It was the last hunt of this trip and we were going to be on a fast horse this morning. We were set up and waiting for fly-down with plenty of time to spare. Richard was set-up just to the left of me. It was a beautiful morning with temperatures in the high 40s and no wind. We were there about 45 minutes when we heard the first gobble which was followed by 2 more, simultaneously. We had 3 gobblers at 100 yards of our set up and we were where they would want to be shortly after fly-down if we had patterned them right.
The gobbling went on for about 15 minutes from the roost and every time it sent chills through me. The sound was rattling through the trees on this peak and you could hear it as it permeated the woods. We began hearing a few tree yelps from hens. Then their was a brief silence. The next gobble came from the ground. I looked over at Richard and if he could have seen through my face mask he would have seen the huge smile on my face as if saying “Its on”. It was time…at least I hoped it was time to see some gobblers in front of us. At this point, we at least deserved a good parting show.
The toms started gobbling on the road about 40 yards behind us. We were unable to see them for the trees and underbrush. Richard worked the calls a little and the next gobble came from about 80-90 yards away–IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. We both looked at each other and I rolled my eyes. Why would I expect anything different on this trip. Such is life!! I was totally prepared to jump up and start trekking through the woods since some of the deep snow was melted now.
We sat silently for about 10 minutes listening to the toms gobble several hundred yards away. Richard used a mouth call and a slate call but the toms were not committing to the calls. I laid my gun down in my lap and looked over at Richard. I took a deep breath with emphasis and blew it out. I shook my head at Richard and he nodded in affirmation.
We stayed right where we were at not hearing the gobblers for the next 10-15 minutes. I looked at Richard and was just about to motion to him to see if he thought we should at least go after them since we were not hunting them any more this trip. All of the sudden a gobble rang out and both of us startled. I couldn’t see anything and had a moment of panic; my gun was sitting in my lap and I didn’t have a clue if I could move or not. Where is he at? He sounded like he should have been breathing in my ear he was so close.
Another gobble and this one rattled my chest cavity is was so close. I was doing all I could do to slowly get my gun in my hands and work into a mounted position. Oh, but where was he? Can I move? I don’t want to blow this. Not now–after we worked so hard on this trip. I shut my eyes briefly as if that would help me pin point where he was moving. Fat chance!! I didn’t have a clue. I looked over at Richard and he was sitting perfectly still with a slate in one hand and a striker in the other–with his gun laying across his lap. He sure wasn’t in a position to make a shot at this tom if he gives us the opportunity. Oh, the horror!! A second that was frozen in time…WHAT TO DO..what to do??
We heard a hen; cluck, cluck, cluck. She was trotting right past Richard. She hit a slick icy patch and slipped bumping her butt on the ground. It was really comical because she looked back at the hen right behind her as if saying “I meant to do that.” Both hens trotted right past us to a clearing out in front of us where there had been a lot of sign of scratching.
The tom gobbled just over Richard’s shoulder. I glanced to that area and there he was. He wasn’t strutting and the hens trotting by put him in motion he was taking chase. I let Richard know that I could see him. The tom gobbled again then trotted along the same path that the hens had just went down. As soon as the hens got clear of direct sight of me, the tom started out trotting in front of me and I almost had my gun mounted when Richard made a noise to stop the tom. My recoil pad tangled in the excess sleeve of my leafy pullover on the way up because I was rushing and the pullover was big. I had to push the gun forward and bring it up to my cheek. The tom saw me and bolted in the opposite direction. Richard went to clucking, putting, purring, and just about everything he could think of to see if he could stop the bird. He was about 10 yards from being gone over a terrace.
My mind was reeling when I realized that the bird was not going to stop and he was dodging frantically right and left. I had my bead on his head and then he bolted to the left, then the bead was on him again, only for him to dodge to the right. He finally made a sharp left then turned trotting directly away from me. The bead was on the white of his head and I shot the turkey at a run at 32 yards. He flopped up in the air and landed on the ground, made some flops then started quivering. I almost could not contain my excitement except for the fact that two gobblers bellowed off a gobble about 20 yards right behind Richard right after the shot. Richard called but there was no response. We sat quietly for a few minutes and we heard a gobble 100 yards behind us. Richard got up quickly and took off to the road behind us. I sat there with my fingers crossed and saying a prayer that Richard could get his bird. I was not going to move until he got back and we could both go out to the bird.
About 10-15 minutes later Richard came walking back. He walked over to me and said “Woo Hoo” rather loudly and high-fived me. Then he said congratulations! I asked him if he was going after those toms and he said they were already over the fence and he doubt they would be back this way any time soon.
We gathered up our stuff and headed out to the bird. He was a beauty!! I have been wanting a Merriam every since I started hunting. In my opinion, they are one of the prettiest bird of all the species. We took the time to take pictures and then hurried to load all of our gear taking time to break down the guns to pack into the case. We had less than 4 hours to be at the airport 2 hours away and we still had to go by our hosts ranch to pickup our luggage, return a rental truck and check in our luggage.
We made it to the airport in perfect timing and had a minute to spare before catching our flight. Richard and I will remember this hunt for many years. We faced trials that made us stronger as hunters. This was a special harvest for me since it finished out a personal goal that I set last year however it was bittersweet because Richard had not had the opportunity to harvest his Merriam on this trip. He definitely deserved it with everything he done for me and in preparation of this trip. He sacrificed vacation days at work and working hard to get his jobs at work in a position where he could leave for a few days. Without him, hunting would have never been possible.
This trip will always be special to Richard and I. We met some of the most genuine people we ever have; and their awesome black lab, Junior. This is what makes the world a great place to live in, the hospitality of good folks that share with you and embrace the experience with you. A heartfelt THANK YOU to Glenn, Frankie, Dottie, Alan, Debbie, Ed and Jane for allowing us to share a little piece of their heaven. We appreciate all of your hospitality, encouragement and for sharing with us and experience we will not soon forget.