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April 16, 2017: Last year, our goal was to be in Mexico this May working on completing my Royal and World turkey slam. A truck that broke down during our archery rut hunt in Missouri in November with a costly DEF system replacement and a roof that started leaking on our home when we returned from that trip had other plans for us. Our original plans left no need to seek a turkey lease in our home state other than a small parcel we hunt south of us. So that small parcel is all we had access to this season on our home turf.
The parcel is a small triangular shaped cow pasture with very little woods that sits adjacent to a HUGE pine plantation. Turkey do frequent that cow pasture so there was a chance of being in the right place at the right time…but chance is 50/50, so that was enough for us to get up every weekend we could and visit the cow pasture with hopes of being on the right side of that 50/50 equation.
This is our third year hunting this parcel and we have seen a few birds on it. However, just after last season, a portion of the adjacent pine plantation had been clear cut and the rest select cut, thinning out most of the adjacent property. On our first hunt of this season, we watched nine toms and twenty hens in the cut-over. Every weekend we had the opportunity to hunt this property, we watched some sort of combination of those birds…our only problem, those birds were over the fence on property we did not have permission to hunt. Yep, it was a lot like that famous Eddie Murphy skit, “I’ve got ice cream and you can’t have none!”
We put a Spartan GoCam wireless camera out early in the season and were taunted by turkey on “our side of the fence” on several occasions. We came close on one hunt but a hen won the Tom’s attention. This weekend was officially our last weekend to hunt turkey in Alabama because of our upcoming out of state turkey hunting trips. On Saturday, we were able to roost a bird on “our side of the fence.” That kind of made it easy to wake up at 3:30 am Sunday morning. We needed to get in there early while it was extremely dark and get set up with plenty of time to let the woods settle before fly-down.
Just like someone flipped a switch the Tom’s started gobbling. We were set up right where we needed to be. We had the roosted Tom on our side of the fence, one across the fence in the tree line 300 yards front of us, and another off to the right on an adjoining horse farm, all gobbling at daybreak. We never heard the roosted Tom fly down but finally he gobbled on the ground behind us.
The sun started to top the trees in front of us. The Tom was gobbling and getting closer. I had my shotgun up, my safety off, and I was turned to the right for my widest shot possibility. I waited as I heard the Tom spit twice as he went into full strut.
I could tell, even with my ESP hearing protection in my ears, that this Tom was close. I watched as a hen walked out in front of me. Then I saw movement to the right of me behind some brush just eight to ten yards away. I was tucked away in some brush and I was shaded somewhat from the sun so I knew I had the perfect advantage. I finally saw the top of the Tom’s head, red waddles, and part of a beard through the thick brush. The bird was at eight yards and all that was left was just TWO MORE STEPS by the bird to clear the brush, for me to move my gun six inches to the right, and make the shot. At least that is what my mind was saying.
The Tom never took the two steps in the direction I needed. The Tom stopped, stood a split second behind the brush looking straight in Mister’s direction, then it turned slowly and crept back the way it walked in…but not before letting out three warning putts!
When I knew the bird was out of view I turned to Mister to shrug my shoulders and immediately I saw what the tom balked at. The sun had rose to the height above the trees and was beaming brightly on Mister. A portion of his face, the frames and the lenses of his glasses were shining in the bright direct sunlight. That is why the bird didn’t spook badly, it just knew something didn’t look right. When I told Mister, he said, “I was afraid of that but there was no way to avoid it at that moment.” In the particular area we set up in it did not leave us much selection for a different arrangement. So, we ended the season without an Alabama turkey harvest but we came as close as one could without one. It was a good hunt and a great memory to end the season with.
