Guest post from Sam Bradshaw.
Social media is a great thing, isn’t it? We get to share virtually any experience we want with our friends or followers. To me, there is some danger in that as in posting a picture of a turkey just to show that you killed one. Not at all blaming the hunter for posting the picture, but in my opinion that’s all you did was show that you killed one. The real enjoyment lies within the story and adventure of the hunt. So, from now on I’d not only like to share the “kill pic,” but the story behind the picture as well. Here goes #1:
Opening day! Finally, the 2017 turkey season was here on April 1st this year. For the past several years I have hunted opening weekend on some property in Decatur County, TN. This opening day found me once again standing at the top of a ridge before daylight as in years past. I started out well before sunrise to get to the portion of the farm I wanted to hunt and was there in plenty of time before “gobble time.” Daybreak came, and birds were firing off bringing the woods to life. I had hiked into what I call the East Ridge. As in years past, it always seemed to have at least one longbeard roosted somewhere. As always there were a couple of gobblers directly across the hollow from me, and one single bird back toward the truck. I took out after the birds on the East Ridge, crossed the hollow and made it to where I thought would be a good spot to slip in without being detected.
The next gobble I heard indicated the birds had already hit the ground and were surprisingly headed my way. I thought, hmmm, this can’t be the opening day luck I always carry! It was working out too good to be true. The only problem was that they caught me off guard and I didn’t have time to get set up as I would have liked.
My next problem came as the hens flew down on the other side of the gobblers. There is my opening day luck shining! Of course, they spun in full strut and headed back toward their girls. Luckily, an old timer taught me a few tricks to entice the hens a bit. After a series of calls, I had the hens convinced to come check me out, with the gobblers in tow. They came up to 20 yards or so and one managed to pick me out due to my lack of concealment. Of course, the gobblers were still too far for a kill shot or the story would end here. They putted, turned and decided it was time to go hang out elsewhere.
Disgusted at my mistakes, I decided it was best to leave these birds alone for a few hours and come back mid-morning for another try. Not hearing but one other bird gobble at daylight two hours prior, I used that as my only option. Once I made it to the area the gobbler was in, I decided to sit down for a bit and get comfortable and listen. To me, there is nothing worse than bumping a gobbling turkey. After 20-30 minutes I heard a few gobbles back from the direction I came. It made me ask myself, “Why are those gobblers firing back up after seeing they had 10-12 hens with them?” So, back I went to the area from which I came only to find out they had moved down the ridge onto the adjacent property owner’s field and were gobbling their heads off. Oh, well, another half mile back to the single bird area.
This time the turkey gods were on my side. Once I got back to the general area I thought he was in, I made a few calls, and he fired off a loud gobble from the ridge across from me. Luckily I had enough time and real estate between us to move around and get set up properly. Once I was set up, I gave him a little bit of time just to remind him I didn’t have to walk over there to him. Now the stage was set!
The first sound on the call I made he fired back with a gobble, and I knew it was going to be a standoff. We went back and forth for about 30 minutes or so as he was working his way down the ridge strutting and gobbling. Finally, I could see him working his way down. By using soft clucks and purrs on a slate call, mixed with scratching in the leaves, he worked his way to the bottom, and across he came. Instead of coming straight at me, he did like most older birds do and tried to take the high ground up and around behind me. Fortunate for me he made the mistake of attempting that at 40 yards. Once I had an open shot I took it and the old Tom lost the match. Checkmate! My opening day curse was finally broken with a great bird and an even more memorable hunt!
This story has possibly the easiest storyline I’ve ever written. Quite frankly the story wrote itself when I got out of the truck that morning. The story that I see within the story is the adventure of the hunt, which led me to share this story with others. Don’t get me wrong, I love hunting turkeys and most especially killing turkeys. But, to me, the real adventure is truly in the hunt and is also what brings each and every one of us back year after year.
On this day I managed to bag a bird, but not until I had orchestrated a circus of decisions in my mind that just so happened to lead me in the right direction. For the past three years, I have gotten fooled on opening day multiple times, but I still remember chasing those birds as well as I do killing one this year on opening day. The hunt is what brings me back, and if I ever lose interest in chasing a faint gobble for a chance, well, then that will be the day killing a turkey is no longer worth my effort. After all, it is called “hunting” for a reason.