We arrived at our destination at 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning and needed to be ready and waiting at 4:45 a.m. for a guide to pick Pat up and 5:00 for our guide to pick Richard and I up. Pat only slept for 45 minutes so it was going to be a tough day for her since she had been awake for nearly 24 hours; give or take the few short naps she was able to steal in the truck on the ride down. Richard and I got 2 hours sleep but I was chomping at the bit to be behind the trigger of my Mossberg hunting an Osceola so I didn’t feel tired…at least not yet.

We were hunting with Billy Henderson of Deep South Outfitter for our second year. I had harvested a young tom last season at the guidance of Billy in March {click here to read that story}. During that hunt we spent some time hunting an old, wise tom on a piece of property Billy called “the farm”.

My first encounter with “Old Rattle Box” was on our first afternoon hunt on our last trip {Click here to read that story} . This tom had reeked havoc on Billy’s success rate with two other hunters missing a shot at him. One of those hunters shot at him and missed at 40 yards two weeks prior to our arrival. But the bird had not been hunted since and we had all intentions of hunting him the next morning. {Click here to read that story} Billy had text me earlier last week to inform me that the old tom was still living and that he had him on deer cam. His beard was broken off some since last season–but he had great spurs. I was excited to know that I could have the opportunity to settle the vendetta of Old Rattle Box.

Billy picked Richard and I up and we headed to “the farm” and I could feel the excitement thundering through my veins. Today, yes, today might be the day that I finish up what I set out to do last year with this bird. Richard would be shooting the camera on this morning since Billy had Old Rattle Boxes’ roost narrowed down. Just like clockwork, the woods came alive. A good mature gobble rattled through the trees. I adjusted my seat according to the direction Billy thought the tom would come from. It was finally light enough for fly-down. I never heard him pitch down from the tree but I sure heard him when he came through the fence and was at the end of the open field as he let out a serious of gobbles. It was around 65 degrees and muggy and I still had chills running down my arms and legs.

This tom rattled his head off at the end of the field for around 4-5 minutes, then he started moving…skirting around us unfortunately. There was one point when I caught a glimpse of Old Rattle Box; albeit a quick glimpse. I could tell from about 120 yards away that he had broken off a lot of his beard…but I still wanted him, and in a bad way! This field was not one that we could maneuver well in without being seen and this tom was wise…too wise. We were just not going to chance it so we watched him as he walked across the fence line behind us at 120-130 yards and went into the adjacent field.

We were finally able to get up and move in the direction that he went to see if we could lay eyes on him. There were some trees, brushy vines and small bushes that we could use to our advantage. We saw a young coyote on our walk over. Once we got to where we could see out across the adjacent field, Rattle Box was no where to be found. We found a tree base and decided to sit a little while to see if we could hear anything. There had been two toms across the fence that Billy felt sure that is the reason Rattle Box was headed in that direction every morning to bully those toms.

After about 25 minutes we called it and headed back to the truck. Billy felt sure the tom would roost in the exact place the next morning. We were going to go grab some breakfast and then head over to the “horse farm” to see if we could spot an mid day wanderer in the field.

When we got to the horse farm we heard gobbling in an adjacent field off of the property and was not able to get him to commit to calling. In the meantime, Pat and her guide had heard a little bit of gobbling and found recent strut zone however she was unable to connect on a bird as well.

We headed back to camp and called it an early evening since we had several options for hunting Friday morning. Richard, Pat and I took the opportunity of the free time to go over to Gander Mountain in Ocala and ate dinner at Red Lobster. I was excited about the following morning. Since this old bird was so smart, the plan was that Richard would not carry the camera but a shotgun and we would split up which would allow us to cover both ends of the fence line. Surely with that set up one of us would have the opportunity of a shot. I would have to wait an entire evening to know how the morning unfolded…anticipation.

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