By Marcia Pradines
There was nothing about Friday’s weather that should have made it a good turkey hunt, and yet I went because I was obsessed, persistent, or both. I spent the previous two mornings at this property. I had called in a group of five birds to within range; however, my strategy failed because of positioning. This was the end of the second week of the season, and I was getting frustrated.
With high wind and gusts over 30, I headed to where I thought they may be given what I learned. I hunkered down, hoping the wind narrowed down their options.
About 8:15am, nothing but a few crows and a boisterous woodpecker. Discouraged, I decided to pack up. But first I thought to walk over to the field to glass to make sure something wasn’t strutting. I didn’t get far before I heard a distant gobble. I froze and called. He answered – closer! I was using my box call to get any sound through that wind. I quickly decided to run back to where I had been. I took the chance that the wind and wet leaves would cover me.
Since I moved, I called again to let him know where to find this wandering hen. I recalled how I heard my fiancé use the “move and call” routine to add realism. He gobbled hard and I was shocked how fast he closed the distance. I was thankful because now I knew precisely where he was coming in. I waited, searching for movement. His head appeared, popping in and out of sight. He was searching. As he went behind a large clump of trees, I carefully repositioned. There he was! On the other side, stepping closer, head alert and seeking. Then he saw the decoys and did a half strut. This is it. I fired.
He went down, then tumbled and stumbled off. I shot again because I did not want to take the chance.
I could see his one broken spur, his beaten down primaries, and that huge head. He was at least a three-year-old, weighing over 21 pounds. I imagined he was the lead bird in that string the other day, when I erroneously did not sit deep enough to pull him in. All he had to do was glance into the woods to see if a hen was there. Despite my lack of success that day, the moment planted a seed of hope and another drop of data that I ultimately used to my advantage.
Looking back, I cannot believe how fast one hunt, one season turned. So much had to come together. What if I had left and never knew he was coming? What if I had shrugged that first muffled gobble off? What if I didn’t make that aggressive call, which I learned can be very deadly at times. What if I didn’t call when I moved and settled back in? He might have hung up where I was, or I may have missed him searching for me. So many things had to come together to take this magnificent bird. In that moment, I realized it came together because of new skills, knowledge, and the attitude that got me out of bed that morning in the first place. And of course, a good dash of luck.