March 22, 2009: The alarm rang out at 5:00 a.m. giving us a little extra time to sleep because we were hunting on the same acreage that we live on this morning. As a crow flies our hunting spot was about a half a mile from our home. We had company the night before so we didn’t get to bed until well after 11:00 p.m. The first words out of Richard’s mouth were “I sure could sleep some more.” Then I asked him if he wanted to go hunting or sleep in? He said that it was up to me. I said “no, you decide.” His reply was, “No you decide because you are the one hunting.” I hymn-hawed for a few minutes before Richard said we shouldn’t be long and we can come back and take a nap. So reluctantly I got up out of bed. The getting your feet on the floor are usually the hardest part about hunting on mornings like this.
Shortly thereafter we were well on our way, walking down the two rut row to the hunting spot Richard had picked out for us the afternoon before. I had grabbed my camouflage fleece pullover from the truck that I dubbed my “lucky shirt” and pulled it on; which I am glad I did, it was chilly this particular morning. We settled into out hunting spots; me against a small pine base and Richard about five feet behind me over my right shoulder. Because I am a right-handed shooter I sit with my right arm to the tree giving me a free-range 180 degree shooting area. In this position I could easily see Richard and I noticed this morning he wasn’t taking his “pre-dawn” nap. He was looking around in the trees against the skyline. It was getting lighter out as the sun was breaking. At about the exact moment I raised my hand to adjust my ball cap Richard whispered “Don’t move, I see him.” My mind rang out, “WHAT? WHERE? Here I am frozen in another predicament, caught like the afternoon before. What to do? Oh, what to do?
Not knowing where in the trees this tom was and able to see where Richard was looking, I slowly lowered my hand in a move that seemed like took forever. Then I slowly looked over my left shoulder; more with my eyes than my actual head. It didn’t take me but a split second to lock onto that tom on the roost. Approximately 50 yards and in clear view of us seeing him and he seeing us—there he was. He was walking a small area of the limb, stretching his wings, ducking his head, waking up and getting ready for his flight down. The light sky behind him made it easy to watch his every move by silhoette. What really saved us from being seen by this tom on our way in was having our hunting spots chosen and cleaned up the night before.
We watched him for about 10 minutes before he pitched down across the fence on the adjacent property. He was just on the other side of the fence, out of sight. Richard hit the call softly a few times, then after a minute or two Richard let out a fly down cackle. I didn’t see anything. Another long moment passed and Richard let out a soft yelping call and the tom let out a gobble. As usual, chills set in and a spark ran up my spine. The wait was on, my gun up, my heart rate slowly rising—I had to remind myself to breath. I was staring down the open lane so hard my eyes felt strained and dry. I heard Richard whisper “I see him.” Richard let out a few purrs to get his attention. The tom went out of sight. At this point I was thinking, No! No! Come back! My hope was starting to sink because I felt sure he was headed down the fence line to the area he came from the afternoon before.
All of the sudden I see his head and neck at the end of the open lane. I whispered to Richard, “I see him.” Richard, not understanding what I said whispered back, “Do you see him?” I had to nod my head and point my finger down the side of my gun knowing that I could not whisper audible enough for Richard to understand me. That tom walked from the right side of the trail to the other and out of sight. I turned my head and whispered to Richard in an urgent way, “I just seen him walk across the end of the lane. Make a sound. Come on make a sound.” At this point my mind was saying ANY sound, just get his attention. Richard’s response was “BE STILL.” The tom turned and walked back to the right of the lane and out of sight momentarily. My mind was racing at that point and all I could imagine was that tom walking away and I wanted to bolt up and go after him about the way a person gets after a mouse with a broom. My mind was racing as I thought to myself…why isn’t Richard making any sounds? He is getting away. Stop him. Richard whispered again, “Don’t move, be still.”
The tom suddenly appeared at the end of the lane and curiously he walked down the lane headed straight toward us. I put my head down to the gun and clicked the safety off. I was not sure if Richard could see him from his angle on the trail… but I sure did. I knew Richard would know I seen him since I was in shooting mode, safety off, gun to cheek. That tom came in one small step over the other. He rounded the corner, stopped for a brief second, but I did not feel comfortable with the breast forward shot. The tom slowly turned to the left and was headed around the lane just behind the two huge oak trees in front of us. When he was behind the first tree where the tom couldn’t see me, I swung my gun to try to get a shot between the two trees. The tom didn’t stop and was picking up speed walking. The tom got behind the second tree and I swung the gun just past it and the two huge Westeria vines hanging from it. The tom came from behind that tree and as luck would have it, he stopped for a brief second to look down the lane in front of him.
I had my bead on him and squeezed the trigger….BOOOM!!! All I saw was a POOF of feathers and a turkey back flip and start flopping. Richard said out loud, “GOOD SHOT.” While I ejected my spent shell, put my safety back on and was struggling to get up with both feet asleep, Richard had covered the ground between me and the turkey and was doing the TURKEY DANCE with my tom. I ran out there and tried to help, mostly just getting in the way. Finally, the tom stopped flopping. We high fived and laughed for a second and I thanked Richard for scouting and roosting this bird and knowing when to tell me to be still.
I shot this Eastern tom at 6:50 a.m. on Buckhorn Creek Lodge property (www.buckhorncreeklodge.net) on March 22, 2009 and he weighed in at 20 pounds, 11 ounces, had a 9 ½ inch beard and 1 inch spurs. This was, with no doubt, the tom in my previous post that came out in the lane yesterday when we were watching the tom strut in the field; he had the Curly-Q beard tip I saw through my binoculars. I definitely learned a lot this past weekend from scouting with Richard to patterning this birds roost and setting up our hunting spot for the next morning. I am so thankful that I have an awesome mentor to guide me in these things. I learn something new every time I step into the woods. And just think, we ALMOST stayed in bed this morning!!
© Nancy Jo Adams 2009