the Ameristep blind, three Avian X decoys, my shotgun and a folding chair with a back on it as I expected to be sitting all morning, so I thought “Why not be comfortable?” After walking across the pasture, I set the blind up as quietly as possible and tossed in my turkey vest, shotgun, and chair. From there I hustled out onto the pasture amazed at how fast it was getting light and where the time had gone while I was setting up in the dark. I put the decoys out on a small ridge at the edge of the pasture where they would be most visible and hurried back to my blind.
For old times’ sake, I had my Winchester SuperX2 with me loaded up with 3.5-inch Winchester “Long Beard XR” in #5s. The old shotgun was my first 3.5-inch shotgun and a couple times the previous fall it had failed to fire when I took it on some late season goose hunts. But after a trip to Weapons 2 Wallhangers, where Mike Paben stripped the gun down a lot further than I was comfortable doing and gave it a thorough cleaning, the gun was back functioning reliably again. When it got lighter I owl hooted a few times but nothing shock gobbled back. By the time it got full light the only gobble I heard was in the distance and while it may have been on the same farm I was hunting, it was a long way away. The young version of myself would have jumped up and left the blind and decoys and hotfooted in the direction where the lone gobble had come from. But the older version never dreamed of moving as he had played this game before. Most things that you get when you get older, I would just as soon not have, but patience is one of the things that is nice. I just continued to call from time to time and peer out the windows of the blind in the hopes that something would appear in time.
I cannot even tell you for sure what time it was, but I do know it was getting close to 11:00 when I heard a gobble from behind me perhaps a couple hundred yards or less. There was a small, but steep, ridge directly behind me and I assumed the tom was displaying or at least on that ridge top. I moved my shotgun out of the corner where it had been resting out of the way before calling again. The tom never answered. I kept calling off and on again for the next 15 minutes or so, but the woods remained silent. At times like these you begin to second guess yourself, did I call too much, should I have called softer, what could I have done differently? I sit in the back of my blind in order to be in the dark as much as possible and often this restricts what you are able to see. My decoys were placed slightly to my right and while I could see my breeding hen decoy as well as the other hen decoy, however I couldn’t see the jake decoy. I decided to lean slightly forward to see the entire decoy spread before calling again. I have no idea how he had slipped past me, but standing alongside my jake decoy was a tom turkey. He wasn’t in strut or even aggressive he was just standing there. I slid the X2 out of the window and ended my hunt. Sometimes doing nothing and just staying put is also a good plan.