The next two weeks are going to be jam-packed starting with a hunt in Florida where we will leave Friday night for the eight hour drive down to Lakeland, Florida in time to hit the woods before daylight to hunt an Osceola on Saturday morning with guide, Chris Graham. This will be our third weekend that we have been to Florida for an Osceola so I plan to hunt hard to make it happen. Then the following week we have a four day work week, a 20-hour drive for a DIY hunt in Kansas followed by a DIY hunt in Nebraska, then on to Missouri to hunt with Double Deuce Ranch. A lot of preparation, road weary days, headlight-lit highway nights, in-cab dining, tailgate meals, and a ton of great memories are in store.
Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog to follow along where I will be sharing our hunting adventures, what we are using in the field, how we plan our DIY hunts, places we visit, and everything in between…the good, the comical, the bad, and the hardships.
This Sunday was our last hunt of the 2015 Alabama Spring Turkey Season and the weather was looking promising for a great morning hunt. There was heavy dew on the ground and a slight chill in the air. We drove Hank the HuntVe to the center of the property to wait for the first gobbles. It seemed like we stood there for a long time–eventually my mind wandered and I started looking for and following hog tracks on the dirt road. I had wandered about 60 yards from the cart when I heard Mister “Pssst” at me and motioned for me to come back as he was getting on the Hank. I thought to myself that he must have heard something. When I got back to Hank, Mister said, “I don’t think this bird is on our property but he may be close enough that I can call him in to our set up on our property.” So we were off for the north side of the property.
When we arrived to the area on the north side, we never could get a tom to gobble, nor could we tell if the birds had pitched down into the pasture quite a ways from us on the adjacent property that we did not have access to. As we were standing there, a bird gobbled toward the middle of the property and it did not seem to be too far away. Mister looked at me wide-eyed and said, “That is on us and pretty close.” We drove back to the middle of the property in a hurry.
Standing there in the middle of the property not too far from where we originally started, we patiently waited for the bird to gobble so that we could go towards it and set up or get in front of him and wait on him. Mister made a few hen yelps; nothing came in return. We looked at each other and Mister shrugged his shoulders. No sooner did he do that than a bird gobbled, behind me, and on the north side of the property. Knowing that this was the bird we had just came from and he was not on our property there was no sense in getting excited about this gobble. Our hunt was over; our season was done here in Alabama.
As we drove Hank back toward the truck which was parked on the north end of the property I got a little cold so Mister asked me if I wanted to be dropped off at the truck while he drove the road system inspecting the green fields on that end of the property. As I was sitting in the truck I posted to Facebook:
“We only heard two toms gobble this morning way off in the distance. I feel a nap coming on before I have to get working on some writing that is due this evening. Feeling blessed to have spent the morning in the woods!”
I hit the post button as Mister rode up to my window on Hank. He said, “Come on! I want to show you something.”
We drove up the road a little ways and stopped. Mister showed me a really big hog track along with an average sized track and piglet tracks. As I was taking a photo of the track with a one-dollar bill to show the size of the track, a bird gobbled loudly about 80 yards behind me. Mister, who was walking away from me, stopped in his tracks and spun on his heel. I looked at him and immediately pointed behind me and he looked at Hank as if trying to quickly access our situation. When he looked at me, I mouthed, “My ESPs are in my vest…at the truck!” Pointing toward the truck. The shotgun was on Hank…but he knows I will not, under any circumstances, fire a gun without my ESP hearing protection in my ears. As his shoulders slumped, he said, “Go! Go! Hurry up!”
I was on my way back in a flash and Mister was standing on the edge of the road waving for me to stop Hank, leave it and come on! I knew that the birds were close so I took off on foot, shotgun in one hand and turkey vest in the other….I didn’t even have time to put my vest on. We set up in a hurry. Mister was about 20 feet behind me. He called, a tom gobbled. He called again, this time TWO toms gobbled. The birds were about 60 yards in front of us in thick hardwoods and pine trees. About five minutes passed and the birds still were in that same spot and did not commit to coming in any closer. About fifteen minutes into the sit, the birds gobbled further away from us and Mister used a gobble tube; which immediately brought the birds closer. The calling and gobbling went on for a while.
