Mornings like this make for tough turkey hunting. The moon was so full and bright this morning that I could have easily read the newspaper on the edge of the cow pasture– the problem was, I needed to be slap-dab in the middle of that pasture. My plans were to set up in an island of trees and brush with a decoy 20-25 yards in front of me. Getting set up according to my plans without being seen was about 10%….which meant I had “a” chance, at least–but a slim one.
Not a single gobble sounded off in the area I was hunting and I only heard one gobble at a distance. Even with Hank the HuntVe there was no way of making it to that area before that bird hit the ground. So I decided to sit tight. The morning broke and as I had suspected, nothing pitched down nor did anything gobble. It was clear that the breeding season was over and hens were setting on their nests. I decided to pack up my gear and head back to Hank.
I decided I would ride to the area close to a large green field where I last saw the Grand Poopah. I parked Hank on the backside of a terrace and crept around the edge of the pasture. Once I was at a good vantage point, I glassed the long narrow stretch. Nothing! I took my Blodgett Precious Metal call from my turkey vest and made some clucks and yelps which echoed out across the pasture. Nothing!
I sat down at the base of a tree for about 40 minutes, watched two deer frolic in the green field and once they moved on, I decided I would too. Once back at Hank, I unloaded all my gear, slid onto the seat and decided since the wind had picked up I would call it a morning. Thinking to myself that it definitely was not a wasted morning since I saw my first cardinals of spring.
I turned Hank around and started to drive back to the truck but decided that I would take the top pasture. I rolled along a cattle trail taking my time to stop and glass the vast pastures below me. I had come to a stop just before I would have been out of range to see across the pasture below. I raised my binoculars up and had just focused on two young calves butting heads when about 90 yards behind me, I heard it!! A hen yelped… It was faint, but it was no doubt a hen yelp. There were two hens that roosted in this spot last weekend that I had assumed their nest had been raided and they were no longer setting. I watched them roost with a tom in tow at that time.
I quickly glassed the edges of the woods behind me and thought to myself that this might be a long shot but maybe I should set up just in case she has that tom with her. She yelped again from the same area, but it seemed closer.
If I were going to make an effort I needed to get moving. I put the cart in reverse and backed over the terrace. I quickly got off, grabbed my vest, stool and gun and scrambled over to the tree line. I knelt at the base of a pine tree to get my bearings and to decide where I needed to set-up. There it was again, hen yelps, just inside the woods around the corner. The sun was up good and the trees were sparse enough that it was critical for me to be stealth…the hen would surely see me before I saw her. I crawled quickly on my hands and knees until I had cut the distance of the stretch of woods between me and the point of woods just outside of where the hen yelped.
With the ground still being soggy from the week’s rain, I quickly opened my stool, placed it at the base of a huge pine and crawled over to sit on it. I shrugged my vest off and pulled it to my right side digging for my Blodgett Calls. I slipped off my shotgun sling and as I punched my shooting stick into the ground, the hen made another yelp. This reassured me that she had not seen me.
That hen yelped two more times before I actually saw her. She was all the way on the other side of the area I call a cul-de-sac. She was about to travel behind a terrace and I really saw no point in calling to her since she appeared to be by herself. I watched as she disappeared behind the terrace as I thought to myself how exciting all that scrambling was and how my senses were on high alert. “Whew!!! I love the turkey woods!.” I decided I would let the hen cross over the next high terrace and once she were on the backside I would grab my gear and head back to the HuntVe. She yelped again–just a short yelp and although it sounded closer she was still on the backside of the terrace.
I reached forward to pick up a piece of pine straw to twist when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye in the middle of the cul-de-sac…OH SNAP!!! A mature tom and he was looking right at me!! Did he see me move? Is the hen gone? Can I call him into range? Is he going to follow the hen off? Oh geez, is that too far to shoot? How far is that? Is that the Grand Poopah? Am I busted? Is that tree branch in the way? YES, ALL of this crashed and collided in my mind at the exact time!!
Sensory overload as I was suspended there in this awkward position, reaching for a pine needle, gun in my lap, and HE was still looking at me!! Staring at me…he had not moved since I spotted him. Then he turned his head and proceeded to walk in the direction of the hen…up over the terrace…down the backside out of sight. I needed the hen to come my way. If I were going to have a chance at a shot at this bird…I needed desperately to coax this hen in my direction. I grabbed my Blodgett HBIII Series Tough Country call and made a few feeding purrs. Nothing! I did it again. Nothing! I strained to listen.
I yelped and as I completed the last stroke the toms head poked up from over the terrace followed by the top of his tail fan. The top of the terrace was easily 70 plus yards. I needed to bring him in a little closer. About 10 yards to the right of the tom, the hen popped up over the terrace. She continued to feed walking the top of the terrace…but away from me.
She started to yelp and I cut her off. She made a small circle feeding and started walking in my direction. The tom went into full strut. The hen chased a bug momentarily, hopping with her head straight up, suspended in air. A few more steps and she was back over te terrace taking the tom with her. I yelped again. Nothing! I grabbed my Blodgett HBIII Precious Metal call and clucked. The tom Gobbled. I could not see him but I could hear him spitting. The hen proceeded to work her way along a terrace parallel to me as the tom stayed just the other side of the terrace in front of me.
The hen had a bird’s eye view on me so I could not do anything but sit there as the gobbler worked away from me. So close! So close! Arghh! I could not hear the tom but the hen was almost to a point where I could move again without being seen.
I saw the tip of the tom’s tail fan just over the terrace and it disappeared again as if he seem to be following the hen away from me. I had to make one last attempt. I made a few soft yelps and then a cluck. All of the sudden the tom crested the terrace in full strut. No gobbling, no warning–he was just THERE…like a Houdini act!!
He was in full strut. He was at 37-40 yards. I placed my bead on him as I saw the hen raise her head. He started to come out of strut as I putted with my mouth and his head shot straight up and paused. That pause was my queue as I squeezed the trigger on my old Mossberg 835.
The bird rose up about a foot off the ground as if booted, plopped straight down with his head completely underneath him. He raised his legs and did the “running man” about three times with his legs, raised both wings and quivered as his wings and legs came down. I was just about to him as he took his last breath. The shot was so deadly with the new Winchester Long Beard XR ammo, when the bird’s back hit the ground, it never moved–only his feet and wings.
I did the turkey dance, excited that I actually called the bird back to me TWICE. This clearly was not the Grand Poopah and I am pretty sure it is the bird that Kurt shot at twice last weekend since it was roosted in the same area with the nest-less hens. This bird was the one I nicknamed “Third Bird” because he was the lone bird left out of the three that Mister and I doubled on. He is a good 2-year-old bird, like his brothers with a 9.5 inch beard and 1 inch right and left spurs.
Taking the bird home and getting good photos was a little tricky since I was on my own but I used the Canon EOS IOS remote with the new Canon 6D camera. Another amazing day in the turkey woods, another personal achievement, another hunt to be grateful for and still another day to hunt that notorious bird that haunts my idle thoughts and peaceful slumber; The Grand Poopah!!