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Some Hunts Are Quicker Than Others
Last week I shared with my readers the story of my grandson taking a jake on the first day of the 2021 Spring turkey season. The hunt lasted till a little past noon when the bird came out, and we called it in. It was a long time to sit in a pop-up blind on a folding chair. The hunt was more of an endurance test and the next day when I walked, I felt it in the back of my legs. (Oh it’s so much fun to get old.) It was so much fun that I took a couple days off to get over it. So mid-week found me returning to the timber in search of a tom. My anticipation was not very high, as we had only heard a couple birds in the distance during our six-hour hunt. But I had no plans other than to hunt, so I packed accordingly with provisions to get me through a long morning of hunting. This included a couple bottles of water, a small bag of salted peanuts, and another small bag of cheese flavored crackers. I also made sure that my better pair of McKenzie Leupold binoculars were packed. Carrying a pair of binoculars isn’t mandatory for turkey hunting, but it does pass the time as you can watch wildlife such as deer, birds, and small game. Back in the day when I just sat out in the open on a pad next to a tree you couldn’t get by with all that movement, but in a pop-up blind you can get by with almost anything as long as you keep most of the windows closed to keep the interior dark.
After double checking the gear that I had packed in my truck the night before, and making sure that everything was strapped down on my old Honda 4-wheeler, I left home at 4:15 in the morning. I arrived at the farm about a half an hour later. I could have made the trip a little faster, but the deer were out in force and somehow my Dodge 1500 seems to be a magnet for them (although I have never hit one hard enough to damage the truck or the deer as it’s more of a love tap.) I unloaded the ATV and drove the 3/4 of a mile before parking the machine and loading myself down with the Ameristep blind, folding chair, decoy bag, and Browning A5 shotgun. Everything else was in my H.S. Strut turkey hunting vest that seems to get heavier each year. With the moon being so bright I was able to cross the pasture without the aid of my headlamp and after walking to the old familiar blind site I quietly unpacked myself.
Sometimes sitting up the pop-up blind takes very little effort and sometimes it wants to fight your every attempt. It seems that location has everything to do with the ease of setting it up. In the garage, it nearly jumps out of the bag and pops up, but in the woods at 5:30 when you are wanting to get it set up before it gets light… well, it’s a whole other story. But after a small battle of hand to hand combat, the blind surrendered to my attempts and finally set up. From there I went back out into the pasture and set up my Avian X decoys at about twenty-five yards from the blind. I tossed the decoy bags in the blind and then put my chair, shotgun, and folding chair into the blind and prepared for a long wait. I loaded the shotgun and put it in the corner of the blind behind me so that it would be out of the way and waited for it to get light. The only window that I could see out of was covered with mesh but open enough that I could slide the barrel of the shotgun out if I needed to take a shot.
Time really meant nothing since I was going to hunt all morning so I had left my cell phone in the vest. But when I heard the other birds began to wake up and sing, I thought about giving some soft tree yelps to hopefully get answered by a nearby tom. I picked up my rosewood striker, however before I could use the H.S. Strut Limb Shaker frosted glass pan call a gobble exploded perhaps 200 or so yards behind me and to my left. I felt good. A turkey in the tree is a long way from a dead turkey, but I was at least optimistic. I then went ahead and gave a few soft yelps and the tom interrupted my calling with another gobble. Another tom a little further away also gobbled back. I love to hear toms gobble, but I fought the urge to keep up our conversation out of fear of over calling. Perhaps ten minutes or so had passed when I called again and both toms responded and it was getting light enough that I knew that we were getting close to shooting time. After a little more time had passed, I called again. The response I received was not nearly as loud as it had been, because the toms were on the ground now.
I let a little more time pass and scratched out some soft purrs and the gobble that came back nearly shook my blind. The tom was close. I put my call down, reached for my Browning, brought it up to the front of the blind, and laid its barrel out the window. I had played the game many times before and waited for the tom to appear in front of my blind, but he never showed. Maybe, (and I say maybe) five minutes had passed, because it’s hard to measure my impatience. I eased the nylon cover of the left window open to see if the tom was anywhere around. The tom was perhaps forty yards away on a mad walk into my decoy spread, and when it appeared with my decoys he had two other toms with him as well. The fearsome threesome walked into my decoy spread like outlaws walking into a bar and looking to pick a fight. The target of their aggression was my jake decoy and they flogged it hard and often. The Avian X jake decoy brings out the worst in real toms as his pose just gives the appearance of some smart mouth kid who needs some discipline. I would have liked to have taken the shot as quickly as possible before they destroyed my decoy, but I couldn’t without killing two toms with one shot as they were packed so closely together. The decoy was knocked off the stake, and I cannot describe the horrors they put it through before finally one of the toms peeled off to my left and gave me enough space that I could safely take the shot without endangering another bird.
Sometimes toms will continue to stay in the area and fight or flog their fallen buddy, but at the shot which dumped the bird hard, the remaining two toms took off like they had been caught trespassing. I am assuming that the three toms were all two-year-old birds as I couldn’t see a nickels worth of difference in any of them. I was happy with my quick hunt. After two days of hunting this past week, it seems I have returned to the marathon mode.