Mister decided to get up and move further back behind me to make the birds think the hens were moving away. This kept the birds gobbling but still from where they were. Finally, the birds moved away from us and toward the pasture on the other side of the hardwoods and pines. We walked toward the area that the birds went and we heard them gobble in the pasture across the fence…on property we didn’t have access to and too far to call back.
For the second time, we called the hunt and were on our walk back to Hank the HuntVe to leave for home. As we were walking, Mister mentioned how fun the morning was with all the excitement and I agreed that it was a neat last hunt of the season in Alabama and that I was looking forward to hunting Kansas next month. We were over half way back, when the toms gobbled in unison pretty close to the spot we had just left. So we ran back up the hill and down the road. Mister quickly put out a Avian X LCD Decoy breeding hen and sat at the base of a pine tree about ten feet behind me.
Between Mister’s hen yelps and a gobble he made now and then and the return of the two tom’s gobbles, but with them never committing, it seemed like I was not going to have the opportunity to take a shot at a bird after all….talk about highs and lows in one hunt. These birds were stuck in the same spot and didn’t seem to be interested in closing the gap.
I was straining so hard to see a bird. Those birds were literally gobbling right in front of me and I could not see them. I strained to see ANYTHING move…NOTHING. The gobbling kept coming and I still could not see anything. They had to be RIGHT THERE in front of me. Why am I not seeing them? Gosh, it was so close I could feel the gobbling in my chest. My breathing was somewhat labored and my heartbeat was about to explode in my ears; I simply could not see ANYTHING.
All of the sudden, I saw RED! Then white! Then movement! There they were!! Both gobblers were at fifty yards in front of me; one-half strutting and the other just walking along in front of the dominant bird. They were so close to each other! I could not make this shot without taking both birds out which is illegal in Alabama. In my mind I kept thinking, separate, separate, separate. When one bird stepped forward a step the other was right there with him. They mimicked each other for about 10 yards, footstep for footstep, too close to make a shot on the larger of the two. Then the younger one put its head down and the older tom gained about three steps over the younger. Here is my chance—but wouldn’t you know it, a tree in front of me was in the way so I put my gun barrel on the other side of the tree trunk and decided I would take the shot when the tom cleared it.
That seemed like a good plan except for the younger tom was now right back beside the older one. Just two to three steps and I can take this shot…I just kept thinking to myself. For a minute, the thought even crossed my mind that “This is not going to happen this morning!” The younger tom stopped behind a bunch of brush and put his head down so I had it in my mind that I would let the older take two steps and I would take the shot. So, on step two, I placed my finger lightly on the trigger and mid-squeeze I saw red…I flinched and was able to stop in time to keep from shooting both birds. ARRGHHHH!! Are these birds ever going to separate enough for me to take the shot? They were passing the decoy and will soon be on their merry way and I won’t have a shot. Then the opportunity presented itself! The younger bird stopped and turned back to catch a bug. The mature tom stopped to admire the decoy and I squeezed the trigger.
The tom flopped on its side and he never moved again. The younger bird jumped in the air and then stood there looking at the other bird. It was not until I turned and looked at Mister and said, “I didn’t think they were ever going to separate!!” that the younger bird finally started to move away and then he took flight when we stood up.
What a way to end the season….a very unexpected harvest on a hunt that we had already called off TWICE. Not only were the “Turkey Gods” good to us, Mister worked his magic with calling and did a fantastic job as always. I am definitely grateful for his mentoring and companionship in the woods, we make a good team. I appreciate Richard Holt aka Mister sharing his sport with me nearly ten years ago, for mentoring me and sharing many, many hours in the field.
This Barbour County, Alabama tom weighed around 20 pounds, had a 10-inch beard and a 1 ¼” left and right spur.
Next up, Kansas Rio Grande Hunting in northwest Kansas. Stay tuned at the end of May to see how that trip unfolds. Hunt hard, harvest ethically and may you dance with a fist full of feathers!!